Tehran an architectural museum
Numerous architectural relics in Tehran belong to the Qajar, modern and postmodern eras, said a member of the presiding board of Tehran Institute (Metropolis Studies).
Hamid Reza Nasser Nassir added that Tehran is like an architectural museum.
“This museum is of high importance in terms of architectural value and sociology, because it is part of our society’s political, social and cultural history. The ancient monuments showcase the lifestyles, beliefs and characteristics of people,” he said.
Alireza Qahhari, another member of the institute, said if the mayor prioritizes protection of cultural heritage and regards violators as culprits, the people will realize that cultural heritage should be protected.
“If Einoddoleh Edifice or Golestan Palace is destroyed, we will not have another like them. We have registered Golestan Palace on World Heritage List, but we should be careful no one builds a shopping mall near it,” he said.
Reza Behboudi, another member, said negligence to the memorials of citizens and inhabitants is the reason behind the destruction of Tehran’s cultural heritage.
Tehran, the capital of Iran, is the country’s most populous city.
The city is home to many historical mosques, churches, synagogues and Zoroastrian fire temples. However, at present, modern structures, such as Azadi Tower and the Milad Tower, symbolize the city.
Often overlooked in favor of the glorious tourist attractions of Isfahan, Shiraz and Persepolis, Tehran has numerous draws of its own to keep visitors busy. Its tourist spots are spread wide, from the edgy cafes and modern high-rises on the slopes of Alborz in the north to the sprawling suburbs of the conservative south.
Visitors can glimpse the old world atmosphere of its grand bazaar to the blinding gaudiness of Golestan and National Jewel Museum.
Tehran offers tourists a little bit of everything, including the best place in which to feel the pulse of modern Iran.
Ashura commemorated worldwide
Millions of Muslims in Iran and around the world on Tuesday held mourning ceremonies to mark Ashura, the anniversary of the martyrdom of Imam Hussein (PBUH), the third Shia imam.
Shia mourners from Iran and other countries took to the streets and mosques to commemorate Ashura, the 10th day of the lunar month of Muharram.
Meanwhile, millions of Muslims flocked to the Iraqi city of Karbala, where the holy shrines of Imam Hussein, his children and his brother Hazrat Abbas (PBUH) are located, to commemorate the event.
Karbala residents made efforts to serve the pilgrims to the holy shrines during Muharram ceremonies.
“We are expecting a larger flow of pilgrims than the previous years. We have 1,500 registered camps which are providing water, meals, sleeping space and medicine to mourners,” said Akil al-Tarihi, the governor of Karbala.
Imam Hussein, the grandson of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH), and 72 of his loyal companions, were martyred on Ashura in the battle of Karbala against the second Umayyad caliph, Yazid I, in 680 AD. Imam Hussein was killed after he refused to pledge allegiance to the tyrant ruler.
The mourning services have been in place worldwide since the beginning of Muharram. Ashura marks the climax of the mourning processions.
The annual Muharram ceremonies symbolize the eternal and unwavering stance of truth against falsehood and humanity’s struggle against injustice, tyranny and oppression, the cause for which Imam Hussein was martyred.
Ashura rituals were peaceful in the city of Karbala, 50 miles (80 kilometers) south of Baghdad, as more than 30,000 Iraqi troops were deployed to protect the worshippers.
Tehran condemns attack
But in Saudi Arabia, unidentified gunmen attacked a gathering of Shia Muslims and killed five mourners commemorating Ashura.
The deadly assault was carried out in Al-Ahsa, the largest governorate in Saudi Arabia’s restive Eastern Province, leaving more than 30 mourners wounded.
Iran’s Foreign Ministry in a statement on Tuesday condemned the attack on mourners in Saudi Arabia.
The incident followed a wave of attacks against Shia Muslims in the neighboring Iraq where over 30 Shia pilgrims lost their lives in a series of bomb attacks across Baghdad.
Iraqi officials usually blame similar terrorist attacks on Takfiri militants and former Ba’athists, who Baghdad says have formed an alliance to destabilize the country.
In Lebanon, where sectarian tensions are high over the conflict in Syria, tens of thousands of supporters of the Shia Hezbollah turned out in the group’s stronghold in southern Beirut amid unprecedented security measures.
