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U.S. Sanctions on Iran Hit Armenia

Yerevan has been trying to resist pressure from Washington to cut ties with its southern neighbor. But Armenia’s private banks have been making it more difficult to do business.

Ani Mejiumyan/ Eurasianet

Rojin Daei, a 24-year-old from Tehran studying in Yerevan, got a call from her bank last November. Her account would be closed, the bank said, and she should withdraw her money before then. The next day, her sister – also living in Yerevan – got a similar call from a different bank. The two went to try to open new accounts at different Armenian banks, but were repeatedly denied.

“They said, ‘You are Iranian and you have problems with Americans,’” Daei told Eurasianet.

Armenia-Iran Border

Through her employer she managed to get an account, but it is only denominated in Armenian drams and its debit card can only be used in a limited number of businesses. “That card is just completely useless,” she said. She has continued to try to apply for full accounts but continues to be denied, most recently a month ago.

The Iranian sisters’ bank problems emerged immediately after a visitby then-U.S. national security adviser John Bolton to Yerevan. In an interview with the local service of RFE/RL, Bolton said the U.S. intended to “squeeze” Iran and that the Armenian-Iranian border is “going to be a significant issue”

The public pressure from Washington put Yerevan in a bind: It tries to maintain good relations both with the distant superpower as well as with its southern neighbor, with which it shares one of its two open borders (the other is with Georgia; Azerbaijan and Turkey have both closed theirs). In the past the U.S., understanding that predicament, had taken a lax approach toward Armenia’s relations with Iran. But under the Trump administration, that has changed.

“We look to Armenia as an important partner of the United States in the region,” the U.S. embassy in Yerevan told Eurasianet in an emailed response to questions. “As such, we have made it clear to the Armenian government and the private sector that we expect Armenia to live up to its responsibilities as a member of the international community and to halt connections with Iran that support its efforts to destabilize the region and support terrorism. We have said that our sanctions are not aimed at Armenia, but rather at specific entities around the world that help the Iranian regime finance or otherwise support its harmful activities. We send the same message to all of our partners about cooperation with Iran.”

Iranians in other countries, including the U.S. and Europe, have previously faced sanctions-related difficulties in their personal banking. But it wasn’t until shortly after the U.S. formally reimposed strict sanctions against Iran last November that Iranians in Armenia and Armenians doing business with Iran began to feel the pressure.

An Armenian businessman who exports meat to Iran told Eurasianet that he now has to use Russian banks to conduct his business, which adds costly fees and time to every transaction. “All of this started last November and it kept escalating,” the businessman, who asked not to be named so as to not attract the attention of the authorities, told Eurasianet.

Other banks have told him to use an Iranian bank that operates in Armenia, Mellat, but he says it’s difficult to get foreign currency from them. “And what would I do with Iranian money in Armenia?” he asked.

He now operates mostly with cash. “All the workers at the money-exchange bureaus know my face now,” he said. “How can the government claim to be fighting the shadow economy if trade is taking place in cash?”

In June, one institution, Inecobank, issued a warning that using Iranian transportation companies – a common practice among Armenian businesses – “may be cause for the cancelation of bank transfers and the freezing of your funds due to international sanctions.”

One Iranian tour agency switched to cash-only operations as a result of the bank restrictions. “As soon as we heard about the issue, we moved all our trade to cash. We just collect the money before crossing the border and then change it at exchange bureaus,” one official 

from the agency told Eurasianet, speaking on condition of anonymity, also so as to not attract the attention of the authorities. For small firms this is feasible, but only $10,000 can be transported in cash legally over the border, making it impractical for bigger businesses.

Trade between Armenia and Iran is relatively small – reportedly $364 million in 2018 – but it had been growing steadily. It’s unclear what impact the financial restrictions have caused. Artak Manukyan, an economist and member of parliament, told Eurasianet that in the first quarter of 2019 exports to Iran decreased by 30 percent over the same period from 2018, but that imports had increased also by 30 percent.

Iran has a free-trade agreementwith the Russia-led Eurasian Economic Union and is seeking full membership in the organization, of which Armenia also is a member. “Trade [with Iran] has been going well,” Manukyan said. “We also hope that Iran finalizes its membership in the Eurasian Economic Union so we will have a partner that we share a border with,that will also give a boost to trade.”

The Armenian government has repeatedly denied that the U.S. has pressured it to change any policies with respect to economic ties with Iran. Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan said after the sanctions were imposed that Armenia saw “no need to make any changes” in its policy toward Iran. The U.S. administration “understands our situation and policy,” he added.

Indeed, it appears that the restrictions have been imposed by private banks on their own initiative. “Byblos Bank Armenia does not service Iranian citizens due to the internal policy of the bank,” that bank said in response to a survey from Banks.am, an online banking news portal. “At the same  

time, it should be noted that Byblos Bank did not discuss possible restrictions with the U.S. Department of State, and there has been no official order from the Central Bank of Armenia.”

