Author: Ershad Alijani

Some Iranian children are literally climbing mountains to access online school

Some Iranian children are finding virtual school harder than others. Photos have recently emerged on social media of children in rural areas who literally have to climb a mountain every day to find an internet connection strong enough so that they can attend their online classes. People have been especially shocked by the image of a child who fell and was injured on his dangerous hike to access the internet. We spoke to one teacher who feels utterly helpless in the face of the situation. Iran has one of the highest Covid-19 rates in the Middle East, with more than 43,000 officially recorded deaths. However, even officials at the Ministry of Health admit that the actual number of dead is likely three or four times that number. Most schools across Iran have been closed, except for a few schools in rural areas. The Iranian government is pushing for all students to stay home and attend online classes using an application called Shad, which was developed by the Ministry of Education. However, to participate in distance …

Iranian influencer poses with skulls, artifacts in an unexplored archeological site

Iranian Instagram influencer Soheil Taghavi posed with skulls, bones, and pieces of pottery at the unexplored Tasuki archeological site in southeast Iran in a video that he hoped would go viral. But many people across Iran were shocked by the video, especially lovers of history and archeology. Our Observer explains that even moving the smallest object in this kind of site can jeopardize future digs and ruin important discoveries about the past. On Instagram, Soheil Taghavi describes himself as a tour guide. He has 29,000 followers. In the videos that he posted of his visit to the Tasuki archeological site, Taghavi digs in the ground and pulls out skulls and bones, then poses with them in front of the camera. “I gathered up the best preserved pieces for you”, he says at one point. “Now is the moment to share my page so your friends can see these cool things, too,” he says, smiling. ‘Just touching these artefacts with bare hands could damage them’ Fatemeh Aliasghar is an Iranian journalist who has written extensively about …

How sheep smuggling has become a lucrative yet dangerous business on the Iran-Iraq border

The financial crisis currently gripping Iran has led to a dramatic increase in sheep smuggling across the border with Iraq, a region that is home to many Kurds. While some sheep owners are making a large profit from this illegal activity, it’s dangerous for those on the ground. Several locals have been injured during clashes between smugglers and the Iranian police, who have arrested dozens of people in the region. A lot of smuggling takes place in the predominantly Kurdish regions surrounding the border between Iran and Iraq. Some of the most common items carried across the border are cigarettes, alcohol and electrical appliances. Smugglers are known locally as “kulbar”. Each year, several dozen of them die, killed by Iranian border guards, landmines or the harsh winters in this mountainous zone. The FRANCE 24 Observers team has reported several stories on the kulbar operating in this region. In the past month, several videos documenting sheep smuggling – the latest lucrative but dangerous activity to emerge in the region – have appeared on social media. A …

Another video of police violence in the Islamic Republic: ‘Iran’s George Floyd’

On October 24, a video published on Persian-language media showed Iranian police using tear gas and an electroshock weapon on a man who was handcuffed to a pole and could not move. The video was shared widely on social media such as Telegram, with users calling the man “Iran’s George Floyd”. In the aftermath of the video, the man died in an ambulance on the way to the hospital. The recent pattern of Iranian police violence intensified with the death of this man in Mashhad, in northeast Iran, on October 24 after “shame parades” of suspected criminals took place in several cities over the last few weeks. The victim was 30-year-old Mehrdad Sepehri. According to Iranian media, his wife’s family called the police after a family disagreement. When police arrived, they handcuffed Sepehri to a pole and continued to harass him even though he posed no threat, as seen in this video. Sepehri became unconscious on the way from the police station to the hospital and was pronounced dead in the ambulance. The cause of …

Afghan Police published US Marines video presented as their army striking the Taliban

