June 22, 2017 – Reporters Without Borders (RSF) condemns the increase in Internet censorship and harassment of citizen-journalists in Iran. According to RSF’s tally, 94 Internet users, mainly users of the instant messaging service Telegram, have been arrested since the start of the year. More and more journalists are falling victim to the war between different government factions.
RSF has learned that, on 9 April, 12-year jail sentences were imposed on three citizen-journalists who were arrested in September 2016 in connections with content they had posted on Telegram.
Users of Telegram, which is very popular in Iran, are increasingly being targeted. Telegram creator Pavel Durov has said that “Telegram has not entered into any agreements with any government on this planet,” and has “no plans to.” But statements by Iranian officials seem to belie this claim.
Information and communications technology minister Mahmoud Vaezi told parliament on 7 June: “Rather than block Telegram, which would drive users to turn to another app, we have reach an agreement with those in charge of it to block content of a sexual or anti-religious nature and content condoning violence and terrorism.”
A total of 173,000 Telegram accounts have so far been blocked. Vaezi said he had “launched an intelligent filtering that has enabled the verification of 400 million logos and images.” He said his ministry did not monitor the content of posts but added that, “in the past three years, at least 7 million addresses and 121 software applications for bypassing filtering have been blocked.”
The censorship and persecution, which is officially intended to protect the public from immoral content, has been extended to political and religious content and to websites dedicated to human rights and women’s rights.
Abdolsamad Khoramabadi, who heads the committee in charge of identifying unauthorized websites, reported in March 20 17 that “more than 18,000 volunteers monitor the Internet and report crimes committed on social networks to the prosecutor’s office.”
According to RSF’s tally, at least 94 Internet users, mostly Telegram users, have been arrested since the start of 2017. In most cases, journalists and citizen-journalists arrested by the regime are charged with cyber-crimes or immoral acts.
Acting as a major wake up call for Iran, the US Senate on Thursday sent a strong message to the mullahs through a bill fit to place new sanctions targeting Tehran’s ballistic missile program, its support for regional and global terrorism and human rights violations.
Experts have noted the powerful nature of these new measures and analysts close to the Iranian regime have dubbed this measure as the “mother of all sanctions.”
Foad Izadi, a known Iranian intelligence figure, in a recent interview reflected on the depth of this advantage and described the nuclear sanctions as child’s play in comparison.
When we place these new sanctions alongside US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s support for regime change in Iran through peaceful steps and Members of Congress calling for blacklisting Iran’s Revolutionary Guards (IRGC) as a foreign terrorist organization, we find the mullahs on the receiving end of very commanding signal.
The 98-2 vote has approved a sleek text that abides by the Iran nuclear deal. These sanctions, technically considered secondary, are in compliance with the nuclear deal due to the very characteristics of Iran’s missile program being excluded from the so-called “landmark” agreement that has failed to provide anything to boast about for the Iranian people. This was yet another concession provided by the Obama administration to Tehran, and the mullahs are seeking to capitalize by operating hand in hand.
“It truly is astounding what Iran continues to do around the world,” said Sen. Bob Corker, Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. “For a people that are capable of so much, their foreign policy is shockingly counter to their own interest.
“We see destabilizing act after destabilizing act — from missile launches, to arms transfers, to terrorist training, to illicit financial activities, to targeting Navy ships and detaining American citizens — the list goes on and on.”
The Countering Iran’s Destabilizing Activities Act of 2017 enjoys an overwhelming focus on sanctioning any foreign individual or entity doing business with a counterpart pre-designated by the US administration in association with Iran’s ballistic missile program. For example, these sanctions can be imposed on any financial institution or foreign company involved in providing key parts or components necessary for Tehran’s controversial missile program.
Two other such actions by the Treasury Department in February and May were preludes, as the administration officially slapped sanctions against a slate of individuals and entities procuring for Iran’s ballistic missile program. The February sanctions were in response to Iran’s medium-range ballistic missile test in late-January, considered by many as a United Nations Security Council Resolution violation.
There are also voices heard questioning the effectiveness of this new measure able to add any particular new bite considering the already extensive landscape of US measures. And yet it is also recognized how such an initiative will be sending a very dominant political message to Iran.
