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Protests Erupt in Iran After Military Admits to Shooting Down Plane

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  • Protests broke out across Iran over the weekend after the military admitted that it shot down a Ukrainian airline’s passenger jet, killing 176 people when mistaking it for a hostile aircraft.
  • Officials originally said there was no evidence of the plane being struck down by one of their missiles but ultimately admitted fault three days later.
  • Protesters are demanding leaders be held accountable. 
  • There are reports of tear gas and gunfire being used against demonstrators, but Tehran’s head of police has denied claims of shots being fired.

Backlash from the Plane Strike

Monday marked the third straight day of Iranian protests since Iran’s military admitted it shot down a passenger jet last week, mistaking it for a threat and killing all 176 people on board. 

Videos emerged on Sunday of protesters running from tear gas and in others, which could not be immediately verified, gunfire could be heard.

It has been a tumultuous couple of weeks for Iranians—last week, hundreds of thousands were rallying in the streets to publicly mourn Maj. Gen. Qassem Soleimani, Iran’s Quds Force commander who was killed by a U.S. drone strike on Jan. 3.

During those rallies, cries of hate against the United States and Donald Trump—who ordered the strike— were heard. This week there is a sharp contrast, as protesters seem to be targeting the Iranian government and military.

According to The Washington Post, demonstrators were filmed late on Sunday in at least two locations ripping down posters of Soleimani. In Iran’s capital, Tehran, a billboard mourning the victims of the plane crash replaced one of the deceased military leader.

In retaliation for Soleimani’s death, Iran fired missiles at an Iraqi military base that houses American troops on Wednesday. The plane was shot down by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps just hours later after taking off from Tehran. 

After maintaining for days that there was no evidence the aircraft was struck down by one of their missiles, Iran admitted that its military had shot down the jet by mistake.

The military initially claimed in a statement that the plane took an unexpected turn that brought it close to a sensitive military base, but an Iranian official later backtracked on that notion. 

“The plane was flying in its normal direction without any error and everybody was doing their job correctly,” Gen. Amir Ali Hajizadeh, commander of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps’ airspace unit, said on Saturday. “If there was a mistake, it was made by one of our members.”

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani called the incident an “unforgivable mistake” and said that investigations are continuing to “identify and prosecute this great tragedy.”  

A mix of individuals from multiple countries was onboard the aircraft, including dozens of Canadians. Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau called the incident “a national tragedy” and publicly called for further investigation.

“I want to assure all families and all Canadians: We will not rest until there are answers,” he said at a memorial event on Sunday.

Escalating Protests

Protesters are demanding that leaders be held responsible for the fatal mistake. Iran’s semi-official Fars News Agency reported that up to 1,000 people were protesting at various points in the capital city. Some videos posted to social media show crowds demanding the resignation of Ayatollah Khamenei, the country’s supreme leader.

One of the scenes of protest was the Sharif University of Technology in Tehran, which said that 13 of its students and alumni were killed in the plane crash. Iranian security forces stepped in and escalated the demonstration.

They “started dragging people away. They took a number of people and put them in cages in police vans,” said 35-year-old Soudabeh told The Washington Post, keeping her full name anonymous.

“At one point, the protesters freed one of the men who was detained. I saw his face and it was covered in blood — his family carried him away,” she told the news outlet.

Iran’s security forces have a history of taking extreme action to contain protesters. In November, after protests broke out in response to the spike in Iran’s gas prices, about 1,500 demonstrators were killed by security forces, according to the Trump administration. 

Iranian media quoted Brig. Gen. Hossein Rahimi as saying “Police treated people who had gathered with patience and tolerance,” according to reports by the Associated Press. 

Rahimi denied claims that police were shooting at protesters and said that tear gas was only being used in certain areas.

See what others are saying: (The New York Times) (BBC) (CNN)

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Cambodian PM Orders Action Against Women For Revealing Clothing

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  • Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen called for authoritative action to be taken against women who wear revealing clothing in online posts. 
  • He said that these posts are offensive to Cambodian culture and said this behavior contributes to sexual violence in the country.
  • Several rights groups have condemned Hun Sen’s comments, arguing that the women have not actually broken any laws and that he is perpetuating the problem of sexual violence by blaming victims.

Controversial Remarks

In a speech given on Monday, Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen ordered authorities to take action against women who wear revealing clothing in Facebook Live streams. 