Armenia’s central bank issued a statement in November saying that it would not create new regulations with respect to Iranian customers, but that private banks were free to do so. For a customer, “just having Iranian citizenship is enough reason for a private bank to consider them a risk,” a central bank spokesman, Harutyun Berberyan, told Eurasianet.

“Right about the time when the U.S. sanctions were imposed we called people and asked them to close their accounts,” said one employee of an Armenian bank, speaking to Eurasianet on condition of anonymity to discuss internal bank matters. “A lot of them asked why, but we weren’t really at liberty to tell them.”

One Russian bank operating in Armenia also has imposed restrictions on Iranians, limiting them to debit cards that only work in Armenian drams. “It doesn’t matter that we are a Russian bank, we are still in Armenia which is a small country that doesn’t want to anger the U.S.,” an employee for the bank told Eurasianet on condition of anonymity.  

Eurasianet © 2019

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India News Brief

5 July, 2020

COVID-19 Cases In the State of Maharashtra Crosses 200,000, 7074 Fresh Cases and 295 Deaths reported in the Last 24 Hours
Single Day Spike in COVID-19 Cases in India:21,771 Cases
India Set to Overtake Russia as 3rd Worst Hit by COVID-19 Pandemic

Total COVID Cases: 648,318 Death Toll: 18,655

India's Most Affected States:

Maharashtra: Total Positive Cases: 192,990 Total Deaths: 8,376

Gujarat: Total Positive Cases: 34,686  Total Deaths: 1,906

Madhya Pradesh: Total  Positive Cases: 14,297 Total Deaths: 593

West Bengal: Total Positive Cases: 20,488 Total Deaths: 717

Delhi: Total Positive Cases: 94,695 Total Deaths: 2,923

Rajasthan: Total Positive Cases: 19,256 Total Deaths: 443

Uttar Pradesh: Total Positive  Cases: 25,797 Total Deaths: 749

Tamil Nadu : Total Positive Cases: 1,02,721 Total Deaths: 1,385

Andhra Pradesh: Total Positive Cases: 16,934 Total Deaths: 206

Telengana: Total Positive Cases:20,762 Total Deaths: 283

Karnataka: Total Positive Cases: 19,710 Total Deaths: 293

Punjab: Total Positive Cases: 5,937 .Total Deaths: 157

Jammu and Kashmir: 8,019 Total Deaths: 119

The West Bengal Government Allows 50 People at Marriage Functions and Funerals during the current phase of COVID-19 Lockdown from 1 July to 31 July.
According to Chief Minister of West Bengal, Mamata Banerjee, morning walks will be allowed from 5.30 a.m to 8.30 a.m provided social distancing and other norms.
The new guidelines issued by the Indian Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) on 30 June: Schools, colleges, educational institutions, cinema halls, gymnasiums, swimming pools, entertainment parks, theatres, bars, auditoriums, assembly halls and similar places, and even metro services will continue to remain shut until July 31

India Reports 18,522 New Cases and 418 Deaths in 24 Hours 

COVID-19: Highlights 

Schools May Reopen in August According to Human Resource Development Minister Ramesh Pokriyal.

Religious Places Visit: No Touching of Deity, No no Sparkling of Holy Water No Prasada in Temples Wearing Mask Thermal Screening is a must 

Shopping Malls Visit: Elderly People With 65 Years of Age and Children Below 10 Years Are Advised to Stay at Home.

Restaurant and food courts in malls to operate at 50 per cent seating capacity with a mandatory distance of six feet between tables. No common prayer mats, physical offerings like prasad, or sprinkling of holy water, in places of worship. Age and health-based restrictions on stepping out of home. Masks to be mandatory, and the Aarogya Setu app 'recommended' for all.

Use of masks, thermal screening, social distancing and sanitisation, the guidelines  require people above 65 years of age, specially  people with comorbidities, pregnant woman, and children below the age of 10 years, to stay at home. Masks are mandatory at all times, including inside restaurants

15 Day Amarnath Yarra Starts from 22 July

Standard Operating Procedures issued by the Indian Health Ministry 

Lockdown extends till June 30

  • International air travel, Metro rail services not allowed 

Cinema halls, gymnasiums, swimming pools, entertainment parks, theatres, bars and auditoriums, assembly halls and similar places; and, social/ political/ sports/ entertainment/ academic/ cultural/ religious functions/ and other large congregations will not allowed..

According to MHA guidelines, in Phase II, schools, colleges, educational/ training/ coaching institutions etc., will be opened after consultations with States and Union Territories.

There shall be no restriction on inter-State and intra-State movement of persons and goods. No separate permission or approval or e-permit will be required for such movement

But  states have the freedom to decide on public movement.

COVID-19: Delhi Death Toll Rises to 82 in Last 24 Hours

Probable Guidelines for Lockdown 5.0.

More travel routes are likely to open in Lockdown 5.0.

From June 1, the Railways will operate 100 pairs of mail or express trains, bookings have already begun. Then AC class services will resume.

Some states have already begun intra-state buses. Other states may  begin intra-tate bus services after June 1.Metro  services may begin in a limited manner, with lesser passenger capacity, social distancing norms and longer stops at each station.

