Claimed footage of a demonstration in Tabriz in northwest Iran last night
Unofficial figures say healthcare costs [in Iran] have increased between 20 to 40 per cent in recent months.
Masoud Javanbakht, a member of Iran’s Medical Council, a body that represents doctors, warned last month that only 25 per cent of Iran’s 75m population can afford hospital care. Mr Javanbakht told the semi-official Fars news agency that 30 per cent of households stood to lose not only their incomes but also all their savings if a household member were hospitalised. In theory, more than 32m Iranians are covered by the state’s social security fund, which runs some hospitals directly. A parallel organisation, the medical service insurance organisation, covers a further 23m people living mainly in more rural areas. In addition, state employees, such as members of the armed forces and teachers, have their own dedicated health insurance funds. But state-run hospitals are often of poor quality, and staff are badly paid and under-motivated. Waiting lists for operations run up to six months. As a result, 70 per cent of outpatient services are supplied by the private sector.
Masoud Pezeshkian, a former health minister and now a member of the parliament’s health committee, says an operation involving a stay at an intensive care unit can cost more than IR60m ($5,600). “This fee is very high for those who have [low] salaries or are jobless because their assets are not so much to be able to make up for the fees,” Mr Pezeshkian says.
Anoushiravan Mohseni-Bandepay, deputy head of the parliament’s health committee, says what the patient must pay can account for about 60 per cent of treatment while the share covered by public insurance is only about 40 per cent. When it comes to outpatient services, such as pathological and radiological tests, Mr Mohseni-Bandepay says families have to pay on average 65 per cent of expenses.
1935 GMT: Earlier we posted a video which claimed to be protest today in Tabriz, with demonstrators chanting, "Death to the Islamic Republic". A reader has informed us that the clip is in fact from Tehran in 2009.
1805 GMT: Protest Watch. An activist website reports protests today in Tabriz and Urmia in northwestern Iran. The Tabriz demonstration, sparked by the environment issue of the shrinking Lake Urmia, reportedly began with about 1000 people and led to clashes with an unknown number of injuries and detentions. Internet and cell phone service has allegedly been disconnected, with Army helicopters flying over the city.
Claimed footage of security forces in Urmia:
Brigadier-General Nasser Shabani emphasised that PJAK terrorist group has sustained heavy casualties during the Guards' operations.
Earlier this week, Iranian officials said PJAK's deputy leader, Majid Kavian, was killed and then announced that a Guards commander had been slain.
Iran has deployed about 5,000 military forces in the northwest, along the border with Iraq.
1400 GMT: On the Border. Claimed video of the aftermath of an attack in which the Kurdish insurgency PJAK killed 12 regime troops in northwestern Iran (Warning: Graphic):
1330 GMT: Elections Watch. Shargh claims from sources that former President Mohammad Khatami has agreed with Mir Hossein Mousavi, the detained candidate from the 2009 Presidential elections, that next March's Parliamentary vote should be boycotted.
1130 GMT: The Battle Within. The pro-Ahmadinejad MP Ruhollah Hosseinian has attacked both Speaker of Parliament Ali Larijani and Tehran Mayor Mohammad-Baqer Qalibaf for their lack of loyalty to the Iranian system.
Hosseinian claimed that Larijani had a “wrong analysis” of the 2009 Presidential election, supporting Mir Hossein Mousavi. Reinforcing a story that Larijani told Mousavi on Election Day that the candidate had won the contest, Hossein said the Speaker believed that the vote would be favour of the challenger to President Ahmadinejad.
Hosseinian then alleged that both Larijani and Qalibaf had not adopted a “clear stance” against the post-election “intrigue”, asking why “they were silent in the face of temptation”.
0705 GMT: Economy Watch. Prominent Iranian economist Saeed Laylaz has written about the problems in the Iranian economy and warned that, with the smallest downturn in the world price of oil, Iran's "golden carriage will turn into a pumpkin".
0550 GMT: Threat Alert. Iran Prosecutor General Gholam-Hossein Mohseni Ejei's turn on Friday to talk about the foreign menace to Iran --- he declared that the US and Western countries are behind the Kurdish insurgency PJAK.
In recent weeks, PJAK has been engaged in a series of clashes with Iranian forces in northwest Iran, with Tehran shelling PJAK camps in northern Iraq. A PJAK deputy commander and a commander in Iran's Revolutionary Guards were reportedly killed in fighting this week.
Mohseni-Ejei also said the "enemy" had launched Persian radio and television networks and obscene internet websites to influence post-revolution generations who lack accurate understanding of the Islamic Revolution. He also noted the assassination of Iranian scientists.
0530 GMT: We start this morning with a mystery. Overnight a video (see video at top of entry) rapidly circulated, claiming to be of a new protest in Tabriz in northwestern Iran. Activists claimed it showed a crowd massed in Fahmideh Square, chanting "Long Live Azerbaijan, Death to its Enemy!"
Almost two weeks ago, demonstrations broke out in Tabriz, the capital of East Azerbaijan Province, and Urmia over the environmental destruction that is drying up Lake Urmia, Iran's largest lake. The Iranian authorities responded with force and detentions. Have they failed to put down the public defiance?