Global Briefs: Iran frees three jailed Christians
Iranian officials have released three professing Christians from prison
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Officials have released three professing Christians from prison, allowing them to finish out their five-year sentences by working in a factory. Officials arrested Church of Iran members Ahmad Sarparast, Morteza Mashoodkari, and Ayoob Poor-Rezazadeh in September 2021 for spreading “deviant propaganda.” The Church of Iran believes salvation comes by faith in Christ alone, but it holds unorthodox views on the Trinity. That puts it at odds with Iran’s wider church and makes it a target for arrests. Members of the Church of Iran were the first charged and sentenced under recently amended Articles 499 and 500 that prohibit “mind control” by groups the government deems as sects. They prompted the arrest of at least 106 Christians between June and August 2023. —Amy Lewis
Pregnant women across half the country will be eligible for free healthcare under a new plan to decrease maternal mortality. The program will begin at the end of this year and will cover women up to one month after childbirth, according to a report in The Guardian. The Democratic Republic of Congo first launched the initiative in the capital, Kinshasa, in September. The country ranks high in maternal mortality, with 547 maternal deaths for every 100,000 live births, according to the United Nations. With no universal health coverage, women must pay out of pocket for maternity care, and hospitals have detained women over unpaid maternity ward bills. While families welcomed the free healthcare plan, some health workers warned hospitals are not equipped or staffed to handle a surge in patients. —Onize Ohikere
Two unknown assailants shot a retired Spanish politician in the face in an assassination attempt on Nov 9. Alejo Vidal-Quadras, 78, was a prominent member of Spain’s conservative People’s Party and later co-founded the far-right Vox party. He was recovering after a single bullet fractured his jaw. Spanish police are probing the possibility Iran was linked to the attack, as Vidal-Quadras actively supported Iranian dissidents. The shooting isn’t the only event rocking Spanish politics: Tens of thousands of protesters took to city streets Nov. 12 to denounce a proposal to grant amnesty to Catalonian separatists who led a failed 2017 secession attempt. The amnesty is part of a deal by acting Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez to gain Catalans’ political support for another term in office. —Emma Freire
A watchdog office in charge of the National Science Foundation dispatched investigators on Nov. 6 to McMurdo Station amid claims of sexual misconduct at the U.S. research base. An investigative report last August from the Associated Press uncovered a pattern among employers at the McMurdo Station of minimizing women’s claims of harassment or assault in ways that endangered them. Investigators will consider claims of aggravated sexual abuse, sexual abuse, abusive sexual contact, and stalking. Special agents began fielding workers’ complaints last July and plan to maintain a more steady presence on the ice in the coming summers. —Mary Jackson
After seven years out of government, former Prime Minister David Cameron accepted current Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s surprise request to serve as foreign secretary. The Nov. 13 move came as Sunak reshuffled his Cabinet and fired Home Secretary Suella Braverman following her claims of pro-Palestinian bias among London police. After returning conservatives to power in 2010, Cameron stepped down as prime minister in 2016 following Britain’s vote to leave the European Union. Observers say Sunak hopes Cameron’s return will project stability for his increasingly unpopular government. —Jenny Lind Schmitt
The National Liberation Army (ELN), a rebel group, released the father of Liverpool soccer player Luis Diaz on Nov. 9 after holding him captive for nearly two weeks. ELN fighters kidnapped Luis Manuel Diaz at gunpoint on Oct. 31. The officials who negotiated his release said Diaz’s kidnapping endangered the government’s precarious six-month cease-fire agreement with the ELN that began in August. According to Colombia’s Ministry of Defense, armed military groups kidnapped 71 people in the first quarter of 2023—more than double those kidnapped in the same period last year. President Gustavo Petro, a former guerrilla, says he remains committed to “total peace,” but his approval ratings are plummeting amid the kidnapping surge. —Elizabeth Russell
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