FAZ| Messenger sollen in Iran verboten werden

In Iran sollen fast alle Messenger fürs Smartphone blockiert werden. Damit müssten die Nutzer auf beliebte Dienste wie WhatsApp verzichten. Es wäre aber auch eine Niederlage für Präsident Ruhani.

© DPAVergrößernIrans Justiz will Messenger im Land blockieren

Fast alle Kommunikationsprogramme auf Smartphones sollen in Iran verboten werden. Die iranische Oberstaatsanwaltschaft forderte den Kommunikationsminister auf, innerhalb eines Monats die in dem Land äußerst beliebten Smartphone-Kommunikationsprogramme Viber, Tango und WhatsApp zu blockieren. Sonst werde die Staatsanwaltschaft dies über ihre eigene Kanäle tun, berichtete die Nachrichtenagentur ISNA am Samstag.

Mit dieser Entscheidung geht die Internet-Paranoia in Iran in die nächste Runde. Die Behörde für Internetkriminalität hatte schon Anfang des Jahres ein Verbot der Kommunikationsprogramme gefordert. Über diese Programme könnten Informationen im Ausland landen, was für das Land eine große Gefahr werden könnte.

Vollständiger Artikel

Iran Brief—Nuclear investigation “not an endless process” and other news

The IAEA director general urged Iran to fulfill its transparency obligations, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei criticized U.S.’s strategy against ISIS, and more in this week’s edition of the Belfer Iran Brief, covering September 9—September 15.

By Henry Rome

Highlights:

  • IAEA said its investigation is “not an endless process,” as Iran pledged to complete transparency measures.
  • Two-thirds of Iranian youth use the internet and 70% said they use software to evade government’s censorship of sites, according to a new poll.
  • Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei said he rejected U.S. appeals for assistance against ISIS, telling reporters: “I opposed it and said we will not cooperate with the Americans in this regard since they have a corrupt intention and stained hands.”

Diplomacy and nuclear issue

  • IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano addressed Iran’s failure to meet several transparency milestones, saying “this is not an endless process.” He predicted that if Iran cooperated with the IAEA investigation, conclusions could be made in 15 months or less. But Amano added that IAEA would publish findings regardless, allowing member nations to draw their own conclusions. (Reuters, 9/15;AP, 9/15)
    • Reza Najafi, Iran’s ambassador to IAEA, rejected assertions that “deadlock” exists between Iran and IAEA over nuclear program and said “we are ready to complete” additional measures. (Reuters, 9/9)
    • Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araqchi, one of Iran’s nuclear negotiators, said a “difficult road” lies ahead during negotiations. (AFP, 9/11)
    • Iranian negotiators are slated to meet with E.U. representatives on Wednesday in New York. (Press TV, 9/14)
  • A recent Iranian exhibition of nuclear components said to be sabotaged “reveals the importance of non-Western countries, such as China, as key locations for Iran’s dual-use procurement.” (King’s College London, 9/4; also see related report by Institute for Science and International Security, 9/10).
    • Additionally, “exhibition of allegedly sabotaged equipment has highlighted Iran’s long-known preference for European and US-origin dual-use controlled goods, such as vacuum pumps and pressure transducers.”
  • Iran’s atomic energy organization announced plans to construct two additional nuclear power plants in Bushehr. Iran said it was in final negotiations with the Russians on construction, which could begin in the next six months. (Press TV, 9/15; Fars News, 9/15)

Sanctions and Iran’s economy

  • Iran is expanding its capability to store crude oil on land, which could free up oil tankers to broaden oil trade. (Reuters, 9/11)
  • Russian officials visited Iran to pledge increased economic ties between the two countries. Iran’s Oil Minister Bijan Zanganeh said: “God willing, we will quickly increase the level of relations up to more than 10 times.” (AP, 9/9)

Iranian domestic politics

Two girls use Facebook in a Tehran coffee shop
October 13, 2013 – Two girls use Facebook in a north Tehran coffee shop. A recent survey found that two thirds of Iranian youth use the internet. (Kaveh Kazemi/Getty Images)
  • Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei was discharged from a Tehran hospital after prostate surgery. (Press TV, 9/15)
  • A new United Nations report criticized President Hassan Rouhani for failing to live up to promises to improve human rights, including religious freedom and freedom of expression. Iran rejected the accuracy of the report. (Reuters, 9/12)
  • Two-thirds of Iranian youth use internet and 70% said they use software to evade government’s censorship of sites. (Tehran Times, 9/9)
    • When asked for their biggest worries, 30% indicated financial concerns and another 30% selected unemployment.
  • Iran is fielding Khalij Fars (Persian Gulf) anti-ship ballistic missile system to “operational units.” With reported range of 300 km, “it is capable of threatening maritime activity throughout the Persian Gulf and Strait of Hormuz,” according to a Pentagon report. (Jane’s 360, 9/8)
  • Iran’s Culture Ministry reportedly has shut down several conservative news sites critical of Rouhani. (Al-Monitor, 9/10)

