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Resources updated between Monday, January 01, 2018 and Sunday, January 07, 2018

January 7, 2018

Palestinians at an UNRWA distribution center in Gaza

Israel backs UNRWA funding cut, but looks to minimize fallout Article

January 5, 2018

UNRWA Headquarters in Gaza

Report: U.S. freezes grant to UNRWA Article

The Palestinian flag at United Nations Headquarters

End UNRWA funding Article

January 4, 2018

University students at an anti-government protest inside Tehran University

After six days of anti-government protests that have caught Islamic Republic authorities off-guard, a series of pro-regime (and regime-staged) demonstrations took place around Iran on Wednesday, while the arrests of hundreds of anti-regime protesters continued.

The country's top reformist politician, former President Mohammad Khatami, angered many when he presided over a meeting held by the reform-oriented Assembly of Militant Clerics. During the meeting, there was strong language condemning the anti-government protesters.

The country's police chief, Hossein Ashtari, claimed in a speech to his forces that 70 percent of the protests' organizers have been arrested, although he stopped short of giving a specific number.

According to IranWire reports and analysis and statements issued by governors and security officials in several provinces, more than 1,000 people have been arrested since the protests began on Dec. 28.

In the province of Tehran, more than 450 people had been arrested by Tuesday, said Ali Asghar Naserbakht, the province's deputy governor-general. Officials in the province's Malard County also said they arrested the "admin of a social-media page that was creating rumors"-revealing the true nature of some of the arrests. This is one of many cases in which officials have boasted about tracking people's digital footprints and arresting them solely on the basis of their posts on social media.

In Karaj, a large suburb of Tehran, more than 20 people have been arrested.

In the holy city of Mashhad, where the protests began, the deputy prosecutor said 138 people had been arrested. In the central province of Isfahan, which was the epicenter of the protests on Jan. 1, more than 100 people were arrested in different cities. Authorities had also arrested more than 100 in Markazi province, which includes the major city of Arak.

The northern province of Golestan, on the shore of the Caspian, has also seen many arrests. According to its governor-general, 150 people were arrested for chanting slogans against the regime and for "disrupting the public order and security."

Officials in the provinces of Qom, Kermanshah, Mazandaran, Kerman, Zanjan, Ardabil, Lorestan, and North Khorasan separately made claims about widespread arrests in their provinces.

Arrest of a European, TV Confessions, and 1,200 Blue Blindfolds

In the Lorestan city of Borujerd, a local official made international news by claiming to have arrested "a European citizen."

"This person was leading and directing the chaos and had been trained for this by espionage organizations in Europe and had come to Borujerd to run the riots," Hamidreza Bolhasani, Borujerd's judiciary chief, claimed in interviews with local media. Other officials noted that the arrested suspect is originally from Borujerd but has been naturalized as a citizen of a European country.

Ali Sabzevari, the Lorestan judiciary's head of public relations, said the suspect had been arrested "while carrying a camera and other equipment."

At Tehran's notorious Evin Prison, according to the Human Rights Activists News Agency (HRANA), a workshop inside has been ordered to stop making uniforms. Workers there have instead been instructed to make 1,200 blue blindfolds. It is likely that these blindfolds are being prepared for the new detainees.

IranWire spoke to an inmate serving a sentence for financial misconduct who is held at the prison's Ward 7. He described what it was like.

"I was awakened early in the morning by the noises of prisoners' traffic," he said. "They were emptying one of the rooms in the middle of Ward 7, mostly occupied by financial offenders."

The inmate said that all leaves of absence for both political and ordinary prisoners have been revoked until further notice. "We are keenly following the news and we are very worried," he said. "We don't receive many newspapers and the TV reports the news in dribs and drabs-but one can get an idea about what is happening outside by the unusual situation inside the prison."

Scraped Off the Streets

According to the inmate we spoke to, a number of new detainees who are considered to be "clean" and have no record of political or security arrests - those who, as prisoners say, have been "scraped off" the streets - have been sent to the "isolation ward," where they have no contact with other prisoners. The rest of the prisoners, the ones the government considers to be more dangerous or who have records of being arrested for political activities, have been sent to Ward 2A, controlled by the Revolutionary Guards, and Ward 209, run by the intelligence ministry.

"Teams have been dispatched to the prison and are separating out those [who] have been arrested in the events of recent days," Mostafa Mohebbi, director general of Tehran province's prisons, told Fars News Agency. "The number of arrests was not so high as to create a problem for us in receiving them." He added that the number of people arrested over the last four days was less than 200.

At the same time, the intelligence ministry's public-relations office announced that a number of "hostile elements and rioters" had been arrested-and that the search for others continues. This announcement indicates that there will be more arrests in the coming days.

