Category Archives: Freedom of Speech

Iran Blocks Virtual U.S. Embassy Just Hours After Being Launched

The latest brainchild of U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton is the virtual U.S. Embassy in Tehran. Not actually an embassy at all (i.e. it offers no consular services whatsoever) the site is clearly at attempt to promote the United States and American democratic values to millions of Iranians.

The Iranian authorities were none too pleased about the site (which is in English and Farsi) being up and managed to block it within a matter of hours of the site being launched.

The semi-official Fars news agency commented on the blocking of the U.S. website, saying, “A decisive reaction by Iranian authorities has neutralized another sly plot by the Americans. ”

“In accordance with the cybercrime law, access to this website is not possible,” read a notice to anyone inside Iran trying to visit iran.usembassy.gov.

The White House condemned the effort by Tehran to control “what the Iranian people see and hear,” and said it remained committed to engaging in dialogue with the Iranian people. “Through this action, the Iranian government has once again demonstrated its commitment to build an electronic curtain of surveillance and censorship around its people,” it said. The United

States has had no diplomatic relations with Iran since its embassy in Tehran was stormed in 1979 — the year of the Islamic Revolution — and its staff held hostage for 444 days. Washington has since sought to isolate Iran, leading international sanctions against nuclear activities it believes are aimed at making the atom bomb — a charge Tehran denies. The website was launched one week after British diplomats fled Iran after their embassy was stormed by radical youths, bringing Tehran’s relations with Europe to a new low.

All is not lost however. Many Iranians will still be able to access the site by using a virtual private network, or VPN — software that can subvert the government filter and is essential for the millions of Facebook users in the Islamic state. The State Department said it believed Iranians would still have access to the website through VPNs or other means.

Go Hillary.

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After 20 Years, Iran Finally To Be Reviewed by UN Human Rights Committee

Not that we should be all that surprised at the woeful inadequacy of the United Nations Human Rights Committee, but it’s taken them close to 20 years to review the appalling human rights record of Iran. That’s right – Iran was last reviewed by the committee in 1993 when its experts condemned “the extremely high number of death sentences that are pronounced and carried out, in many cases after a trial where the guarantees of a regular hearing were not applied in an appropriate manner”. The council equally denounced the application of extreme disciplinary measures, including flagellation and stoning.

Clearly, their condemnation was not all that strong given how long it has taken for the committee to address the extremely serious situation in Iran where there has been a disturbing rise in the incidences of human rights abuses and freedom of speech for many years now, but particularly since the fraudulent re-election of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in 2009.

Starting today, Iranian officials will face questions from the 18 independent experts who make up the UN committee that monitors implementation of the International Covenant

on Civil and Political Rights among state-parties. The review is set to begin with the presentation of a 224-page report produced by the experts and will wrap on Tuesday when the committee presents its conclusions.

Perhaps the committee’s recommendations will be reviewed in another 20 years?

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Iran Arrests 6 Filmmakers Accused of Working for BBC

Iranian authorities have arrested a group of 6 filmmakers accusing them of working for the BBC Persian service and seeking to portray a negative image of the Islamic state , which is banned in the country. The arrests came a day after the service showed a documentary on Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei.

Few western journalists are permitted to work in Iran where the government views much of the foreign media with suspicion. The BBC’s Farsi-language TV news service is only available to owners of illegal satellite receivers and its signal is often jammed. BBC Persian broadcasts live news, documentaries and entertainment programmes aimed at Farsi speakers, mostly in Iran and Afghanistan. Terrestrial

Iranian television is completely controlled by the state.

Iranian newspaper Resalat said five men and one woman had been arrested, identifying them only by their initials. “They were members of a network which supplies information, produces films and clandestine reports for the BBC Persian programme, aimed at portraying a bleak picture of Iran,” Resalat said.

In London, the BBC said in a statement that the six filmmakers arrested in Iran were not BBC staffers but “independent documentary filmmakers whose films have been screened in festivals and other venues internationally.” The BBC’s language service chief Liliane Landor said the arrests were part of the “ongoing efforts by the Iranian government to put pressure on the BBC” to influence its impartial and balanced coverage of its Farsi-language TV broadcasts.

Tehran denies the charge, saying it allows free speech. Iranian journalists say they have to tread carefully in their reporting to avoid having their publications closed.

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Big Brother Iran

Google has warned users in Iran to “secure their accounts” following an unidentified hacker who generated fake website verification certificates that may have allowed the Iranian government to spy on its citizens – including dissidents – by intercepting communications.

The company highlighted five separate steps, beginning with changing passwords and verifying account recovery options to ensure that alternate e-mail addresses and phone numbers are updated. It went on to advise users to make sure unfamiliar apps and Web sites did not have access to their accounts and that e-mails were not being automatically forwarded to suspicious, unknown addresses.

Google was not the

only website affected. The hacker also produced fake certificates for sites such as Skype and Facebook.

This blatant abuse of privacy is yet another indication that Iran is beefing up its “Big Brother” bullying tactics on its citizens. From arresting Iranian youth for having a water pistol fight, to banning newspapers and now, spying on people’s private communications, you have to wonder when the people of Iran will simply say, “enough!” and start to really fight back.

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Could Iran be on the verge of revolution?

Leon Panetta, the recently appointed U.S. Defense Secretary, and former CIA director, has predicted that revolution in Iran appears to be a matter of time.