Iran marks US embassy takeover
Ralliers urge sanctions removal, nuclear diplomacy
Iranians have held massive rallies across the country to mark the 35th anniversary of the 1979 takeover of the US embassy in the capital, Tehran.
In Tehran, a large group demonstrators gathered outside the former US embassy premises, also known as the ‘den of espionage’, on Tuesday chanting slogans against the United States and Israel.
November 4, also known as Student Day in Iran, marks the day of fight against global arrogance.
In a final communiqué issued at the annual rallies, the demonstrators called for lifting of anti-Iran sanctions and expressed their support to the government in the nuclear negotiations with the world powers based on the Leader’s guidelines.
They urged resistance to the US as an oppressor, removal of the sanctions against the Iranian people, support for Iranian nuclear negotiators, and prudence of the lawmakers about a possible nuclear agreement.
The anti-US rallies, which this year coincided with the religious Ashura rituals to mark the martyrdom of Imam Hussein (PBUH), also reiterated that the Iranian nation will not allow the real supporters of terrorism, violence and extremism to impede them in the march toward gaining their legitimate rights.
Thirty five years ago on this day, a group of university students stormed the embassy building. They believed the US mission had turned into a center of spying aimed at overthrowing the Islamic establishment in Iran following the Islamic Revolution earlier in 1979.
Documents found at the compound later corroborated claims by revolutionary students that the US was using its Tehran embassy to plot to topple the new Islamic establishment of Iran.
Fifty-two American nationals from the embassy were held for 444 days until January 20, 1981. The late Founder of the Islamic Republic Ayatollah Rouhollah Khomeini hailed the takeover as ‘a second revolution’ of a greater significance.
Iran rejects reports of uranium shipment to Russia
Iran rejected a Western media report claiming that the Islamic Republic has agreed to send a part of its enriched uranium stockpile to Russia once it signs a comprehensive nuclear deal with the P5+1 group of world powers.
Iran’s Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Marzieh Afkham reaffirmed in a Tuesday statement that Tehran does not confirm the politically-motivated speculations by certain foreign media outlets, Press TV reported.
Afkham further said Iranian negotiators are attending the ongoing nuclear negotiations to safeguard “national interests and the rights of the Iranian people” irrespective of such Western media hype.
The comment came after US newspaper The New York Times, citing officials and diplomats involved in the negotiations, claimed that Tehran “has tentatively agreed to ship much of its huge stockpile of uranium to Russia if it reaches a broader nuclear deal with the West”.
“Under the proposed agreement, the Russians would convert the uranium into specialized fuel rods for the Bushehr nuclear power plant,” the report said.
Afkham added that such media reports are aimed at influencing the climate of Iran-P5+1 talks ahead of a new round of negotiations on Tehran’s nuclear energy program, slated to be held in Oman on November 11.
Iran and the P5+1 — the United States, France, Britain, Russia, China and Germany — are in talks to work out a final deal to end the longstanding standoff over the Islamic Republic’s nuclear energy program before the November 24 deadline.
Sources close to the Iranian negotiating team say the main stumbling block in resolving the Western dispute over Iran’s nuclear energy program remains the removal of all the bans imposed on the country, and not the number of centrifuges or the level of uranium enrichment.
Tehran wants the sanctions lifted entirely while Washington, under pressure from the pro-Israeli lobby, insists that at least the UN-imposed sanctions should remain in place.
Iran seeks to double gas output by 2017
Iran plans to double gas production to 1 billion cubic meters per day by 2017, because of the rising output from the South Pars Gas Field, the head of state-owned gas company said.
Holding the world’s largest natural gas reserves, Iran produces as much as 550 million cubic meters (mcm) of gas a day, and work on four phases of South Pars will add 100 mcm by March, Hamid Reza Araqi, managing director of National Iranian Gas Company (NIGC), told Bloomberg in Tehran.
“Our forecast is that during the winter this year, our production will reach 680 mcm,” including output from fields other than South Pars, he said, without identifying the additional deposits.