Hun Sen was addressing the Cambodian National Council for Women when he made his remarks. He said that these fashion choices are offensive to Cambodian culture and values and that this kind of behavior is to blame for sexual violence in the country. It is a popular trend for women across the country to wear revealing clothing to sell items like clothes and beauty products online, according to Reuters.

“Go to their places and order them to stop live-streaming until they change to proper clothes,” Hun Sen said on Monday. 

The prime minister also seemed to suggest that these women will be tracked down through their online activity when he ordered authorities to locate and then “educate” them.  

On Wednesday, police in Phnom Penh posted a video to Facebook of a young woman apologizing for the clothing she wears during her online streams upon being brought into their station. In the caption, the police wrote that the woman’s frequent posting in provocative clothing marred the customs and traditions of Cambodian women. 

The police commissionary posted later in the day that shortly after her release, the woman had posted another revealing image online. On their Facebook page, they wrote that she had been arrested and brought in again for pornography charges. 

“When we educate them and they still do not listen, we will implement the law,” a spokesman for the Cambodian National Police told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

Many expect women in Cambodia to be quiet and submissive, an expectation that stems from an oppressive conduct code for women called the Chbab Srey that was part of school curricula until 2007.  

Backlash to the Crackdown

Upon news of the “education” orders and the Facebook video from the police force, several rights groups condemned Hun Sen’s comments. 

Nicholas Bequelin, Regional Director of Amnesty International, responded with a statement on the organization’s website. He called the prime minister’s remarks “dangerous” and accused them of “victim-blaming.” 

“This rhetoric only serves to perpetuate violence against women and stigmatize survivors of gender-based violence,” Bequelin said.

He went on to warn that Hun Sen’s orders display how the government is abusing their surveillance systems to push a discriminatory agenda and said that Facebook must refuse any requests to block profiles of women for these reasons. 

“These developments underscore the dire state of freedom of expression in Cambodia,” Bequelin added. “In recent years, the Cambodian authorities have increasingly weaponized internet surveillance to target human rights defenders and opposition supporters based on their Facebook posts and communications.” 

Bequelin also argued that none of the women engaging in these online behaviors are breaking any laws and the police are responding solely to the whim of Hun Sen. 

Also on Wednesday, several other rights groups released a separate open letter echoing Bequelin’s sentiments. The groups—which included the Cambodian Center for Human Rights and Gender and Development for Cambodia— accused Hun Sen of blaming victims and admonished his orders against women posting online in revealing clothing. 

“Punishing women for their choice of clothing is therefore part of the root cause of violence, rather than its cure, and must be rejected,” the letter said. “We appeal to the Cambodian government to acknowledge that Cambodia Needs to Respect Women’s Rights to Self-Determination, Expression, and Bodily Integrity in order to achieve gender equality and end gender-based violence in Cambodia.”

See what others are saying: (Reuters) (Radio Free Asia) (Voice of America)

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German Police Suspect Far-Right Extremism After Shootings that Leave 10 Dead

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  • A gunman in Hanau, Germany killed nine people at two different bars in a Wednesday night shooting.
  • He then returned home, where it is believed he then shot and killed his mother before killing himself. 
  • Federal investigators are treating the incident as a likely racially motivated killing since the suspect left xenophobic documents behind before shooting up the bars, which were both in areas with large immigrant populations.

Gunman Shoots Up Two Bars

A gunman in Germany killed nine people at two separate bars Wednesday night before returning home and reportedly killing his mother and then himself.

The incident began around 10 p.m. at a hookah bar in the city of Hanau, which is about 15 miles east of Frankfurt. After opening fire on that bar, the gunman then drove about one and a half miles to another hookah bar. Following the second shooting incident, he fled.

Police then conducted an hours-long manhunt for the suspect. Eventually, through a combination of helicopters, witnesses, and surveillance cameras, they learned that he had run back to his apartment a few blocks away from the second bar.

When police stormed his apartment early Thursday morning, they found both the suspect and his 72-year-old mother dead from gunshot wounds.

The incident has also left one person in critical condition.

By Thursday morning, people could be seen laying down flowers and candles in makeshift memorials in front of the bar. German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier and other regional officials also laid wreaths at those bars that morning.