US-Iran relations

  • Henry Kissinger, on heels of the release of his new book, told NPR “I consider Iran a bigger problem than ISIS. ISIS is a group of adventurers with a very aggressive ideology. But they have to conquer more and more territory before they can became a geo-strategic, permanent reality. I think a conflict with ISIS — important as it is — is more manageable than a confrontation with Iran.” (NPR, 9/6)
  • See “Geopolitics and Iran.”

Geopolitics and Iran

  • Khamenei said Iran rejected U.S. requests to coordinate actions against ISIS. He said that Secretary of State John Kerry and Undersecretary for Political Affairs Wendy Sherman both requested Iranian assistance.
    • Khamenei, quoted in state media: “I opposed it and said we will not cooperate with the Americans in this regard since they have a corrupt intention and stained hands. And how could we have cooperation with the Americans under such conditions?” (Fars News, 9/15)
    • Neither Iran nor Syria were invited to Paris conference regarding ISIS.
    • Kerry said he would not rule out non-military cooperation with Iran, but later added, “We are not coordinating with Iran. Period….I’m not going to get into a back and forth.” (AP, 9/15; Reuters 9/15)
    • Iranian border guards arrested three people from Afghanistan and Pakistan suspected of attempting to transit Iran to join ISIS. (AP, 9/9)
    • ISIS’ advance has derailed planned completion of natural gas pipeline between Iran and Iraq. (AP, 9/10)
  • Revolutionary Guard forces repelled attack from militants based in Pakistan, who sought to seize base near Saravan, Iran. (Press TV, 9/9)
  • Rouhani congratulated Iraq on selection of new Prime Minister, Haider al-Abadi. (Tehran Times, 9/10)

Israel

  • Israeli defense minister Moshe Ya’alon visited Azerbaijan to meet with senior officials and support Israeli defense companies participating in Azeri exhibition. (Globes, 9/10; Times of Israel, 9/10) Note: It was the first visit by an Israeli defense minister to Azerbaijan, an Israeli ally.
    • Israeli drone shot down by Revolutionary Guard in August may have originated in Azerbaijan, Iran said. Meanwhile, Iran requested that IAEA condemn Israel’s alleged drone surveillance. (Press TV, 9/10)

Source: Henry Rome is a research assistant at the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs.

The Perils of Drinking Coffee ‘Provocatively’

According to Article 638 of Iran’s 1996 Islamic Penal Code, “women who appear in the street and public places without the Islamic hejab will serve time, between ten days and two months, and will have to pay a cash fine”.

The law, however, does not define the exact parameters surrounding the “Islamic hejab,” leaving that crucial judgment up to the police and the paramilitary Basij force. This leaves a gap open for security forces to exploit, despite the fact that morally the hejab is something that cannot be enforced by law or through coercion.

Through my work as a lawyer I have paid numerous visits to the Ershad Judicial Complex, which is responsible for fighting so-called “social corruption.” I have witnessed many abuses of power, and also things that are simply not quite right.

Take, for instance, the printed form the police and the Basij use as they patrol the streets and shopping centers looking for women they believe are not properly wearing the hejab.

The form has three parts, the first dealing with woman’s hair, and includes checkboxes for ‘completely uncovered head,’ ‘partially uncovered hair,’ ‘styled hair showing’, ‘uncovered neck,’ ‘thin headscarf’ and, oddly, ‘visibility of the breasts.’

The second part applies to the use of make-up: lipstick, mascara, eye shadow, blusher, nail polish on fingers or toes and banned glasses.

The third outlines the various ways a woman’s attire may be grounds for legal action: ‘a tight-fitting manteau,’ ‘a short manteau,’ ‘a manteau with slits showing the body,’ ‘an unconventional manteau,’ ‘stockings with a banned pattern,’ ‘no stockings’ and the ominous ‘other.’