“Over the next three years, our plan is to increase production to 1 billion cubic meters per day. The Persian Gulf country plans to achieve its gas target for 2017 even if sanctions stay in place.”
South Pars, together with Qatar’s North Field, comprises the world’s biggest gas deposit.
Araqi said Iran exports 30 mcm of gas a day, mostly to Turkey, and has signed an agreement to start supplying power plants in neighboring Iraq by April.
The NIGC chief announced exports to Iraq are due to increase to 25 mcm a day in three years.
“Right now, we only have a contract to supply Baghdad. Iran is able to expand supply to include buyers in Iraq’s southern Basra province and the country’s northern Kurdish region, depending on the outcome of talks between the two governments,” he said.
“We will be ready to export gas, if they can be ready to receive it from us. If they can’t, then we can use it for our own supply needs.”
Iran also has a $1.3 billion contract with neighboring Pakistan to supply that country with 21.5 mcm of natural gas a day. The project has been on hold, as Pakistan has failed to build its section of a shared pipeline because of a lack of funds.
South Pars, which Iran shares with Qatar in the Persian Gulf, is estimated to contain 14 trillion cubic meters of gas and 18 billion barrels of condensates.
In 2012, the US and the European Union imposed tough restrictions against Iran’s energy sector. The ongoing nuclear talks between Iran and six world powers have raised hopes of lifting sanctions.
German exports to Iran soar
German exports to Iran jumped by about 33 percent in the first eight months of the year, lifted by the easing of Western sanctions against the Islamic Republic after an interim deal on its nuclear work.
Germany, Europe’s biggest economy, is traditionally Iran’s most important trading partner in the 28-nation European Union, Reuters reported.
Data from the Statistics Office show exports to Iran rose by 32.7 percent to €1.6 billion in the first eight months of the year compared to last year’s figure.
In 2013, they slumped by 26 percent and in the two previous years they fell by more than 18 percent. While the amounts are small, the data are something of a bright spot for Germany, whose export-oriented economy is suffering from modest global growth and weakness in much of the European market. Iran and the six world powers, including Germany, reached an interim deal last November under which Tehran received limited sanctions relief.
“These relatively small steps have been like a lever starting a bigger movement,” said Jens Nagel of the BGA exporters’ and wholesalers’ association.
“The German economy especially could profit from a relaxation (in the sanctions),” he said, adding there was demand in Iran for German machines, vehicles and chemicals.
Several major companies such as Siemens had been forced to reduce their activities in Iran due to the sanctions. Other companies with business interests there include Bayer and utilities RWE and E.ON.
Iran and the six powers – the United States, China, Russia, Britain, France and Germany – have set a deadline of Nov. 24 to reach a long-term agreement on Iran’s nuclear program.
Americans vote in midterm election
Voters across the United States cast their ballots in a pivotal election that will determine whether Democrats or Republicans control Congress during President Barack Obama’s final two years in office.
All 435 seats in the House of Representatives and a third of the Senate’s 100 seats are at stake.
The main focus is the Senate, where many political analysts say Republicans are poised to win the six seats necessary to seize control of the chamber from Obama’s Democratic Party, which holds a narrow 55-seat majority.
With the president’s approval rating mired in the low 40 percent range, the Republican Party’s best chances are in several states that Obama lost two years ago during his re-election campaign.
Republicans are expected to retain — and perhaps even expand — their solid 233-seat majority in the House.
The latest opinion surveys show Republican candidates will easily win Senate races in West Virginia, South Dakota and Montana, which are currently held by Democrats. Polling also shows Republicans poised to win Senate races in Iowa, Colorado and Alaska, although it may be several hours — or even days—before the final results are known.
Two races in the South, Georgia and Louisiana, were so close it is expected they will require runoff elections.
Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell, himself embroiled in a competitive re-election race in Kentucky, expressed confidence about his party’s chances during a final campaign appearance Monday in Louisville.
“Victory is in the air and we’re going to bring it home tomorrow night!” he promised supporters.
In a widespread campaign tactic, Republican Senate candidates have sought to link Democratic incumbents to Obama’s unpopularity.
Numerous Democratic officeholders declined to invite the president to campaign for them and often cited instances where they disagreed with him, such as on health care or energy issues.
