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News :: International
Iran's Street Art - The "Black Hand" Graffiti Artist
15 Jul 2014
A striking piece of graffiti in the heart of Iran's capital Tehran has been widely shared on social media. It shows a woman holding up a "World Cup" in the shape of a washing-up liquid bottle. What does it mean and why has it struck a chord?
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Black Hand is sometimes referred to as "Iran's Banksy". It's unclear whether it's a man, a woman, or a group of artists behind the work, but the graffiti keeps springing up around the Iranian capital.

And one Saturday morning at the end of June, Tehranis woke up to the image of a woman in the national team kit, holding aloft in her soapy gloved hands a bottle of washing-up liquid. The image has been captured and shared thousands of times on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram - not only because of its prominent positioning in the main street in Tehran, Vali Asr, but also because it clearly struck a nerve.

"Every morning, I get up and one of the first things I do is log onto my Facebook… and as soon as I went in, this image was all over my feed," says @Pedestrian, an Iranian student who lives between the US and Iran and who does not want us to use her real name. "I think it was a timely piece of art. It brought the World Cup, the stadium issue and the feeling of being a woman in Iran together."

As we've reported on this blog before, despite repeated protests, women have long been banned from watching football matches in stadiums. In 2012, that ban was extended to volleyball games too - and with the World League currently under way, many Iranians are not happy.

"It's very cruel, it's unbelievably cruel. Why would you not let them in?" says Sarah Ahari, who played basketball for Iran's national team for three years and works for Small Media, which aims to improve the flow of information between Iran and the rest of the world. "Imagine, Iran is competing in Tehran, and Brazilians and Italians can bring their wives into the stadiums. And Iranians cannot. And you are hosting the match."

As elsewhere in the world, graffiti is illegal in Iran, and the original version of the woman with her washing-up liquid bottle was soon painted over in red paint. Some say it was by the state - others speculate it could have been done by Black Hand, as a further artistic gesture. Eventually it was buffed out completely.
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Muslim comic creator of The 99 threatened by ISIS
16 Jul 2014
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The jihadist group known by the full name of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant have called for the murder of Nayef Al-Mutawa, who they accuse of mocking Allah.

"Who can kill Nayef Al-Mutawa who makes fun of Allah's names?" wrote ISIS on Twitter, according to Kuwait Times. "Whoever finds him, kill him, and he will be rewarded."

Al-Mutawa wrote in reply: "My work has glorified Islam from the US to China for the past ten years. "I really do not believe in ISIL and Qaeda... I don't care about them."

The 99 centres around a group of superheroes, each of whom embodies one of the 99 attributes of Allah. Al-Mutawa created the series with the explicit purpose of celebrating the "messages of tolerance and peace" in Islam.
Re: Iran's Street Art - The "Black Hand" Graffiti Artist
17 Jul 2014
ISIL burns thousands of books in Mosul: tribal chief
18 Jul 2014
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The "Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant" (ISIL) has burnt thousands of books in Mosul under the pretext they promote atheism, the Ninawa tribal council said Thursday (July 17th, 2014). ISIL stormed a number of public and private libraries in the city's al-Ourouba Square.

"ISIL gangs have burnt more than 6,000 religious, historical, scientific and cultural books, as well as old philosophical and social manuscripts that are considered cultural heritage of the people of Mosul," Ninawa tribal council deputy head Ibrahim al-Hassan told Al-Shorfa.

The group "spilled fuel on the books and burnt them under the pretext they call for atheism", al-Hassan said. The move sparked large-scale public outrage, with city residents hiding the remaining books in their homes to safeguard them, he said.
Re: Iran's Street Art - The "Black Hand" Graffiti Artist
18 Jul 2014
Modified: 11:54:48 AM
Beirut (AFP) - Jihadists in the northern Syrian province of Raqa have accused a woman of adultery and stoned her to death, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said on Friday

It was the first "execution" of its kind by the Islamic State (IS) group in Syria, which has proclaimed the establishment of an Islamic "caliphate" straddling Syria and Iraq.

"The Islamic State carried out its first sentence of death by stoning against a woman in Tabaqa, accusing her of adultery," said the Britain-based Observatory, referring to a town in Raqa province, most of which is under IS control.

An activist in the province confirmed the report, and said the stoning took place in a public square in the Tabaqa market area on Thursday evening.

"This is the first time that this has happened here," added Abu Ibrahim.

A second activist in Raqa, Hadi Salameh, said the woman was reportedly in her thirties, but that few details were known about her except that she was killed after sentencing by an IS religious court.

"The situation is unbearable. Stoning is the worst punishment history has known. A quick death is more merciful," Salameh told AFP via the Internet, using a pseudonym for security reasons.

"The woman's family did not know the sentence was going to be carried out at this time," said Salameh.

He said residents are "terrified" of IS, but fear the consequences of reacting to its harsh methods.

IS first emerged in the Syrian conflict in late spring last year.

Some Syrian rebels initially welcomed the jihadists, seeing them as potential allies in their war to topple President Bashar al-Assad's regime.

But the group's systematic abuses and quest for domination swiftly turned the mainstream opposition against it, and rebels have been battling IS fighters since January.

IS spearheaded a recent offensive in Iraq, capturing large swathes of territory and massive amounts of weapons from fleeing Iraqi troops.