The mullahs in Tehran are also one of, if not the, leading state in human rights violations. While many boasted of Iranian President Hassan Rouhani gaining a second term launching a new drive for moderation, there are already increasing reports of dozens of executions ever since the May 19th vote and sweeping crackdown across the country. The recent twin attacks in Tehran on June 7th, which was claimed by ISIS, are also being exploited by the mullahs’ to increase domestic crackdown and foreign meddling.
At least 30 inmates in a Southeast Iran prison are on the verge of execution, reports.
As the Middle East is engulfed in a rift with many states severing diplomatic ties with Qatar, Iran continues to fuel the dilemma through capitalizing on this sensitive subject.
Iran-backed Houthi militias in Yemen recently targeted three Saudi aid trucks delivering relief aid.
Iranian boats resorted to new “unsafe and unprofessional” moves in training a laser on a US Marine Corps CH-53E helicopter as three US Naval ships were transiting Strait of Hormuz international waters.
The world has already experienced how a policy of appeasement and engagement has only emboldened the mullahs to the point of taking advantage of such dismal practices by the international community.
The Iranian opposition National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI) and the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI/MEK) have a history of unveiling Iran’s plots and warning the world about Tehran’s nuclear weapons program, ballistic missile drive, meddling across the Middle East and supporting terrorism, and resorting to unspeakable human rights violations.
This new round of sanctions will be considered a significant blow to these the Iranian regime’s illicit efforts, especially as experts believe the path is being paved to blacklist Iran’s IRGC. The Guards play a major, if not the leading, role in all the above-stated belligerences, and most concerning today is the foreign meddling that continues to wreak havoc in Iraq, Syria, Yemen and a variety of international waterways that can disrupt billions of dollars of economic transactions.
The new US Senate sanctions are very necessary indeed, as Iran only understands the language of force. This very correct measure should act as the building block and cornerstone of a new foundation of strong action to rein in Iran’s mullahs and finally bring about true and everlasting change and peace.
Tehran-10 June 2017— Iranian regime published a piece titled, “Effort to replace the murderer with the martyr,” by judiciary news agency over remarks made by Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei regarding his failure to engineer the presidential election.
“Those who seek to tarnish the image of our establishment remind everyone about the 1980s… They see no shame in changing the place of the ‘murderer’ and ‘martyr’!” the piece reads.
“This all began in August 2016 when the sound file of the late Montazeri was published; this sound file was published at a time when anti-revolution elements and media outlets launched a major hype against the establishment during the anniversary of the (PMOI) executions. The (PMOI) had also held a gathering in Paris,” the article continues.
“Montazeri’s unwise defense of the (PMOI) led to letters of dispute between him and (Khomeini). Three decades these bold moves have become sources of hatred against (Khomeini) and the establishment…”
Head of the Motalefe faction in an interview with this news agency acknowledged the fact that Khamenei failed in the election.
“These remarks by Khamenei are a warning for us, when he said be careful that they not change the place of the martyr and murderer in the 1980s. Those who describe the 1980s as the climax of execution and prisons must be identified to the public, and be held responsible for their remarks that have made the enemy happy,” Habibi said.
“During the election there were those who said so many wrong remarks. The 1980s will be remembered in our history,” he added.
On the other hand, based on a video clip placed on the Internet, Mehdi Khazali, a presidential candidate disqualified by the Guardian Council in this round, made remarks about the role of conservative cleric Ebrahim Raisi in the 1988 massacre of political prisoners.
“… If we seek to take action based on the laws of this very Islamic republic, he would have to be executed 20,000 times for 20,000 summary executions.”
Huffington post , Jun 9, 2017— A resolution was recently introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives, condemning an atrocity that most Americans, and indeed most westerners, have never heard of: the 1988 killings of approximately 30,000 political prisoners in Iran.