“I think the reform movement in Iran is learning one hell of a lot from what’s happened in Tunisia and Egypt and Libya and Syria,” Panetta said. He also pointed to the unprecedented use of social media outlets such as Facebook and Twitter as playing a key role in the revolts that have taken place in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya as well as the fact that these movements are largely being led by Arab youth, who lacked hope for the future.

When discussing the mass protests in the wake of Iran’s disputed 2009 elections that saw the re-election of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Panetta responded: “I think we saw in evidence of that in the last election in Iran that there was a movement within Iran that raised those very same concerns that we’re seeing elsewhere, and I think in many ways, it’s a matter of time before that kind of change and reform and revolution occurs in Iran as

well.”

With the Iranian government cracking down on everything from the sale of water guns to freedom of speech, the world is indeed watching carefully for those very first signs of major revolution.

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Iranians boycott electricity bills

Fed up with the soaring cost of living, the Iranian people are hitting back with a silent, and so far highly under-reported protest by refusing to pay their utility bills.

As temperatures soar, the Iranian government is so far keeping the lights on and the air-conditioning running, despite suggestions that vast numbers of people have stopped paying their bills. It’s hardly because the government is philanthropic, but rather they want to soothe tempers and prevent the protesters from taking to the streets. To date, the demonstration has been passive,

but as the world has witnessed before in Iran, it can easily become an active one.

Utility prices spiked drastically as a result of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s Subsidy Smart Plan, which he announced in January, to dismantle a $100 billion government subsidy system that cost the Iranian government about a quarter of its GDP to stabilize food, fuel and electricity prices. As a result, gasoline prices have spiked by 75 percent and increased utility bills five times to 20 times the average, making basic electricity out of reach for up to 70 percent of Iranian families.

A Tehran resident posted online that her two-month bill increased from 80,000 rials (about $80) to 5 million rials ($5,000). ‘Out of every 10 people you ask, six to eight say they haven’t paid their bills,’ a blogger from Tehran wrote. ‘The government has promised to make monthly installments possible. But how do you do that for a monthly bill? How can those who can’t pay their gas bill this month pay it in the coming months?’ Apartment complexes frequently have one meter and one bill for the building, prompting unfriendly exchanges between neighbors who say they are conserving and refuse to pay for those who waste.

The exact extent of the boycott is unknown since the regime is ignoring the non-payments and very little media attention has been given to the issue. Citizens, however, are talking among themselves and even encouraging one another to stop paying the bills.

In fact, some believe that recently reported tensions between President Ahmadinejad and Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei over the arrest of  Ahmadinejad’s political allies could be an attempt by the Iranian government to divert the people’s attention from the rising prices and steadily worsening economy.

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Innocent fun leads to government crackdown

Who hasn’t at some point in their life, enjoyed an innocent water fight – especially on a sweltering hot summer’s day?

That’s just what the youth of Tehran Iran thought would be fun to do as a way to let off steam – literally and metaphorically. Unfortunately, Iran’s leaders had other ideas and 17 of the participants were rounded up and arrested.

The event, which was coordinated on Facebook angered authorities because some of the women did not wear their Islamic headscarves in an appropriate manner and because the crowds were too large. The participants were also accused of using too much water from the taps in the park.

Chief commander of Tehran’s vice police, Gen. Ahmad Roozbehani, reportedly vowed on state TV that the detainees will face harsh punishment for “breaking norms.”

Students are now preparing to once again take on the theocratic regime by organizing another water fight this weekend, and could set off a ripple effect of other water fights in the future.

Could an innocent water pistol be the catalyst for a new Iranian revolution? Time will tell.

Read more here.

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Google+ Blocked in Iran

The government of Iran has cracked down on freedom of speech once again, and blocked the new social network Google+, less than two weeks after it was launched.

Iranian officials fear that Google+ can be used by the United States as a “new spy tool” against the regime, and allow dissidents and opposition activists to contact Iranian opposition members abroad.

Facebook, Twitter, and other social media are also prohibited in the Islamic Republic. This is just one aspect of the constant struggle of the people of Iran against the human rights violations of Iran’s leaders.

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And the arrests continue…

Iranian human rights activist and documentary filmmaker Mahnaz Mohammadi was arrested Sunday in Tehran, Iran. The opposition website Kaleme reported that the reasons for her arrest were “unknown.”

This is Mohammadi’s second arrest. The first was in 2009 as she laid a wreath on the grave of Neda Ahga-Soltan, a young woman who was shot while peacefully protesting the reelection of Ahmadinejad.

Maryam Majd, a campaigner for rights for women in Iran was also arrested on Friday, and is

being held in Evin prison.

While the Islamic Republic flaunts its missiles to the world, it continues to perpetrate human rights violations against its own citizens.

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Lawyer Sentenced for Defending Rights

Once again, the Iranian regime attempts to silence the defense of human rights for its citizens.

Iranian human rights lawyer, Nasrin Sotoudeh, was sentenced to 11 years in prison, including 5 years for “acting against national security”, another 5 years for not wearing a hijab during a videotaped message, and 1 year for “propaganda against the regime”. She is also banned from practicing law or leaving the country for 20 years.

Sotoudeh is well known for defending women and children. She also served as a defense lawyer for many Iranians detained during the presidential elections in 2009.

TAKE ACTION! Show your support for Nasrin Sotoudeh here.

Read more here.

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