Many of the form’s checkboxes are vague and open to interpretation, such as ‘banned glasses’ and ‘unconventional manteau,’ leaving the individual policeman or the Basiji to make their own judgement on what qualifies what.

The breadth of the form also gives security forces both an incentive and opportunity to constantly scan women in public whose necks are showing or who are wearing lipstick or mascara.

Islam definitely forbids scrutiny being this close. According to the prominent 13th century Shi’a jurist Allamah al-Hilli, a proper Muslim should look at a woman’s hand or face just once and only if necessary. A second look is forbidden. With these forms in hand, policemen and Basijis have an excuse to relentlessly stare at women so that they find ways they are violating the law as far as how they are dressed and how their bodies look.

A second form is dedicated to drivers and passengers. The checklist includes ‘inappropriately dressed’ passengers, ‘passengers with make-up,’ ‘naked body parts,’ ‘tight-fitting dress’ and ‘uncovered hair.’ This form is likely to have more serious consequences than the form dealing with women’s appearance on the street, because it requires the inspection of all moving vehicles to discover whether or not a female driver or any of their passengers are wearing a tight-fitting dress or whether a body part is on show.

In 2009 a young woman came to my law offices and recounted how she had been arrested in a coffee shop as she was drinking coffee with her cousin. They were both taken to the Department for Fighting Moral Corruption. After a few hours she and her cousin were released on bail and the processing of the case was scheduled for several days later.

When I became an attorney I went to the courthouse to review the case. It turned out that they were arrested for drinking coffee “in a provocative manner.”

Fortunately when the court was convened I was able to defend them successfully and they were acquitted from this absurd charge.

Offense Type

Hair:
  • Completely Uncovered
  • Partially Uncovered
  • Breasts Showing
  • Styled Hair Showing
  • Uncovered Neck
  • Thin Scarf
Make-Up:
  • Lipstick
  • Mascara
  • Eye Shadow
  • Face Make-Up
  • Forbidden Glasses
Dress:
  • No Stockings
  • Thin Stockings
  • Stockings with Forbidden Symbols
  • Short Socks
  • Other
  • Tight-Fitting Manteau
  • Short Manteau
  • Manteau with Body-Showing Slits
  • Unconventional Manteau
  • Manteau with Forbidden Symbols

Source: IranWire

An Iranian Fundamentalist’s Handbook on Sex in the West

Kasra Nouri, Crime : Journalism

Kasra Nouri, Crime : Journalism

Kasra Nouri is a blogger and Sufi activist and has been arrested twice. He is currently serving his sentence at Evin Prison, where he’s gone on repeated hunger strikes to protest against prison conditions for dervishes.

Name: Kasra Nouri

Born: 1990, Bandar Abbas, Iran

Career: Blogger and Sufi activist; member of Mehdi Karroubi’s 2009 campaign team; reporter for Majzooban-e Noor news site, a Sufi order.

Charges: Propaganda against the regime, actions against national security, disclosing state secrets, membership to a deviant gang, insulting the Supreme Leader, misleading the public, disseminating lies and conducting interviews with foreign media.

Kasra Nouri has been arrested twice for working with Majzooban-e Noor, a group of Gonabadi dervishes (Sufis). In the run-up to the disputed 2009 presidential election, the site supported Mehdi Karroubi, a reformist candidate.

Nouri was first arrested on January 11, 2012 after Intelligence Ministry agents in plainclothes raided his home in Shiraz and took him to an unknown location without a warrant. He was detained for a month and a half, 30 days of which were spent in solitary confinement at the Intelligence Office, known as Number 100.

He was released on bail, but, just two weeks later, on March 15, 2012, he was re-arrested after he spoke to foreign news outlets about Sufi maltreatment, including Radio Farda, the Persian service of Radio Free Europe.

His trial was held at Branch 3 of Shiraz’s Revolutionary Court presided over by Judge Rashidi, who sentenced him to four years and four months in prison and a year’s suspended sentence. The appeals court upheld the verdict and he was incarcerated at Adel Abad Prison in Shiraz.

According to an Amnesty International report, Nouri and six other prisoners of conscience “were held initially at Adel Abad Prison in Shiraz, then moved to Section 350 of Evin Prison, where they remained until they were placed in solitary confinement in the prison’s Section 209, controlled by the Ministry of Intelligence, in January 2013.” They were returned to Section 350 three months later, after Nouri and another prisoner, Saleh Moradi, went on hunger strike.

