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Rishi Sunak Becomes New UK Prime Minister while Iranian Protests Escalate

Britain's third prime minister in under two months aims to calm and stabilize the country while protests in Iran continue to grow amid harsh government crackdowns.
Rishi Sunak Becomes New UK Prime Minister while Iranian Protests Escalate

Rishi Sunak becomes Britain's third prime in under two months at a time when the U.K. faces what he has termed a "profound economic challenge" and as his Conservative Party struggles to heal divisive wounds from months of infighting, reports NPR.

"It is only right to explain why I am standing here as your new prime minister," Sunak told the crowd of journalists gathered outside No. 10 Downing Street's famous front door, after formally accepting his new role from King Charles during a meeting at Buckingham Palace.

Rishi Sunak takes over as U.K. PM facing enormous economic and political challenges (NPR)

Excerpt from NPR: He now leads the Conservatives with a substantial parliamentary majority inherited since the 2019 general election, when his former boss Boris Johnson helped win seats in areas of Britain that had never traditionally voted for the center right party. "Right now our country is facing a profound economic crisis," he said. "The aftermath of COVID still lingers." After Liz Truss' imploded premiership left the Conservative poll numbers sinking to historic lows, Sunak will have around two years to restore confidence among his legislators that they can retain power at the next national vote after 12 years of leading the government. "It's the Conservative Party's last chance to put in a prime minister who might achieve some kind of stability," says Bronwen Maddox, CEO of Chatham House, the London-based think tank.
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According to Reuters, Britain's new prime minister Rishi Sunak on Thursday described himself as a "visual representation" of historic links between Britain and India, during a call with his Indian counterpart Narendra Modi.

Sunak, Britain's first leader of Indian descent, also conveyed his hope to Modi that the two nations could continue to make further progress towards a trade deal.

UK PM Rishi Sunak says he's a 'visual representation' of links with India (Reuters)

Excerpt from Reuters: Sunak's appointment to the nation's highest office this week delighted many Indians and drew appreciation from both sides of Britain's political divide as well as from U.S. President Joe Biden, who called it a "groundbreaking milestone". His elevation was made even sweeter for many by the fact it came on Diwali, the Indian festival of lights, and shortly after India observed seventy five years of independence from British colonial rule. New Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said on Friday that difficult decisions will have to be taken to get British government borrowing and debt on a sustainable path, adding that he was confident of fixing the economy. "We face lots of challenges as a country, but I am confident that we can fix the economy," Sunak told reporters.
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Meanwhile, protests escalate in Iran as three demonstrators have been killed during clashes with Iranian security forces in the western town of Mahabad, reports BBC News.

'Live fire used again' as Iran protests swell (BBC News)

Excerpt from BBC News: The protesters reportedly targeted government buildings after attending the memorial ceremony of a man killed during unrest in the country. Security forces also reportedly opened fire at a cemetery near Khorramabad. Rights group Amnesty International says security forces have killed eight people since Wednesday. Unrest has rocked the country since Mahsa Amini died in police custody 40 days ago after allegedly wearing her Islamic headscarf "improperly". Officials in Mahabad accused "terrorist-separatist groups" of inducing demonstrators to attack government facilities in the town, and accused protesters of attacking "political and security centers with the aim to occupy them". Several hundred people had reportedly gathered around the municipal governor's offices in the largely ethnically Kurdish town, but state media insisted police had the situation under control, and denied reports that the city had "fallen" to unrest.
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Earlier this year, according to the Wall Street Journal, Iranian authorities moved against what they saw as a disturbing trend: More women were refusing to wear a legally required headscarf, or hijab. President Ebrahim Raisi ordered tougher enforcement of the law to coincide with the government’s National Hijab and Chastity Day on July 12.

"The regime thinks if it loses the hijab, it loses its identity," said Fatemeh Haghighatjoo, an Iranian former lawmaker now based in the U.S. as executive director of the Nonviolent Initiative for Democracy, a nonprofit. "They have tied it to their very existence, and then of course, if they relax it, they are going to collapse."

In Iran Protests, the Hijab Is the Red Line for Both Government and Women (Wall Street Journal)

Excerpt from the Wall Street Journal: The moves were accompanied by a series of arrests and triggered fury among Iranians who took to the street. Two months later, 22-year-old Mahsa Amini died after being detained by the country’s morality police for allegedly disrespecting the Islamic Republic’s dress code, and Iran exploded. Street protests are now entering their sixth week and have picked up steam in recent days, posing the strongest challenge to the Islamic Republic in more than a decade. Today’s protests are rooted in 40 years of tension over the mandatory hijab, which is seen by both authorities and citizens as a proxy for authoritarian control, particularly over the more secular factions of society. For the leaders of Iran’s Islamic Republic, the trend against the hijab is an existential matter. Iran casts itself as a champion of the world’s Muslims and sees the hijab as a religious symbol that protects ideals of Islamic female modesty.
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