As the protests continue, authorities have kept up their harassment of civil society. As previously reported, a number of student-activists have been arrested in the capital, and followers of the minority Sufi religious order the Gonabadi Dervishes have also born the brunt. Adding to the previous arrests, Mehdi Azadbakht, a webmaster for the dervishes' website Majzooban-e Noor, reportedly was arrested in Arak by intelligence ministry forces.

On Jan. 3, Iranian state TV broadcast the confessions of some of those arrested. Iran is notorious for broadcasting torture-induced confessions on its official outlets.

Run by the country's hardliners, the state broadcaster is blamed-even by many establishment figures-for adding insult to injury by not reflecting people's grievances. In his remarks on the protests, President Hassan Rouhani chided the broadcaster for not genuinely reflecting all sections of Iranian society.

Iranians abroad have organized an active network of human-rights organizations to respond to the events of the last week, and to report on arrests. Monitoring the fate of more than 1,000 incarcerated citizens is a heavy responsibility they now face.

Blindfolded Justice: 1,000 Protesters Arrested in Iran as Unrest Continues and Prisons Fill Document

January 3, 2018

U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley, January 2, 2018

Nikki Haley: No additional funds for UNRWA unless Palestinians return to negotiating table Article

Iranian protestors facing government forces

Iran's elite Revolutionary Guards have deployed forces to three provinces to put down an eruption of anti-government unrest, their commander said on Wednesday, after six days of protests that have left 21 people dead.

Thousands of Iranians took part in pro-government rallies in several cities on Wednesday in a state-sponsored show of force aimed at countering unrest posing the most sustained challenge to the Islamic Republic's clerical elite in almost a decade.

State television broadcast live pictures of rallies in the southwestern cities of Kermanshah and Ilam and in the northern city of Gorgan, where marchers waved Iranian flags and pictures of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

But, in a sign of official concern about the resilience of the protests, the Revolutionary Guards commander, Major General Mohammad Ali Jafari, said he had dispatched forces to Isfahan, Lorestan and Hamadan provinces to tackle "the new sedition".

Most of the casualties among protesters have occurred in those regions. The Revolutionary Guards, the sword and shield of Iran's Shi'ite theocracy, were instrumental in suppressing the 2009 uprising, killing dozens of protesters then.

In the Shi'ite holy city Qom, pro-government demonstrators chanted "death to American mercenaries". There were similar rallies in Isfahan, Iran's third largest city, and Abadan and Khorramshahr in the oil-rich southwest, state TV footage showed.

Marchers chanted, "The blood in our veins is a gift to our leader (Khamenei)," and, "We will not leave our leader alone." They accused the United States, Israel and Britain of inciting protests, shouting "the seditionist rioters should be executed!"

The protests began last week out of frustration over economic hardship among the youth and working class but have evolved into broader unrest against the hardline clerical establishment dominating since the 1979 Islamic Revolution.

RARE ANTI-GOVERNMENT OUTBURST

Political rallies held in defiance of the pervasive security services have called for the overthrow of all Iranian leaders.

The protests, organized on social media, have largely been held after dusk. They continued into Tuesday night with social media videos showing demonstrators on the streets and riot police in several cities including Ahvaz in the southwest.

U.S. President Donald Trump, who has sought to isolate the Tehran leadership, reversing the conciliatory approach of predecessor Barack Obama, said Washington would throw its support behind the protesters at an "appropriate time".

"Such respect for the people of Iran as they try to take back their corrupt government. You will see great support from the United States at the appropriate time!" Trump wrote in the latest of a series of tweets on Iran's turmoil.

On Tuesday, Khamenei had accused Iran's adversaries of fomenting the protests, some of which have criticized him by name and called for him to step down.

An Iranian judicial official said on Wednesday a European citizen was arrested in protests in the Borujerd area of western Iran, but did not specify the nationality of the detainee.

"(This) European citizen ... had been trained by European intelligence services and was leading the rioters," Hamidreza Abolhassani, head of Borujerd's Justice Department, was quoted by Tasnim news agency as saying.

In Geneva, the U.N. human rights chief urged Iran to rein in security forces to avoid further violence and respect the right of protesters to freedoms of expression and peaceful assembly.

Zeid Ra'ad al-Hussein, U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, said more than 20 had been killed and hundreds arrested across Iran in the past week. He called for "thorough, independent and impartial investigations of all acts of violence..."

An official in Iran's hardline judiciary warned that some of those arrested could face the death penalty.

The outburst of dissent is the most serious since 2009, when Iranians took to the streets over accusations of vote-rigging in the re-election of then-President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

The protests have heaped pressure on President Hassan Rouhani, who championed a deal struck with world powers in 2015 to curb Iran's disputed nuclear program in return for the lifting of most international sanctions against Tehran.

Many of the protesters are fuming over what they see as the failure so far of his government to deliver on promises of more jobs and investment as a payoff from the nuclear accord.