Shops selling non-essential items were allowed to open during Lockdown 4.0.. More shops may open in Lockdown 5.0 even in markets.But no confirmed news regarding opening of shopping malls.Now many shops that have re-opened in market areas are operating on an odd-even basis.

Some cities have already allowed salons and beauty parlours to open with strict social distancing guidelines and wearing protective gear is a must.In containment areas the same rule may prevail in Lockdown 5.0.

The Human Resource Development Ministry of India will soon announce the guidelines of   schools reopening.

How to identify Fake News or Messeges on Social Media 

Beware of Fake News and Fake Messages on Social Media

Always follow websites or social media platforms of traditional media outlets whether newspapers, magazines,Television News Channels or Radio Stations and authentic online only media outlets.They still maintain journalism excellence and stress on reportorial talent.On the other hand, fake news websites run by people with non journalism background and promote their own ideology with fake news and disinformations and obviously conspiracy theories.

But unfortunately mainstream media also manipulates news to establish their story angle.There were various instances when News papers and TV Channels promoted fake news/conspiracy theories in the form of out of context or manipulated pictures/videos and distorted informations.

Always check the URL of any website.Some fake news websites look like the orginal and popular one the same layout,Logo but if you check the URL you may find extra words like if the orginal website's URL is www.xxx.com the duplicate one might be www.xxx.com.co or something like that so first check the URL for authentic informations.

Check whether photos are original or photoshopped.Check Google images for authenticity.You can find help from Google Reverse Images search.

Check the news sources from other websites whether they picked up the story or not.

Whether the website layout is little bit clumsy and obviously grammatical mistakes and spelling mistakes and excessive use of Sex related and sensational and hate stories.Because sex and hate sells.

Follow official websites relating to COVID-19

WHO Clarifies the disinformation about the virus:
COVID-19 virus can be transmitted in areas with hot and humid climates
Cold Weather and Snow can not kill the new coronavirus
Taking a Hot Bath Does Not Prevent COVID-19
COVID-19 Can not be transmitted through mosquito bites

Spraying alcohol or chlorine all over your body will not kill viruses that have already entered your body. Spraying such substances can be harmful to clothes or mucous membranes (i.e. eyes, mouth)

According to World Health Organization (WHO): Regularly and thoroughly clean your hands with an alcohol-based hand rub or wash them with soap and water

Maintain at least 1 metre (3 feet) distance between yourself and anyone who is coughing or sneezing.

Avoid touching eyes, nose and mouth . If you have fever, cough and difficulty breathing, seek medical care early

Stay at home if you begin to feel unwell, even with mild symptoms such as headache and slight runny nose, until you recover.

If you develop fever, cough and difficulty breathing, seek medical advice promptly as this may be due to a respiratory infection or other serious condition

Follow WHO guidelines

www.who.int

When you follow COVID-19 related news and messages from social media then check and recheck it before consuming it.Follow journalism mantra: if your mother says she loves you, check it out.

Most of the messages or informations quote different organizations like WHO, UNICEF, UNDP,Cambridge University  or other well known institutes,organizations or individual to authenticate the messeges.Check official websites of these organizations  if stories are repeated there

Forwarding messages from unknown sources or little known sources, it would be better to ignore it.

Check whether any logo like UNICEF or WHO or other organizations used in the messages which look similar to original logo.

These type of messages are full of Grammatical mistakes and spelling mistakes which are quite uncommon in original messages.

Don't rely on viral social media messages such as Coronavirus Infected Indian Currencies of Rs.500 and Rs.2,000 Notes Found, Muslim Man Spit in Food At Indian Restaurant.....Always Check Authentic Sources.

Some fake messages pretend to be real one like unofficial Twitter handle of international media organizations like BBC,CNN,Washinton Post, New York Times-check the official Twitter handles of media outlets.

You can identify fake messages if the message requests you to share it.

Beware of Fake News or Fake Photos/Videos Relating to Communal Hatred

Always check the fact checking sites if you have some doubts about the authenticity of any information or picture.

www.boomlive.in

www.altnews.in

https://check4spam.com

https://smhoaxslayer.com

www.factchecker.in

www.allsides.com

www.factcheck.org

www.newsbusters.org

www.politifact.com

www.snopes.com

www.propublica.org

The Same Method Applies to You Tube Videos Check the Source the credibility of the Source.To Check Fake You Tube Videos Check and Recheck the sources. Does the person have the legal right to the video posted? Did that person capture the video? Whether it has been altered?

But due to advancement of technology we can not really wipe out fake news.According to experts advent of  Artificial Intelligence(AI) some companies small or big one developing  technologies that can  lay digitally created script to anybody's voice  even words,sentences never said by the person.Even they are developing a technology which can create fake video footage,images,audios like originals.So be cautious! Rumour-mongers are active everywhere whether in physical world or cyber world.

For any further information relating to fake news and how-to search authentic informations from the internet write to us info@crimeandmoreworld.com or Whats App:+919073399779

COVID-19 Related Conspiracy Theories:
https://fsi.stanford.edu/news/china-covid19

 

 

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