Shooter Suspected To Be a Far-Right Extremist

Investigators are now considering the likely possibility that both shootings were racially motivated. Federal prosecutors said Thursday that the shooter displayed “indications of a right-wing extremist background.” 

While the suspect didn’t have a criminal record, he did post “xenophobic” material on his website, including a confession letter and video. 

Both bars were also located in areas with large immigrant populations and were frequently visited by Kurds, an ethnic group that is majority Muslim. Reportedly, in Hanau, hookah bars first gained popularity with the city’s Turkish community.

According to Turkish state news agency Anadolu, five of the nine people killed in those bars were reportedly Turkish nationals. While the victims were a mix of German and foreign nationalities, a federal prosecutor said all nine had immigrant backgrounds. 

Of the incident, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Turkey is “keeping a close eye” on Germany. In a separate statement, a spokesperson for Erdogan denounced the shooting as a “racist attack.”

According to local media, the suspect was a gun owner with a hunting license. Police also said they found both ammunition and gun magazines in his car.

German Lawmakers Denounce Racism

Following the combined attacks, Germany’s Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said right-wing extremism is becoming a national threat to Germany.

“If the suspicion is confirmed, the gruesome act in Hanau is the third extreme right-wing murder attack in Germany in a year,” Maas said. “Right-wing terrorism has again become a threat to our country. There is absolutely nothing to put into perspective.”

The other two incidents Maas was referring to occurred in June when a politician known for his support of asylum seekers was shot dead, as well as in October when a gunman killed two people after opening fire in a synagogue.

In a televised speech, Chancellor Angela Merkel compared “racism” and “hatred” to “poison.”

“It is still too early for a final evaluation,” she said. “Everything is being done to clear up the background of these horrible murders to the last detail. But at present, there is much evidence that the perpetrator acted out of right-wing extremist, racist motives — out of hatred against people of other origins, other beliefs or other outward appearances.”

What Steps is Germany Taking to Combat Mass Domestic Terrorism?

Germany’s Islamic Association called Wednesday’s shooting a targeted attack on Muslims.

“Before this right-wing terror we had been warning and demanding for weeks and months to take a clear stand against right-wing agitation and Islamophobia,” it said in a statement. “We had also warned that terror threatens us [of] all — Muslims and non-Muslims alike. Our warnings were ignored. The terror has struck. It is now the time to stand together.”

However, that’s not to say Germany hasn’t been working to stop far-right extremism. Earlier this week, German police reportedly arrested 12 members of a far-right group they said were planning to attack mosques and other locations associated with refugees and asylum seekers.

Also, just hours before Wednesday’s attacks, Germany’s cabinet approved a bill that would force social media networks to report to police if they find hate speech or posts that threaten violence or terrorist attacks on their sites.

That still needs to be passed by Germany’s parliament, but German law already requires social media sites to delete such posts.

Germany also already has some of the strictest gun laws in the country, and last year, it tightened those laws even further by requiring background checks.

Editor’s Note: At Rogue Rocket, we make it a point to not include the names and pictures of mass murderers or suspected mass murderers who may have been seeking attention or infamy. Therefore, we will not be linking to other sources, as they may contain these details. 

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China Expels 3 Wall Street Journal Reporters After “Sick Man of Asia” Opinion Headline

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  • China announced it will deport three Wall Street Journal reporters after a separate writer for the newspaper published what the Chinese government called a “racist statement.”
  • The article the Chinese government is referring to is titled, “China Is the Real Sick Man of Asia.”
  • That article, which is largely about the Chinese government’s response to the coronavirus outbreak, calls the Communist Party weak, but also invokes the use of a historical phrase many in China deem to be racist.
  • This is the first time the Chinese government has deported multiple reporters from a single news organization since the era of Mao Zedong.

China Expels Three WSJ Reporters

The Chinese Government is revoking the visas for three Wall Street Journal reporters after the newspaper ran an opinion piece titled “China Is the Real Sick Man of Asia.”

Denouncing the headline and article as racist, an official with China’s Foreign Ministry said on Wednesday that the three reporters now have five days to leave the country. 

“The Chinese people do not welcome media that publish racist statements and maliciously attacks China,” he said.

“The Chinese side has lodged stern representations with WSJ and made our solemn position clear,” that official continued. “China demands the WSJ recognize the severity of its mistake, make an official apology and hold the persons involved accountable. Meanwhile, we reserve the right to take further actions.”