Lawmakers led by Congressman Michael McCaul (R-TX), Ed Royce (R-CA), Eliot Engel (D-NY), and Pete Sessions (R-TX), and 42 of their colleagues from both sides of the aisle, chose to try to right that wrong, introducing legislation, H. Res. 188, deploring the murder of victims who “included thousands of people, including teenagers and pregnant women, imprisoned merely for participating in peaceful street protests and for possessing political reading material, many of whom had already served or were currently serving prison sentences.”
The cruelty was extreme as the resolution noted, “the families of the executed were denied information about their loved ones and were prohibited from mourning them in public”. But the outside world was kept pretty much in the dark. Or, when confronted with flashes of reality, many chose to close their eyes.
According to Amnesty International, the vast majority of the executed were affiliated with the main opposition People’s Mojahehin of Iran (PMOI/MEK). Prisoners were “brought before the commissions and briefly questioned about their political affiliation, and any prisoner who refused to renounce his or her affiliation with groups perceived as enemies by the regime was then taken away for execution,” the House resolution noted. The lawmakers were incensed to act in part by the audacity of the government of recently re-elected president Hassan Rouhani , who appointed as his Justice Minister one of the detested members of Tehran’s “death commission,” Mostafa Pourmohammadi. Many argue that like most instances of brutal carnage by autocratic, dictatorial or theocratic governments, the massacre was carried out in such a way that word of the executions spread to all corners of the country, terrorizing the populace and paralyzing thousands of families, neighborhoods, and communities with grief.
Many believe that what is even more galling is that the Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei’s pick to succeed Rouhani in last month’s presidential elections, Ebrahimi Raisi, had already been rewarded for his long years of allegiance by being named custodian of the Astan Buds Razavi foundation, the wealthiest charity in the Muslim world. Charity here is a relative term. In Iran under the mullahs and ruling clerics, it is believed that that the mega-millions all end up in the coffers of Iran’s Supreme Leader, to fund the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps and its fundamentalist agenda. Some argue that now Khamenei sought to manipulate the election, and thereby shore up his political establishment, by imposing Raisi on Iran’s unwilling people as their president. He most likely did not calculate that the campaign rivalry between the self-described “moderate” incumbent and his “hardliner” rival would bring the 1988 massacre to the surface, prompting public outrage so extreme that even powerful mullahs within Khamenei’s faction distained to support Raisi. Khamenei more likely backed down, which appears to be a big loss for him, but not a big change in the outcome for Iran’s people. In addition, many believe that Rouhani, also a veteran of this political establishment of the Islamic Republic, got another term likely to differ little from his first four years, which witnessed according to Amnesty International thousands of executions, an intense crackdown, rampant poverty and domestic injustice; parallel to escalating foreign meddling, skyrocketing military/security budgets, and the drive to advance the ballistic missile project. It was, however, another awakening to the ruling clerics of how past crimes against humanity can come back to haunt. In light of how deeply Iran’s nation reacted to this re-emergence of the 1988 massacre, more likely overturning efforts at the highest level to engineer the “election,” H. RES. 188 “Condemning the Government of the Islamic Republic of Iran for the 1988 massacre of political prisoners and calling for justice for the victims” is timely and righteous.
According to Amnesty International, the authorities have begun desecrating the unmarked mass graves of those executed in different cities including in Mashhad northeast Iran and in Ahwaz in the south of the country, fearful of the spread of the call for justice campaign regarding the victims of the 1988 massacre.
In a statement issued on June 1, 2017, Amnesty International expressed alarm: “The desecration of a mass grave site in Ahvaz, southern Iran that contains the remains of at least 44 people who were extrajudicially executed would destroy vital forensic evidence and scupper opportunities for justice for the mass prisoner killings that took place across the country in 1988, said Amnesty International and Justice for Iran,” it wrote.
The legislators cited in their resolution a report from Amnesty International, concluding “there should be no impunity for human rights violations, no matter where or when they took place. The 1988 executions should be subject to an independent impartial investigation, and all those responsible should be brought to justice, and receive appropriate penalties.”
I second that.
During the past 38 years, Iranian women have been suppressed in both law and practice.
All the fundamental rights of women have ceaselessly been violated by ideologically motived laws, which are approved by fundamentalist clerics who believe that a woman is worth half of a man. This means, for example, that if a woman dies in an accident, then her family receives only half compensation.
