Citizen-journalists increasingly spied on, hounded in Iran

Irans Press crackdown and censorship

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.

Source: Citizen-journalists increasingly spied on, hounded in Iran

Understanding The New Iran Sanctions

By Heshmat Alavi

By Heshmat Alavi   

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.

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Bipartisan #Senate sanctions bill on #Iran Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps is most effective when coupled with FTO designation of #IRGC

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.

Source: Understanding The New Iran Sanctions

Yemen: A new Mideast flash point?

Saudi army tanks are seen deployed near the Saudi-Yemeni border,
Saudi army tanks are seen deployed near the Saudi-Yemeni border,

By Heshmat Alavi


American Thinker, June 14,  2017
 – With the new U.S. administration blueprinting its Iran policy after escalating developments in Syria and the recent attacks in Tehran, one major battleground between the two arch-rivals is set to be Yemen.  Sitting at the opening of a major waterway through which a significant amount of the world’s seabound oil flows, this country of 27 million has been war-torn and desperately grappling with a famine currently risking the lives of 7 million people.
All the while, Iran and its offspring terror organization, the Lebanese Hezb’allah, are escalating their meddling in a war that has already left more than 10,000 killed and literally leveled the country’s already poor infrastructure.
And while the United Nations has issued pleas for support to boost the efforts of humanitarian aid organizations, signs show that Iran and its Houthi proxies are ignoring these calls.  The larger picture of the Middle East power struggle is casting a long shadow over this entire nation.  It is, however, worth noting that the Saudi-led coalition welcomed a U.N. proposal to hand the port city of Hodeidah, currently the country’s lifeline, to a neutral third party to supervise the urgent flow of humanitarian aid into Yemen.
The Iran-backed Ansar Allah militia group, aka the Houthis, will most likely turn down the proposals.  Such a handover would render the loss of their last remaining port in Yemen, choking the flow of Iran-supplied arms and ammunition.  It is a known fact that Iran’s involvement in Yemen is in line with its broader strategy of encircling the entire Arabian peninsula and upping pressure on its regional arch-rival, Saudi Arabia.
Iran seeks the destabilization of the Gulf States and to ultimately obtain the capability of replacing these governments with rulers loyal to the Islamic Republic’s doctrine.  Iraq is a vivid example of how Iran usurped the opportunity of the 2003 invasion to cast its shadow over this nation, especially during the eight years of former prime minister Nouri al-Maliki and eight years of Obama’s Chamberlain-style appeasement.
This is the very philosophy behind establishing and procuring terror cells with the objective of purging government officials and staging attacks targeting the infrastructure of various states, including Bahrain, Kuwait, and the UAE.  Bahrain, particularly, in March busted a terrorist cell linked to Hezb’allah and Iran’s Revolutionary Guards (IRGC).
It is a known fact that the IRGC and Hezb’allah are present in Yemen, with their troops and foot soldiers fighting alongside Houthis, parallel to providing much needed training and advice to these forces.
The number of Hezb’allah fighters being captured is on the rise, with such statistics in the first three months of 2017 matching the entire course of 2016.  The death toll of Hezb’allah and IRGC forces also escalated in the first quarter of 2017.
More Iranian equipment across scattered front lines in Yemen is being discovered by advancing Yemeni and Saudi forces.  Further concerning is the fact that Iranian weapons convoys and shipments, consisting of drones and high-tech missiles, have been intercepted on the Yemen-Oman border.
Maritime traffic snaking the Yemeni coast lengthwise has experienced a dangerous rise in attacks staged by the Iranian IRGC and Hezb’allah.  Advisers to these two sources are busily training Houthis how to develop sophisticated drone boats packed with explosives and how to lay mines in Yemen’s Red and Arabian Sea waters.
Recent reports in the media shed light on the Houthis launching their first such attack, targeting an oil tanker in the southern Bab el-Mandeb Strait.  Assailants of unknown identity fired rocket-propelled grenades – a favorite tactic of insurgents – at the 70,362-ton M.T. Muskie, sailing under the Marshall Islands flag, using the strategic waterway heading into the Red Sea entrance, according to Reuters.
Involvement in the attack was denied by the Houthis, despite a history of evidence showing these Iran-supplemented proxies staging attacks on various navy vessels using the narrow water passage.  The Houthis are also known to have direct interest in disturbing the flow of Bab el-Mandeb’s maritime traffic to provide Tehran unprecedented influence over the Red Sea and up north to the Suez Canal .
As tensions continue to escalate in this vital corner of the globe, it becomes imperative for the international community, and especially U.S. allies in the region, to take urgent action against Iran’s meddling, with the aim of curbing its dangerous influence and establishing peace and tranquility in the Middle East.

Heshmat Alavi is a political and rights activist.  His writing focuses on Iran, including human rights violations, social crackdown, the regime’s support for terrorism and meddling in foreign countries, and the controversial nuclear program.  He tweets at @HeshmatAlavi and blogs at IranCommentary.

Source:  Yemen: A new Mideast flash point?

Iran: The Regime Internal Crisis 10 Months After the Revelation of 1988 Massacre

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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.”

Source: Iran: The Regime Internal Crisis 10 Months After the Revelation of 1988 Massacre

US Congress Resolution Condemns Iran Atrocities and Calls for Actions

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According to Amnesty International, the vast majority of the executed were affiliated with the main opposition People’s Mojahehin of Iran
By: Dr. Majid Rafizadeh 
 
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.

Source:   US Congress Resolution Condemns Iran Atrocities and Calls for Actions

How Is Iran’s Hassan Rouhani A Moderate?

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Iran Commentary

Following the May 19th presidential “election” in Iran and the incumbent Hassan Rouhani reaching a second term, there was an outpouring of Western mainstream media describing him as a moderate again.

As described by the National Review, Iran’s sham election was nothing but “a ridiculous farce. In reality, an anti-American jihadist beat a slightly-worse anti-American jihadist.”

Rouhani was the first Iranian regime official in the early days after the mullahs’ hijacking of the 1979 revolution who openly called for public executions.

He Is #Rouhani is he a #MODERATE?!!!
watch & share 2 others know him#humanrights#executions#humanity#UK#Terrorism#IranElections2017pic.twitter.com/R5mjOgwCdB

— Shawn HarrisⓂ️ (@HarrisShawn5) May 23, 2017

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:

  • sent over 3,000 to…

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