This is the first time the Chinese government has deported multiple reporters from a single news organization since Mao Zedong’s rule, though the Communist Party did ban a BuzzFeed reporter in 2018 and a different WSJ reporter in 2019.

However, none of those three reporters who are now being expelled from the country wrote that column. In fact, they didn’t have anything to do with it aside from working at the WSJ. The article was actually written by Wall Street Journal columnist Walter Russel Mead.

Why Is the Communist Party Calling the Column Racist?

The article, which is about the Chinese government’s response to the coronavirus outbreak, begins by challenging the might of the coronavirus against Beijing’s influence and power.

“The mighty Chinese juggernaut has been humbled this week, apparently by a species-hopping bat virus,” Mead says in the column. “While Chinese authorities struggle to control the epidemic and restart their economy, a world that has grown accustomed to contemplating China’s inexorable rise was reminded that nothing, not even Beijing’s power, can be taken for granted.”

The article then continues by calling China’s initial response “less than impressive,” insulting Wuhan’s action by calling it “secretive and self-serving.” Mead also says while the national government reacted vigorously, its response has also been seemingly ineffective at stopping the virus.

He adds that “the performance to date has shaken confidence in the Chinese Communist Party at home and abroad.” Mead ends by saying “that China’s power, impressive as it is, remains brittle.”

While the Chinese Government is no stranger to censoring those critical of it, the article’s headline seemed to strike a different cord.

The term “sick man of Asia” began as a different phrase: “sick man of Europe;” however, during the late 19th and early 20th centuries, “sick man of Asia” was to describe internal conflict within the Chinese government. That conflict then led to a weakened government. Because of that, China was then forced to sign a number of unequal treaties with imperial powers such as Japan, Russia, and Western powers.

To this day, the phrase is particularly hated in China. In fact, in the 1972 film Fist of Fury, a character portrayed by Bruce Lee smashes and rips up a sign carrying the words “sick man of Asia” while in front of a group of Japanese men.

Chinese Citizens Double Down on Racism Claims

Because of the phrase’s historical use, many Chinese people have also echoed criticisms of racism, saying that the term “sick man”  stereotypes them as disease-ridden and unclean.

“…this article will further encourage racism and discriminatory [behavior] towards all Chinese, and possibly all east Asians in the US or outside the country,” one person said in the comments section under Mead’s article.

“Content is not necessarily all wrong but definitely a bit salty – but I get it,” another person said before adding: “However, I must say that the title is quite misleading, if not utterly offensive.” 

The WSJ Stands By Its Opinion Department

In a statement, WSJ publisher William Lewis stressed the division between the News and Opinion departments at the newspaper while also criticizing China’s decision to remove the three reporters from its country. 

“We are deeply disappointed with today’s announcement from China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs to expel three Wall Street Journal news reporters,” Lewis said in a statement posted to Twitter. “This opinion piece was published independently from the WSJ newsroom and none of the journalists being expelled had any involvement with it.”

In that statement, Lewis also noted the Opinion Department “regularly” publishes pieces that people both agree and disagree with.

“However, this has clearly caused upset and concern amongst Chinese people, which we regret,” he added. 

Lewis then ended his statement by asking China’s Foreign Ministry to reinstate the visas for those three reporters. 

Meanwhile, Mead also posting to Twitter, insinuated that he did not write the headline that was ascribed to his article. 

“…a word to my new Chinese followers: at American newspapers, writers typically do NOT write or approve the headlines,” Mead said. “Argue with the writer about the article content, with the editors about the headlines.”

U.S. Labels Major Chinese Media Outlets as Government Operatives

The Chinese Government’s decision to expel the reporters comes one day after U.S. State Department labeled five major Chinese state-run media outlets as government operatives.

Those five outlets include Xinhua, CGTN, China Radio, China Daily and The People’s Daily.

“There is no dispute that all five of these entities are part of the [Chinese] party-state propaganda news apparatus and they take their orders directly from the top,” an unnamed State Department official told reporters.

“We all know these guys have been state-controlled forever, but that control has gotten stronger over time, and it’s far more aggressive,” that reporter added. 

Now, employees of those agencies will be required by the State Department to register as consular staff, though the U.S. has noted that it won’t impede their reporting activities.

See what others are saying: (Business Insider) (South China Morning Post) (NPR)

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