In historic terms, although clerics have always tried to restrict Iranian women, those women have never given up against Islamic fundamentalist rules. One of the Iranian woman who broke the taboo and challenged all traditional religious laws was Tahere Qurratu l-Ayn. She lived in the nineteenth century and was executed in 1852 by fundamentalist clerics.
At the moment, women in Iran suffer greatly under the Iranian regime, as the theocracy views them as second-class citizens. They face many restrictions, such as compulsory hijab, to be under the tutelage of a man, gender barriers, and systematic discrimination and marginalisation.
A few months after the popular revolution in 1979, the founder of “the Islamic Republic”, Khomeini, decreed compulsory hijab in all governmental offices. However, in 1983, the Islamic Consultative Assembly (the parliament) legislated a repressive law that imposed penalties for women who do not observe the compulsory dress code. Despite Hassan Rouhani, a purported “moderate” president, holding office, the Iranian regime has continued to use morality police to enforce this repressive law. For example, few weeks ago, a young woman was run over by police for improper veiling. If a woman resists against the morality police, she will be arrested. According to some reports, a majority of women who are arrested by the morality police are subjected to sexual harassment.
There is also an exploiter law, which is officially known as Non-compliance. If a woman refuses to have sex with her husband, she can be sentenced by the court. Some fundamentalist clerics say that husbands can and should punish their wives for “such violation”.
There are other medieval laws in place, such as inheritance and testimony. A woman’s inheritance is half of that of a man’s. The same goes for women’s testimony in a court, as its worth half of a man. This means that there must be at least two women who testify on a matter in the court, if they expect their testimony to be heard and approved.
For Iran’s religious dictatorship, freedom for women is a red-line. It is a known fact that the clerics do not believe that a woman can or is fit to be a president or a judge. Consequently, the regime’s constitution bars women from standing as a candidate for a presidential election or being a judge.
Another example of religiously motivated suppression is the suppression of Baha’is. The ruling clerics and their laws consider Baha’is as an enemy of God “Mohareb”. There are many prohibitions against them in the Iranian society, such as an education ban and deprivation of all public service. Many of their leaders are also imprisoned, because they challenge these repressive laws.
Overall, despite international warnings in recent years, the condition of human rights has gotten worse in Iran. This is proven by the fact that Iran is one of the few countries that have a Special Rapporteur appointed by the United Nations. This Special Rapporteur has the mandate to monitor and report on the human rights situation in the country. The Iranian regime and its allies in the UN used many resources to try to prevent this appointment.
How the Iranian women resist against mullah’s regime?
Despite the suppression, the women in Iran continue to protest gender discrimination and challenge the repressive laws. In Iran, women form the core of a historical resistance against the theocracy. Women play a key role in the Iranian opposition group, the People’s Mojahedin Organisation of Iran (PMOI), which terrifies the ruling theocracy. Between 1981 and 1988, tens of thousands of political prisoners were executed. A majority of those killed were members of the Iranian opposition group, officially known as the PMOI. It is obvious that during the massacre, women were a huge portion of the victims. But women are still being arrested for supporting the PMOI and they are being sentenced to long prison sentences as a result.
A prisoner of conscience, Maryam Akbari-Monfared, 48, was arrested in December 2009 and is serving a 15 year-prison sentence after being accused of supporting the PMOI. “She is facing reprisals after filing a formal complaint that seeks an official investigation into the mass killings of political prisoners, including her siblings, in the summer of 1988,” according to a statement by Amnesty on November 3, 2016.She was said that her conviction was only because of her family’s role in the PMOI.
In fact, the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI), the broader opposition coalition for establishing freedom and democracy in Iran that includes the PMOI, is led by a Muslim woman, Maryam Rajavi, which is unique for the Middle East. This means that Iranian women are at the forefront of the struggle for democracy in Iran.
She has presented a 10-point democratic platform for the future of Iran that envisions complete gender equality in political and social rights and is committed to the equal participation of women in political leadership. This platform will abolish any form of discrimination against women and the compulsory dress code. It also establishes the separation of the church and the State, prohibiting any form of discrimination against the followers of all religions and denominations.
