PHOTO: Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif and Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim in Ankara on Wednesday


Iran has made another attempt to shift Turkey’s position over the Syrian conflict, with Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif visiting Ankara on Tuesday.

The Iranian Foreign Ministry said Zarif and Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim agreed on cooperation towards a ceasefire and delivery of humanitarian aid.

“There is a political will to this end,” Zarif declared.

However, there was a notable absence of Syria in Yildirim’s statement, as reported by Iranian media. Instead, the Prime Minister spoke of expansion of bilateral ties with Iran in sectors such as energy, trade, transport, and communications.

Zarif also had discussions with Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu.

The Iranian Foreign Minister also visited Turkey last month, as Tehran and Russia — the two main backers of Syria’s Assad regime — tried to detach Ankara from support of the Syrian opposition and rebels. The initiative also included a trip by Turkish Prime Recep Tayyip Erdoğan to Moscow to see Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Less than two weeks after Zarif’s visit, Turkey made its first military intervention into Syria, accompanying rebels in the north with airstrikes, tanks, and special forces.

The Turkish-rebel offensive has secured a 55-km (34-mile) strip along the border against the Islamic State. It also advanced to the south against the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces before halting, apparently after US political intervention.

Iranian-Canadian Professor Hoodfar Released From Prison

Iranian-Canadian anthropology professor Homa Hoodfar has been released from prison after three months.

Iran’s Foreign Ministry announced the release on Monday, days after a meeting between Canadian Foreign Minister Stéphane Dion and his Iranian counterpart Mohammad Javad Zarif on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in New York.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Bahram Qassemi said Hoodfar was released on humanitarian grounds. The academic was hospitalized on August 30 for a neurological disease, myasthenia gravis, which causes severe muscle weakness.

Hoodfar’s apartment was raided by the Revolutionary Guards in March, just before she was return to Canada from a visit to Iran. She was arrested in June and put in solitary confinement.

Authorities never revealed formal charges, but the hardline site Mashregh News said Hoodfar was arrested for activities against national security, as a member of an organization aiming to overthrow the Iranian regime. Tehran Prosecutor General Abbas Jafari Dolatabadi then announced that Hoodfar had committed crimes in “areas of feminism and security”.

The Revolutionary Guards have arrested a series of dual nationals in the past year, accusing them of espionage.

Last week, Iranian-Lebanese activist and permanent US resident Nizar Zaka was given a 10-year sentence.

“Revenge by Intelligence Ministry” as 16-Year Sentence Upheld for Activist Mohammadi

An appeals court has upheld the 16-year sentence of human rights activist Narges Mohammadi.

Mohammadi, prominent in the Center for Defenders of Human Rights which also included Nobel Prize laureate Shirin Ebadi, was given the term in May after years of periodic detention. Charges including her membership in a group protesting the death penalty.

Taghi Rahmani, Mohammadi’s husband and a political prisoner for 14 years, said:

[The sentence is] revenge by the Intelligence Ministry against a human rights activist for her activities in defending human rights. It is revenge for the rally [she held] outside the Parliament to protest against acid attacks, and for her support for women without support.

Rahmani said Mohammadi’s lawyers had asked for time to present the court with new evidence, but that when had appeared to present it, they were given the verdict.

Mohammadi was first arrested in 1998 and spent a year in prison. She was detained again in 2010 before being released on health ground, but she was given an 11-year sentence in 2011.

That sentence was reduced to six years, but the 10-year punishment was then added. Released in July 2012, she was summoned to prison in May 2015.