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Iran shows off Russian S-300 defense system on Army Day

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(Last Updated On: April 17, 2016)

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani attends a military parade marking National Army Day in Tehran

Iran showed off parts of its new Russian S-300 missile defense system during National Army Day on Sunday, where President Hassan Rouhani said the country’s armed forces were no threat to neighboring countries.

Every year, Iran’s armed forces hold parades across the country to mark Army Day. In a ceremony in Tehran, broadcast live on state television, trucks carrying the missiles drove past a podium where Rouhani and military commanders were standing. Soldiers also marched passed the podium and fighter jets and bombers took part in an air display.

“The power of our armed forces is not aimed at any of our neighbors … Its purpose is to defend Islamic Iran and act as an active deterrent,” Rouhani was quoted as saying by the state news agency IRNA, in a speech at the Army Day ceremony.

Russia delivered the first part of the S-300 missile defense system to Iran last week, one of the most advanced systems of its kind that can engage multiple aircraft and ballistic missiles around 150 km (90 miles) away.

Russia has said it canceled a contract to deliver S-300s to Iran in 2010 under pressure from the West. President Vladimir Putin lifted the ban in April 2015, after an interim agreement that paved the way for July’s full nuclear deal with Iran that ended international sanctions.

Since then, Iran has upset the United States by carrying out four ballistic missile tests, which the United States and its European allies said were in defiance of the United Nations resolution adopted in July.

Rouhani said on Sunday that during the nuclear talks Iranian negotiators also aimed to maintain and boost the country’s military capabilities.

Iran has two armies, a regular one which operates as a national defensive force, and the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps that was created after the Revolution to protect the Islamic Republic against both internal and external adversaries.

The army has the biggest ground force in Iran and IRGC is in control of growing arsenal of ballistic missiles.

In its first overseas operation since the Revolution, the regular army said earlier this month that it had deployed some of its special forces and commandos to Syria to help President Bashar al-Assad in the civil war there.

Written by: Reuters

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MPs call for ‘national treasure’ to be sent abroad for safekeeping

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(Last Updated On: January 27, 2021)

The Presidential Palace (ARG) on Wednesday called for calm and for MPs in the Wolesi Jirga (Lower House of Parliament) to act and speak responsibly about national issues after they called for the country’s treasure, the Bactrian Hoard, to be sent abroad for safekeeping.

ARG tweeted that the “Wolesi Jirga Speaker’s remarks about the safety of the Bactrian Treasure and its transfer abroad were unfortunate.”

The collection of pieces, including gold items, numbers about 20,000 in total, and date back to the period covering the third century BC to the first century AD.

Unearthed in northern Afghanistan in 1978 from four archaeological sites, the treasure has been preserved for hundreds of years and hidden during times of war.

In line with this, ARG tweeted the Bactrian Hoard “is one of the greatests assets of the Afghan people, which has been preserved in the maze of history in which the country’s assets were looted.”

ARG also stated that government has protected this historical treasure in a responsible manner and has allowed it to be exhibited several times in countries around the world.

The exhibitions have been done in a way for the treasure to represent “the history and identity of Afghanistan, and significant revenues to the state treasury have been obtained through this,” said ARG.

The Presidential Palace’s reaction came on the heels of comments made by Rahman Rahmani, the Speaker of the Wolesi Jirga, who called for the treasure to be sent out of the country and stored abroad for safekeeping.

Rahmani said the Central Bank, where the gold is currently housed, was unreliable, and he insisted on transferring the “hoard” to a more trustworthy country on loan.

In addition to this, some lawyers also called on government to examine the state of the country’s foreign exchange reserves.

The issue was raised after SIGAR released a report recently stating that vast amounts of money is still being smuggled out of the country, especially out of Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul – and specifically through the VIP area.

“If money is smuggled, the Bactrian treasure will not be safe, and this treasure is to support Afghanistan’s money and must be transferred to another country because the Central Bank lacks credit, and this is a very serious matter,” Rahmani said.

Another MP, Nilofar Ibrahimi said: “Action must be taken to prevent the transfer of Bakhtar treasures, because the Central Bank’s cameras have been turned off for two months and we are concerned about the distrust of the current government and this treasure is in danger of being smuggled and should be transferred to a trustworthy country.”

The total collection is estimated to be worth around $13 billion. Over the past 13 years, the treasure has been exhibited in foreign countries, earning Afghanistan about 314 million Afghanis.