This platform represents a viable alternative to the current theocracy and should be recognized and supported by the international community.
During Rouhani’s first tenure (owing it to the ultraconservative Guardian Council, a 12-cleric body appointed directly and indirectly by Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, that vets candidates of all elections in Iran), the regime in Iran:
Iran’s twelfth presidential election was held on May 19, 2017. The incumbent, Hassan Rouhani, was “re-elected” amid various charges of fraud, vote-rigging, and embarrassing measures to portray the polling stations as crowded. Yet the Iranian regime’s propaganda machine labeled him a reformer, and much of the mainstream press swallowed it hook, line and sinker.
It’s an illusion. Elected under these circumstances, Rouhani’s far from being Iran’s actual ruler: he remains subordinate to Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei. And no, there aren’t any “reforms.”
Iran’s election was far from free or fair, which hardly portends any sort of leader who can enact “reform.” The president is first vetted as a candidate by a clerical panel called the Guardian Council, affiliated with the supreme leader.
The supreme leader stands at the apex of Iran’s complex political-religious dictatorship. He has veto power over all policies and ultimate control of the security forces. Iran’s supreme leader controls much of economy through 14 main entities, including the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC). Rouhani’s freedom of action in foreign policy is also heavily circumscribed by the supreme leader’s authority.
Iran’s 12th presidential election came at a critical time. The economy is deteriorated, inflation is skyrocketing, and there is considerable unemployment, shortages, poverty, sleeping in graveyards, mine explosion incidents, skyscraper fire disasters, a lack of free competition, a deterioration of human rights, and the high cost of military intervention in Syria. “The main concerns of business in Iran [are] around the issue of stability and peace,” said Masoud Khansari, head of the Tehran Chamber of Commerce.
Rouhani’s incumbency coincides with one of the most turbulent periods in recent Middle East history. At a recent Riyadh, Saudi Arabia conference, new military forces have been established, with 34,000 troops to fight terrorism in Syria and Iraq. Saudi Arabia is Iran’s chief religious and secular rival. The countries in its Riyadh coalition have expressed their enmity to Iran. They show every sign of being determined to condemn and curb sectarianism and the mullah regime’s arms shipments to Iraq as well as its unwelcome role in Syria and Yemen. “The main goal in establishing this force was to confront not only al-Qaeda and ISIS forces but also militias supported by Iran in Syria,” said Mohamed Mojahed Azziyat, a member of the Egyptian Parliament Foreign Affairs Committee, in an interview with Sky News Arabic on Wednesday.
Also, the new generation of youth is protesting the regime’s repressive measures.
Rouhani is a regime insider with a history of holding senior positions in the security apparatus following the 1979 Revolution. He served on the Supreme Defense Council during the Iran-Iraq War as well.
Rouhani has no will to end or even reform Iran’s system of government. He reinvented himself as a so-called full-fledged reformist for his second term, but despite his promises, the people know he will not live up to his commitment. His record of 3,000 executions during his first term will not go forgotten, either. Iran’s citizens were not surprised when on inauguration day he first headed to the tomb of former Iranian regime founder Ruhollah Khomeini (who died in 1989) to renew his allegiance to him and launch his second term after bowing to Khamenei.
On the third day of Rouhani’s second term in office, “the regime has immediately relaunched its domestic crackdown machine after the election farce, especially through executions and torture in prisons across the country. Ten inmates in the prisons of Tabriz, Zahedan, Ardebil, Kermanshah and Isfahan, and Karaj Central Prison were hanged on May 22 and 23. Nine of these cases were carried out on May 23 alone.”
On May 25, less than week after the election, IRGC Air and Space Force commander General Amir-Ali Hajizadeh said: “I announce today that in recent years we have built a third underground factory for the manufacture of missiles[.] … We are going to develop our ballistic power.”
Iran’s political and economic isolation will continue, as the regime is not able to change. The international community sees no security in investing in Iran. To this end, the only predictable change in Iran is regime change.
Hassan Mahmoudi is a human rights advocate who graduated from California State University, Sacramento. He tweets at@hassan_mahmou1.