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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 the country’s water system and depend on nearby lakes and rivers as their only source of water – a source they share with Gandos, a species of marsh crocodile found only in southeastern Iran, Pakistan, and India.

Amirhamzeh, 7 years old who lost his left arm after a crocodile attack on August 11.

According to local officials, a study of one county, Chabahar, showed that only 19 percent of its villages were connected to the water pipe system, despite pledges for at least six years to bring running water to the entire province.

In 2020 people rightfully expect water pipe in their village

Ziba [not her real name] is a social activist in Sistan and Baluchistan who focuses on rural poverty and travels regularly to the province’s villages.

There’s nothing new about gandos attacking humans in our region. It’s thanks to social media that people all over Iran know about it now. Until a few years ago many Iranians didn’t even know we have crocodiles in Iran! The situation has gotten worse in recent years, though, because of the severe drought in our region. Humans and gandos have to compete for sources of water that are becoming more and more scarce – and that results in more attacks.

Women and children in Iran’s Sistan and Baluchistan province collect water from a “houtak,” a small lake they depend for their everyday consumption of water. The user lists the name of children who have drowned while collecting water in recent years.

“People respect the gandos “

“Gandos are harmless during most of the year. They normally do not attack humans, but they become aggressive during the summertime. That’s when attacks happen – I can’t remember a single attack that occurred in winter. In the hot season, water levels are lower, and that makes the gandos aggressive. Summer is also their mating season.

Despite their attacks on humans – including children – people here love and respect the gandos. It’s not the crocodiles’ fault. We live in 2020, and people should have the right to have a pipe with running water in their village. I’m not even talking about treated water. A simple pipe from a local lake or one of the two dams in the region would allow give a village a safe source of water, but the authorities don’t care apparently. We just have a few tanker trucks that bring water to the villages. It’s not enough.”

A satellite image from the south of Iran’s Sistan and Baluchistan province shows dozens of “houtak,” small lakes that are often near or inside villages. These lakes – the main source of water for the locals – are also a habitat for crocodiles known as “gandos.”

“Some people say, “Why get water from a lake if you know it’s dangerous?” That’s because they have no idea about the reality on the ground. Not going to the lake means not drinking and not washing. How can they go without drinking and washing? And gandos move around a lot, so you never know where they are. You could be in a high-risk zone or not.”

Villagers in Sistan and Baluchistan posted this photo of a marsh crocodile they have dubbed “Rostam”, after a legendary hero in Persian mythology, because of his huge size.

“Some locals say the government should put fences around the lakes to minimize the risk of attacks. But I’m not sure it’s a good solution: gandos need to get out of the water sometimes, so fences could destroy their habitat.

Another problem is the lack of medical facilities in the villages. With the kind of injuries that crocodiles cause, saving a child’s arm or leg from amputation can require medical attention within minutes. But the victims sometimes need to drive for hours to reach a properly equipped medical center, even going outside the province.”

How do governments push false news about Covid-19?

In this episode of Misinfodemia, Seema Yasmin talks to me about how government push false news and how social media platforms both help and hinder the fight to tackle misinformation and disinformation. I talked about how Iran’s government is hiding the real number of corona virus victimes and how we worked on it in France24.

Pro-regime Iranians circulate fake video to promote the death sentence for three activists

Iran’s Supreme Court announced on July 10 that three men who had participated in protests against the government last November had been sentenced to death. Many people took to social media to protest the announcement, calling for the sentence to be overturned. At the same time, ultra-conservative supporters of the regime started circulating a video that they claimed showed the young activists carrying out violent armed robberies in an attempt to turn public opinion against them. In reality, the footage in this video is old and has nothing to do with the three accused men.

UPDATED 20-07-2020: On July 19, the Iranian government suspended the execution of the three activists, Amirhossein Moradiyea, Saeed Tamjidi, and Mohammad Rajabi. The Iran Supreme Court accepted the request for a new trial that had been submitted by the defendants’ lawyers, Babak Paknia, one of the lawyers, informed AFP on Sunday.

Last November, an increase in petrol prices sparked a nationwide protest movement in Iran, with demonstrations taking place in more than 200 towns and cities. The regime’s crackdown was deadly, resulting in the death of close to 1,500 people, according to the Reuters news agency. At the time, the France 24 Observers team investigated these massacres.

> WATCH: Video Investigation – Iran, secret massacre 

Security forces also arrested hundreds of protesters. On July 10, the Iranian Supreme Court announced that they were handing down the death sentence to three of them– 25-year-old Amirhossein Moradi, 27-year-old Saeed Tamjidi, and 27-year-old Mohammad Rajabi. The men were sentenced to death for “participation in vandalism and arson with the intention of declaring war on the Islamic Republic of Iran.”

After the sentence was announced, many Iranians took to Twitter to organize support for the three young men– even though Twitter is supposed to be blocked in Iran. Since July 15, there have been more than 8.7 million tweets with the hashtag “No to execution” in Persian– or “نه به اعدام”.

But supporters of the Iranian regime also launched their own social media counter-offensive, sharing a video on July 16 meant to discredit the three activists. The video, which is about a minute long, was further circulated by “Afsaran”, a conservative platform that brings together followers of different extremist ideologies and reportedly has close links to Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps.