On October 12, the Afghan National Police posted a video on Facebook that they said showed Afghan helicopters bombing Taliban positions in Helmand province. The conflict between the Afghan Army and the Taliban in Helmand Province in southern Afghanistan has been intensifying since October 9. Both sides are using social media to show off what they perceive to be their military successes. But it seems like the Afghan police were a little too quick to post one particular video that they said showed the army striking Taliban positions. Turns out this video shows, in reality, a training exercise carried out by the United States Marine Corps in Arizona, USA, in 2017. The video, which was later picked up by numerous Afghan media outlets, was filmed in night vision mode and shows a helicopter bombing a compound. On the Facebook page of the Afghan National Police, the video garnered more than 20,000 views. The Afghan National Police posted this video along with the caption “Last night, Helmand was turned into a cemetery for the Taliban”. The …

How Iranian police publicly shame suspected criminals

In a video posted online on October 7, Iranian police humiliate suspected criminals in the middle of the street, forcing them to yell out, “Forgive me! I won’t do it again”, and repeat insulting statements about themselves in front of a crowd. The growing number of public shamings are just one example of how the Iranian police are flexing their muscles, to the detriment of human rights, and acting outside the judicial system. This video shows armed men in ski masks beating up five men in the back of a pick-up truck as hundreds of people watch. The masked men are Iranian police officers and the men they are publicly humiliating were arrested on suspicion of committing violent crimes. The scene took place on Jomhouri Avenue, one of the main streets in Tehran. Eyewitnesses filmed the scene and posted it on Twitter. The footage shows a large crowd watching what happens from the side of the street, many of them filming with their cellphones. According to Tehran police, these five men were accused of having …

Violence, suicide and addiction: an unprecedented economic crisis plunges Iranian society into chaos

Videos of fights breaking out in front of supermarkets or currency exchange offices in Iran have become so common on social media over the past few years that many people don’t even find them surprising anymore. These fraught scenes illustrate the stress caused by the economic downturn that has swept the country, accompanied by rampant inflation and currency devaluation. Experts and observers describe an unprecedented crisis that has led to violence and significant psychological distress amongst those fighting to stay afloat. Every day, large crowds gather in front of currency exchange offices in the capital, Tehran, and other Iranian cities. The people in these queues are hoping to preserve their meager savings by converting them into US dollars, as their own currency rapidly devalues. Fights are common amongst those scrambling for a place in line. The video below, shared on social media on September 8, is one example. It shows a man and a woman fighting in front of a currency exchange office in the Eskan commercial center in northern Tehran. These incidents, which are …

Online videos falsely claim that face masks can cause CO2 poisoning

To wear a mask or not to, that is the question that has been fiercely debated online since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic. One of the claims made by opponents of the protective face coverings is that masks can lead to suffocation from the carbon dioxide (CO2) we exhale. Proponents of this theory have posted videos online in which they use gas detectors to claim that the amount of CO2 we breathe when wearing a mask is extremely dangerous. However, there is no factual basis for that claim. We take a closer look. In a flurry of videos posted online, social media users – most of them American – explain that wearing a mask can be dangerous for your health. To demonstrate this, they use a gas detector, which can be bought in a hardware store for somewhere between 40 and 100 euros, to “measure” the CO2 level inside their masks. In the videos, the meter goes wild when they start to breathe, indicating a high level of carbon dioxide in the space between …

Iran: 7-year-old boy is latest child to lose arm to crocodile while fetching water

A crocodile attack on a 7-year-old boy has refocused attention on the plight of villages in Iran’s southeastern Sistan and Baluchistan Province that lack running water. Residents say their children have no option but to fetch water from lakes and rivers, exposing them to the dangers of drowning and attacks by a species of marsh crocodile known locally as “gandos”. On Aug. 11, a 7-year-old boy named Amirhamzeh from the village of Houttag was attacked by a crocodile as he was fetching water for his family. His parents sent him to neighboring Pakistan for treatment, but the doctors were forced to amputate his left hand. While Iran does not publish statistics of crocodile attacks, locals say they are a regular occurrence. Last year a 9-year-old girl lost her arm in a crocodile attack, and an 8-year-old boy lost a leg. Sistan and Baluchistan is one of the most underdeveloped provinces of Iran, a poor region that shares 1100 km of border with Afghanistan and Pakistan. Many of the arid province’s villages are not connected to …