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AIHRC reports sharp increase in assassinations last year

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(Last Updated On: January 27, 2021)

Over 2,000 civilians were killed or wounded in targeted assassinations and attempted assassinations last year, the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission (AIHRC) said.

According to a report released on Wednesday, this attack method mainly targets civilian government employees, journalists, members of civil society, religious scholars, influential and prominent figures, members of the National Assembly and human rights defenders.

The AIHRC said in the report that a total of 2,250 people were killed or injured in targeted assassination attacks and attempts – including 1,078 killed and 1,172 injured – last year.

“Unfortunately, civilian casualties from assassinations and targeted killings in 2020 have almost tripled to 169 percent compared to 2019,” the report stated.

In 2019, a total of 834 civilians were killed and injured as a result of the use of assassination methods and targeted attacks.

AIHRC stated that 65 women and 74 children were among the victims of this tactic who were killed, and 95 women and 290 children were among the wounded.

The watchdog noted in its report that suicide attacks had decreased by 23 percent in 2020 compared to the previous year. Despite this, the number of civilian casualties from suicide attacks remained very high, AIHRC said.

In 2020, civilian casualties from Taliban suicide attacks decreased by 44 percent compared to 2019.

In 2019, 1,195 civilians were killed in Taliban suicide attacks, killing 301 and wounding 894 while in 2020, that number dropped to 528 victims, including 65 killed and 463 injured.

In the civilian casualties caused by ISIS (Daesh Afghanistan) suicide attacks, in 2020, compared to 2019, there was a 33 percent increase.

In 2019, the total number of civilian casualties resulting from ISIL (Daesh Afghanistan) suicide attacks was 194 killed and wounded. In 2020, that number rose to 258 killed and injured.

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Govt, UK and Canada stand firm on preserving media freedom

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(Last Updated On: January 27, 2021)

Deputy Minister of Interior Affairs for Strategy and Policies Sediq Sediqqi said in a tweet Wednesday afternoon that the Afghan government will deter any attempt by the enemy to silence Afghanistan’s media.

He said: “The Afghan government will deter enemies’ any attempt to falter or silence our media.

“We will stand firm to uphold one of our best gains of the past twenty years with our international allies who helped us to achieve it. No to dark ages [of the Taliban regime],” he said.

This comes after a joint press release was issued by embassies of the UK and Canada in Afghanistan on Wednesday marking the first anniversary of Afghanistan signing the Global Pledge on Media Freedom and joining the Media Freedom Coalition.

The Coalition is a partnership of 37 countries working to defend media freedom wherever it is threatened.

As co-chairs of the Global Campaign for Media Freedom, the UK and Canada stated it was reflecting Wednesday on the progress made to defend media freedom in Afghanistan.

“In July 2020, the Afghan Lower House of Parliament rejected amendments to the Mass Media Law, which would have had concerning implications for Afghan press freedom.

“Members of Afghanistan’s media community came together in solidarity, and we welcome the government’s decision to consult with them on any future changes,” the statement read.

However, the embassies stated that the threats to the safety of journalists and media professionals in the country remains one of the obstacles to the full implementation of the right to freedom of expression in Afghanistan.

“Unfortunately, Afghan journalists have faced growing levels of violence and insecurity over the past year. Members of the media, human rights activists, and other prominent members of civil society have been threatened, injured, or killed in targeted attacks – many of which are attributable to the Taliban and their proxies.

“We condemn all acts of violence, threats, censorship and intimidation towards those who are fighting to create a safer, fairer Afghanistan.” the statement from the embassies read.

It also noted that media outlets work tirelessly to uncover the truth and bravely report on it.

As such, “there must be full and transparent investigations into these heinous targeted attacks.

“All parties to the conflict in Afghanistan have a moral responsibility to end violence as a demonstration of their commitment to peace. We expect parties to the Afghan peace negotiations, including the Taliban, to publicly condemn the targeted attacks on members of the media, civil society organizations and the government.

“We also call for greater support from each side for the protection of journalists and the freedom of expression.

“Freedom of media and expression is a cornerstone of a democratic society and is essential for the protection of fundamental human rights and freedoms. Attacks on media freedom are attacks on human rights,” the statement read.

The embassies stated that the vibrant Afghan media scene has been one of the biggest successes of the last two decades, and, according to the British and Candadian embassies it cannot be allowed to falter in the face of growing insecurity.

The UK and Canada stated their reiterate their commitment to working collaboratively with Afghanistan to defend its wide-ranging media landscape and protect its courageous journalists.

“Where media representatives are free to do their work safely, societies are more prosperous and resilient,” the statement read.

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