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.
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.
(Beirut) May 25, 2017 – Laws and policies that discriminate against women interfere with Iranian women’s right to work, Human Rights Watch said in a report released on Friday. Women confront an array of restrictions, such as on their ability to travel, prohibitions on entering certain jobs, and an absence of basic legal protections.
The 59-page report, “‘It’s a Men’s Club’: Discrimination Against Women in Iran’s Job Market,” examines in detail the discriminatory provisions and insufficient protections in Iran’s legal system that represent obstacles to women’s equal access to the job market. Over the past four decades, Iranian women have become half of the country’s university graduates. But, based on the most recent official statistics available, for the period between March 2016 and March 2017, only 14.9 percent of Iran’s women are in the workforce, compared with 64.1 percent of men. This rate is lower than the average of 20 percent for all women in the Middle East and North Africa. The unemployment rate for women, currently 20.7 percent, is double that for men.
Laws and policies that discriminate against women interfere with Iranian women’s right to work. Women confront an array of restrictions, such as on their ability to travel, prohibitions on entering certain jobs, and an absence of basic legal protections.
“Iranian women’s achievements in higher education demonstrate their capability and passion to be equal partners in building a better country, but discriminatory laws are holding them back,” said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East director at Human Rights Watch. “Authorities have started to acknowledge these problems, but they should take the necessary steps to remove the barriers that are pushing women to the margins of the workforce.”
Human Rights Watch interviewed 44 women and men, including lawyers, small business owners, hiring managers, employees in public and private sectors, and economic experts who currently live in Iran or have recently left the country and have participated in or have studied Iran’s job market. The report also analyzes Iranian laws, policies, and officials’ statements.
“It’s a Men’s Club”
Discrimination Against Women in Iran’s Job Market
Iran’s civil code is a major source of legal discrimination against women in the workforce. The civil code considers the husband the head of the household, giving him control over his wife’s economic choices, including the right to prevent his wife from working under certain conditions.
“I am a woman who has invested so much time on education and can’t imagine myself without my profession,” a woman who is a lawyer and university lecturer told Human Rights Watch. “By pressuring me to leave my job, my husband wants to take away part of my identity.”
Several lawyers said that during divorce court proceedings, husbands frequently try to gain an advantage by accusing their wives of working without their consent or in jobs they deem unsuitable.
The law also requires a husband’s permission for married women to obtain a passport. Some employers interviewed said they are unlikely to hire women for jobs that require extensive travel because of this restriction.
Iran’s social security regulations also discriminate against working women, requiring a woman to prove that her husband is unemployed or has a disability or that she is the sole guardian of their children before she can get equal or family benefits.
Many job vacancy announcements specify gender preferences based on arbitrary and discriminatory criteria, especially for technical and managerial jobs.
Thousands of public sector positions are filled through exams administered by a state evaluation administration. In a Human Rights Watch analysis of the 7,026 advertised vacancies for the past three public service entrance exams, about 60 percent specified a preference for a male hire and only 5 percent specified a female hire.
Shahindokht Mowlaverdy, the country’s vice president for women and family affairs, brought the discrimination to the government’s attention in April 2015. President Hassan Rouhani , in response, postponed a July 2016 exam for 2,545 vacancies. The exam will be held in November 2017, with 300 more positions open to women. While this is a minor improvement, it falls far short of eliminating ongoing discrimination against women in hiring practices in the public sector, Human Rights Watch said.
Iranian women’s achievements in higher education demonstrate their capability and passion to be equal partners in building a better country, but discriminatory laws are holding them back.
Women interviewed described a similar experience in the private sector. Many felt that their chances of getting hired or promoted to management positions are lower. “Once my boss told me to come and explain my views in a meeting, but then he immediately retracted his suggestion, saying that it’s not a good idea since it’s a men’s club,” said a mid-level employee at a consulting firm.
A lack of adequate legal protection also contributes to obstacles for women in the workforce. According to Iranian officials’ statements, more than 48,000 women have lost their jobs after using their legal maternity leave. Managers and employees interviewed said they were not aware of any anti-sexual harassment policies at their workplace, and women reported instances of sexual harassment and arbitrary enforcement of discriminatory dress codes.
Women are also severely underrepresented in the decision-making process. They currently only occupy 5.8 percent of seats at parliament, while the Guardian Council, a body of Islamic jurists responsible for vetting candidates for elections, has effectively barred women from running for the highest elected office in the country. The Council rejected all women who wanted to run for president in the May 19 national elections.
Iran should immediately adopt comprehensive anti-discrimination laws, eliminate discriminatory provisions in the current legal system, and extend equal protections to women who participate in the job market, Human Rights Watch said.
Private companies and foreign investors also have an obligation to ensure equal practices are in accordance with the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights. They should proactively create and enforce clear policies prohibiting sexual harassment in the workplace, ensure gender equality in hiring and promotion, and provide equal access to professional development opportunities.
In his campaign for reelection, Rouhani strongly criticized the country’s gender inequality.
“Now that President Rouhani has been elected for the second term, he should make good on his promises of equality,” Whitson said. “Giving Iran’s women the protection and equal rights they deserve is long overdue.”
On the 22nd of May a prisoner was actively transferred to a solitary confinement in the Central Ardabil Prison in order to get executed. Identified as a 50 year old Davar Hamdard, married with children, he took the place of his wife after she was arrested. He confessed to carrying a little less than a kilogram of drugs.
One prisoner subjected to mock execution while another one is hanged in Zahedan Prison
On the 23rd of May, a prisoner was effectively hanged in the Central Prison of Zahedan. He was the 30-year old Abdulkarim Shahnavazi. Another man, Saied Hood, was also transferred for execution. He was taken for the gallows with the friend while the rope was put around his neck. After that, however, he was put back in his room, informed that he would be hanged after 40 days.
Security forces in Tehran’s Azadi Stadium arrested a young woman on Monday who had entered the facility disguising herself as a young man. The stadium was hosting a match between Tehran’s Esteghlal and the UAE’s al-Ein football teams.
During Iran’s presidential election campaign the faction affiliated to President Hassan Rouhani had allowed young women in large numbers into the stadiums for their meetings and promising to lift the ban on allowing women into sports stadiums.
During a Rouhani campaign event a young woman had raised a placard written, “Can I come to the stadium after the election?” The answer was provided in less than a week, proving Rouhani had resorted to deceptive measures merely for election purposes.
Arrested young woman surrounded by security & military forces
Young woman’s placard reads: Can I also come to the stadium after the election?
Young woman’s placard reads: Can I also come to the stadium after the election?