 

“They present armed robbers as innocent protestors, then refuse to execute them.”

The video is made up of a surveillance camera footage showing three separate violent robberies. The caption on the video for Twitter and Telegram says that the men in the video are the three activists who were sentenced to death. One conservative shared the video along with ironic use of the hashtag “No to execution,’ used by supporters of the three activists, and the caption “Don’t execute armed robbers.”

The France 24 Observers team verified this footage and determined that it was all filmed between 2011 and 2013. Some of this footage was even broadcast on Iranian TV at the time.

First video: a petrol station robbery in 2012

The first video shows two men armed with huge knives attacking people before handcuffing them (the action takes place between 10” and 49”).

 

screen grab fake 1

This footage is from 2012 and shows the robbery of a petrol station in Tehran. Iranian media outlets reported that five people were arrested for the crime– none of them being the activists sentenced to death in 2020.

Second video: an attack in a jewelry store in Ispahan

The footage is of a second armed robbery, beginning 23 seconds into the video. It shows two armed men entering a jewelry store. They hit the manager and start to fill their bags with jewelry.

fake video 2

Iranian TV channel IRIB 3 broadcast this footage in a special report in 2013, which included an interview with one of the robbers. At the time, the men involved were all arrested and convicted of the crime.

In Iran, those convicted of armed robbery are usually given the death sentence, although the TV broadcast didn’t say if that was the case for this crime.

The robber interviewed in the broadcast is older. In contrast, when this crime occurred, the three activists Amirhossein Moradi, Saeed Tamjidi, and Mohammad Rajabi would have been in their very early twenties. Moreover, the robbery took place in Ispahan and not in Tehran, where the three men sentenced to death live.

In sum, it is impossible for the three activists to have carried out this robbery.

Third video: a former police officer and a martial arts champion
The last sequence in the video starts at 33 seconds. It shows a man being attacked by two other men, who are armed with a machete and a nunchaku– a traditional martial arts weapon.

Third video: a former police officer and a martial arts champion

The last sequence in the video starts at 33 seconds. It shows a man being attacked by two other men, who are armed with a machete and a nunchaku– a traditional martial arts weapon.

fake video 3

Once again, the footage is old– this incident took place in 2011. A year later, the gangs responsible for this armed robbery were arrested, according to state TV channel TV IRIB 3, which carried out an interview with the robbers.
Iranian media reported that the leader of the gang was a former police officer and one of their members was Asia’s former kickboxing champion. The three young men were not among those arrested for the crime.

“These videos have nothing to do with our clients,” says the lawyer of the men sentenced to death

Babak Paknia, the lawyer of the three activists, reacted to the circulation of this fake video in a tweet posted on July 16: “There hasn’t been a single allegation of armed robbery, rape, bombing or anything of the like against these young men. These videos have nothing to do with our clients.”

For the time being, Iranian authorities haven’t commented on the footage, though they did accuse the young men of stealing a cellphone.
In a statement published on July 14, Amnesty International denounced “an alarming rise in the use of the death penalty against protesters, dissidents, and members of minority groups in Iran,” adding that the three protesters “face execution after grossly unfair trials.”

The NGO has posted an online petition calling for the convictions and death sentences of the three protestors to be overturned.

As a second wave of Covid-19 sweeps Iran, “people aren’t respecting social distancing at all” (2/2)

A second wave of Covid-19 has been sweeping Iran since mid-May. My contacts say that even though hospitals are already overwhelmed with cases, Iranians are not adhering to basic preventative measures. They blame the government for reopening the country too quickly after the first wave and not responding fast enough to the latest crisis. Read More

Second wave of Covid-19 sweeps Iran, ‘affecting the elderly, young and children’ (1/2)

While Europe has been slowly reopening after lockdowns meant to halt the spread of Covid-19, Iran is in the grips of a second deadly wave of the virus. Hospitals across the country are filling up and our Observers say, in some regions, they’ve already run out of beds. While the government is still reporting relatively low numbers of cases, our Observers say this just doesn’t reflect the situation on the ground. They report overwhelmed hospitals and towns plunging back into lockdown. Of the country’s 31 provinces, 14 have been declared coronavirus “red zones”, the most serious indicator. Read More

No, this video does not show a friendly fire incident by the Iranian navy

On May 10 Iran’s navy tested an anti-ship missile in the Gulf of Oman, but something went wrong and the missile hit a support vessel, killing 19 sailors and wounding 15 more. Video supposedly showing the incident was widely shared on Arab-language social media and broadcast on the Al Arabiya network. But the video, in fact, shows an exercise by the Norwegian navy in 2013. Read More

Investigation: videos reveal location of mass drowning on Iran-Afghan border

Dozens of Afghan migrants are feared dead after Iranian border guards allegedly forced them into a river on the Iran-Afghan border on May 1. Of the 57 men and boys in the group, only 12 are known to have survived. One of the survivors told the France 24 Observers he and the others were arrested and tortured by guards from an Iranian border post overlooking the Harirud river. Read More