The accuracy of pre-election US political surveys has often been erratic, with some polling turning out to be way off the mark. Even as several Senate races are deemed too close to call, analysts say Republicans have about a 70 percent chance of picking up at least six seats to control the Senate.
If Republicans do control Congress, it could presage new disputes with Obama over his signature legislative achievement, massive national health care reforms that have allowed millions of people to secure insurance coverage they could not previously afford. Many Republicans view it as excessive government involvement in peoples’ health care and call for repeal of the law.
Many Republicans also attacked Obama’s handling of the current Ebola crisis, called for approval of an oil pipeline from Canada through the central US and a curb on government regulation of businesses.
Some opposition lawmakers have also disputed the president’s handling of Russia’s intervention in Ukraine and US airstrikes against terrorists in Iraq and Syria.
Nasrallah vows Syria victory in Ashura address
Hezbollah Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah pledged ‘victory’ for his movement against terrorists of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) in Syria as tens of thousands of Shia Muslims gathered Tuesday in Beirut to commemorate Ashura, which marks the martyrdom anniversary of Imam Hussein (PBUH), the third Shia Imam.
The movement has sent thousands of its fighters into neighboring Syria to fight alongside the troops of President Bashar al-Assad.
Addressing supporters in Beirut’s southern suburbs by a video link, Nasrallah said that ISIL extremists, known as Takfiris, “have no future”.
“These Takfiris will be defeated in all areas and countries, and we will feel honored that we played a role in their defeat,” he said.
Beirut’s southern suburbs — a Hezbollah stronghold — have seen a string of deadly attacks, many of them claimed by the extremist groups, since the Hezbollah started sending fighters to Syria three years ago.
“We are now in the fourth year (of the Syrian conflict), and the extremists have failed to take over Syria... it’s a great victory,” Nasrallah said.
“We want to win the final victory... so that the region does not fall into the hands of beheaders... and rapists,” he said, referring to the ISIL terrorists, which have carried out widespread atrocities in Syria and Iraq.
Elsewhere in his remarks, the Hezbollah leader touched upon the ongoing Israeli actions on the Palestinian land and slammed Tel Aviv for its settlement activities in occupied Palestinian territories and the escalation of violence in the Al-Aqsa Mosque.
The mosque, widely revered by Muslims, has been the scene of clashes between Palestinians and Israeli settlers and troops in recent weeks.
Tel Aviv has arrested over a hundred people over the past two weeks after the latest round of protests erupted in the occupied Palestinian territories over restrictions against the access of Muslim worshipers to the Al-Aqsa Mosque.
The Hezbollah secretary-general said that Israeli actions are putting the holy site in real danger, and called on all Muslims to defend the mosque against Israel.
Leader of Ukrainian protesters sworn in after eastern vote
The leader of Pro-Russian protesters in eastern Ukraine was sworn in Tuesday as head of a self-declared secessionist territory following an election that was condemned by the West as illegal and destabilizing.
Alexander Zakharchenko, 38, was inaugurated in a heavily guarded theater in the main stronghold of an opposition-controlled territory that protesters call the Donetsk People’s Republic, AP reported.
Zakharchenko’s election was largely a formality as no strong candidates opposed him, but the protesters say the vote gives them a mandate to pursue their secessionist goals.
Ukraine and Western governments say Sunday’s poll gravely endangered a much-violated cease-fire agreed upon in September that envisioned local elections across the whole of the east but under Ukrainian law.
Russia, however, quickly lent its support to the vote.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel, underlining her displeasure over what she said was Russia’s role in the conflict, said there is no reason yet to lift European Union sanctions against Moscow.
Merkel said she hopes for a diplomatic solution to Ukraine’s crisis but added the vote shows “how difficult it is even to maintain agreements that have been made, if we look at the illegal elections”.
Fighting eased after the truce but eastern Ukraine still sees almost daily clashes.
Zakharchenko took the stage after four saber-wielding Cossacks carried in the flag of the Donetsk People’s Republic.
He swore the oath of office with his hand on a Bible to applause and whistles from audience members — many of them men in combat fatigues carrying automatic rifles.