Rouhani, who has said Iranians have a right to protest peacefully, told Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan in a phone call on Wednesday he hoped the unrest would end in a few days.

"We are certain about Iran's security and stability ... People are free in Iran to protest within the framework of law," Rouhani was quoted as saying by the state news agency IRNA.

TOUGH CHOICE ON SANCTIONS

Trump has said in tweets that Iranians have lost patience with alleged graft and what he called a terrorist regime.

Trump must decide by mid-January whether to continue waiving U.S. sanctions on Iran's oil exports under the terms of the nuclear deal that he opposed.

But, given that the unrest began over high unemployment and prices, if he reimposes sanctions on oil it could increase the economic pain for Iran's people, analysts say.

"If the Americans' sympathy with Iranians were real, they would have not imposed cruel sanctions on the our nation," Jafari, the Revolutionary Guards commander, said on Wednesday.

Referring to Rouhani's policy of detente with the West, Jafari told Fars news agency that "friendship with the United States" would never bring prosperity and that the Guards were ready to help the government overcome economic challenges.

ECONOMIC DOLDRUMS

Resentment over economic stagnation and reputed graft within the clerical and security hierarchies sparked the protests after Iranians took to social media to vent their discontent.

The anger has been building up since last month. Thousands of Iranians joined a hashtag campaign on Twitter and other sites to express frustration over the slow pace of reforms.

Iran deploys Revolutionary Guards to quell 'sedition' in protest hotbeds Document

January 2, 2018

A refugee camp in Lebanon administered by UNRWA

Why U.S. Funding of UNRWA is Problematic

President Donald Trump (left) and the United Nations Headquarters

How the Trump Administration Can Hold the U.N. Accountable Again Article

January 1, 2018

Iranians protesting while being tear gassed

Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei blamed Iran's "enemies" on Tuesday for stirring up unrest in the country, as the death toll from days of anti-government protests climbed to 21.

In his first remarks since the demonstrations erupted last Thursday, Khamenei accused the nation's enemies of "joining forces" and blamed them for the protests that have turned violent.

"The enemy is waiting for an opportunity, for a flaw, through which they can enter. Look at these events over the last few days. All those who are against the Islamic Republic -- those who have money, those who have the politics, those who have the weapons, those who have the intelligence -- they have all joined forces in order to create problems for the Islamic Republic and the Islamic Revolution," he said, without naming any particular country.

Key developments

Nine people were killed on Monday, including seven protesters, state media reports, taking the toll to 21.

- 450 people have been arrested in the past three days.

- Iranian President Rouhani slammed US President Donald Trump for tweeting his support for protesters.

- Trump called the Iranian government "brutal and corrupt" in a second tweet Tuesday.

Authorities have restricted the apps Instagram and Telegram but users are accessing them with VPNs.

Days of violence

The protests have become the biggest challenge to the Iranian government's authority since mass demonstrations in 2009. Around 450 people have been arrested over the past three days, according to state media.

The rallies began Thursday over the country's stagnant economy and rising living costs, but they developed into a broader outcry against the government and intensified over the weekend. Many of the protesters are young Iranians tired of the lack of economic opportunity in the country.

Of the nine people killed Monday, seven were protesters. Six of them died in the central city of Qahdarijan when demonstrators stormed a police station and attempted to take guns from authorities, state media reported. The seventh protester was killed in nearby Khomaini Shahr.

A policeman died in Najafabad after a protester shot at officers with a hunting rifle, according to state media. Three other officers were wounded. A member of the Basij, a pro-government militia, was also killed, in south Tehran.

Video images shared on social media from the central city of Tuyserkan on Sunday showed protesters throwing chairs, tables and other objects in reach at riot police, forcing the outnumbered officers to retreat. Six protesters were shot dead in the unrest there, according to the semi-official Fars news agency.

A man and his young son also died on Sunday when a fire truck hijacked by protesters ran them down on a street in western Iran's Dorud, according to the semi-official ISNA news agency. Twelve people were killed over the weekend.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani tried to downplay the significance of the protests, which have spread beyond the capital of Tehran to at least 18 cities, claiming that "This is nothing" compared to other outbreaks of unrest.

But authorities have nonetheless responded with mass arrests and by restricting the use of the social media apps Instagram and Telegram, used to organize the rallies.

There are now concerns that some protesters could face the death penalty. Musa Ghazanfarabadi, the head of Iran's Revolutionary Court, said Tuesday that some protest ringleaders could be charged with "muharabeh" -- taking up arms against the state -- and accused them of being connected with foreign intelligence agencies, the semi-official Tasnim news reports. The crime carries a maximum sentence of death.

Trump: 'Time for change!'

Trump has repeatedly tweeted his support for the protesters in the past week, criticizing the Iranian government as repressive, "brutal and corrupt."

"The people of Iran are finally acting against the brutal and corrupt Iranian regime. All of the money that President Obama so foolishly gave them went into terrorism and into their 'pockets.' The people have little food, big inflation and no human rights. The US is watching!" he wrote on Tuesday.

Rouhani slammed Trump for a similar tweet Monday in which the US leader said the Iranian people were "repressed" and that it was "TIME FOR CHANGE!"

Secretary of Iran's Supreme National Security Council Ali Shamkhani accused the US, UK and Saudi Arabia of using hashtags and social media campaigns inside Iran to incite riots.

"Based on our analyses, around 27% of the new hashtags against Iran are generated by the Saudi government," Shamkhani said, according to state-run Press TV.

The UK has called on Iran to engage in a "meaningful debate" on the issues raised by protesters, Prime Minister Theresa May's spokesman said Tuesday.

Iran's Supreme Leader blames 'enemies' for protests, death toll hits 21 Document

An Iranian being beaten

At least 12 people have been killed in four days of demonstrations in Iran, state media reported, in the biggest challenge to the authority of the Tehran regime since mass protests in 2009.

The violence continued despite an appeal for calm by Iranian president Hassan Rouhani on Sunday. He played down the significance of the protests on Monday, as the country's leadership struggled to respond to the largely spontaneous uprisings.

"Our great nation has witnessed a number of similar incidents in the past and has comfortably dealt with them. This is nothing," Rouhani said in a meeting with Iranian MPs on Monday. But he acknowledged that Iranians had legitimate concerns and had the right to make legal protests. The protests have stemmed from concerns about rising living costs and a stagnant economy, but have developed into a broader-based outcry against the regime.

They are the most serious challenge to Tehran's authority since the so-called Green Movement of 2009, when millions marched in the capital to protest the election of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, accused by the opposition of being rigged.

So far, the latest unrest is on a much smaller scale than 2009. Authorities have yet to launch a wide-ranging crackdown, as they did eight years ago, preferring instead to contain the protests locally.

Iran's state broadcaster said six people were killed in the small western town of Tuyserkan on Sunday, according to Agence France-Presse (AFP).

Also on Sunday, two were shot dead in the southwestern city of Izeh, the area's local member of parliament, Hedayatollah Khademi, told the semi-official ILNA news agency. Khademi said he did not know whether the shots were fired by security officials or protesters, according to the report.

Izeh is in the oil-rich southern province of Khuzestan, just south of the Lorestan province where two other Iranians were killed in protests on Saturday evening.

The deputy governor of Lorestan province, Habibollah Khojastehpour, denied that security forces had fired any bullets, blaming "Takfiri" groups and foreign intelligence services for the clashes.

Another two people were killed Sunday in the city of Dorud after a fire engine was hijacked, the semi-official ISNA news agency reported, citing the local governor.

At a meeting with MPs on Monday, Rouhani acknowledged that Iranians had the right to protest legally. "The space needs to open up for legal protest and criticism," he said, echoing remarks he made in a pre-recorded appeal for calm aired on state TV Sunday.

In a nod to the concerns fueling the protests, he added: "We have no bigger challenge than unemployment. Our economy requires major corrective surgery."

Earlier, state-run media outlet IRIB reported that officials had temporarily restricted access to social media apps Instagram and Telegram, which have been used by Iranians to share news about the protests. Iran's Minister for Communications and Technology Azari Jahromi denounced the reports as "rumors" in a post on Twitter Monday.

Social media has helped galvanize tens of thousands participating in the protests, which have taken place in towns and cities across Iran. The unrest appears to have begun with hardline agitators encouraging protests against Rouhani. But they quickly lost control of events and demonstrations have taken on a general anti-regime feel.

In a rare act of defiance, some protestors have even called for the resignation of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei.

In some demonstrations, women cast off their hijabs, defying the country's strict Islamic dress code. The protests have provided an opening for Iranian women to push for equal rights - something they've been fighting for over decades.

Video shared on social media captured Iranians chanting "We don't want an Islamic Republic" and "Death to the dictator." CNN has not independently verified the authenticity of the footage, purportedly shot in the western city of Khorramabad.

US President Donald Trump voiced his support for the demonstrations in a series of tweets on Sunday. He posted: "The people are finally getting wise as to how their money and wealth is being stolen and squandered on terrorism. Looks like they will not take it any longer. The USA is watching very closely for human rights violations!"

He weighed in again on Monday, posting: "Iran is failing at every level despite the terrible deal made with them by the Obama Administration. The great Iranian people have been repressed for many years. They are hungry for food & for freedom. Along with human rights, the wealth of Iran is being looted. TIME FOR CHANGE!

Rouhani, who won re-election in May, said in his Sunday speech that Trump had been at the root of many of Iranians' woes, "constantly creating problems" for people in the country since he entered the White House.

At least 12 dead as Iranian regime faces biggest challenge in eight years Document