While he was at Adel Abad Prison, the guards raided Nouri’s cell block and forcefully shaved off the beards and moustaches of Sufi prisoners. The dervishes were then transferred to solitary confinement. For many Sufi orders, shaving off facial hair is a great insult. When Nouri and four other dervishes refused, they were beaten, their heads were shaved and they were transferred to another cellblock. For several days afterwards, the inmates were not allowed to phone their families.

Since then, Nouri has gone on hunger strikes to protest against the plight of dervishes held in solitary confinement. At one point, he refused to eat for 90 days, during which he was beaten and pressured to end the strike. He refused until those in solitary confinement were returned to the general ward. On the 70th day of his hunger strike, he fell unconscious and was taken to the prison’s hospital.

Nouri went on a second hunger strike on March 1,, 2014 to protest against the neglect shown towards three ill dervishes held in Cell Block 350. When news about his hunger strike, and strikes by other prisoners, was published, more than 2,000 Gonabadi dervishes gathered in front of Tehran’s prosecutor’s office to show their solidary. The authorities responded by transfering the three ill dervishes to a general hospital. Nouri ended the hunger strike 15 days later.

Before his arrest, Nouri studied civil engineering at Shiraz University. He is currently studying law while serving his sentence at Evin Prison.

Source: IranWire

IranWire| Does Khamenei Have Cancer?

Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei was released from hospital on September 15, a week after undergoing prostate surgery. Following the surgery, Dr. Alireza Marandi, head of his medical team, said he would be kept in hospital for a further three to five days. He also advised the ayatollah to take it easy, not take on a heavy workload, and avoid certain tasks. Khamenei’s website, however, reports that the Supreme Leader has made a full recovery.

According to Dr. Marandi, Khamenei’s prostate surgery was straightforward, taking only half an hour under local anesthesia. Marandi said the surgery was a routine procedure: “Old or middle-aged men’s prostates often become enlarged, so surgery is quite common among this age group.” He added that Khamenei had a pre-existing condition but provided no further details.

Mehdi Khalaji, an Iranian-American Islamic studies scholar and political analyst, pointed out that rumors about Khamenei having cancer are nothing new. “Iran’s political system means that the physical condition of the leader is treated as a national security issue,” he told IranWire, and this was as true for the Shah as it has been for Iran’s Supreme Leaders.

In the past, the public has had very little access to information about Khamenei’s various ailments. But recently, the Persian-language newspaper Keyhan of London published parts of an interview that referred to Khamenei’s medical condition. During the interview, which was recorded in 2012,  the son of former president Hashemi Rafsanjani, Mehdi Hashemi, was asked whether Khamenei had cancer. “His cancer is cured,” he said.

It’s not just the press and the general public who have raised the subject of Khamenei’s medical situation. Dr. James J. Elist, former Honorary Co-Chairman of the Physician Advisory Board of the US Congress and a Diploma of the American Board of Urology, tells IranWire it’s been a topic of conversation among medical experts and physicians, many of whom have questioned whether Khamenei might have cancer.

Dr. Elist says that since there’s a lack of accurate medical information about the Supreme Leader available, outside medical analyses remains at the level of speculation and conjecture. However, judging from what Khamenei’s medical team has said, it’s reasonable to assume that the surgery could be related to prostate cancer.

According to Dr. Elist, if Khamenei has had prostate cancer in the past, he would have most likely undergone one of two kinds of surgery. The recent procedure most likely addressed complications resulting from a previous operation. “The two types [of procedures] are open surgery on the prostate and resection of the prostate,” he explains. “In both cases, one of the frequent complications can be the stricture of the urethra”. Based on comments from Khamenei’s doctors, it has been suggested that the Supreme Leader underwent a surgical procedure to reopen his urinary tract, and this could have been done under local anesthesia. “But it is also possible that he has had this operation before and his prostate cancer has recurred,” Dr. Elist says. “They will want to know if this is indeed the case, so they will have taken sample tissues. Sampling tissues can be done under local anesthesia as well.”

An Issue of National Security

Dr. Elist does suggest another possibility. “If Ayatollah Khamenei did not have prostate cancer before and has not undergone surgery before, it is possible that recently they found out that the prostate had been enlarged or his PSA [prostate-specific antigen] levels have gone up.” The blood’s PSA level often increases in men with prostate cancer. “In this case, the half an hour his doctors mentioned was to verify whether he has prostate cancer or not,” says Dr. Elist. “If the test results are positive then he will need to have an operation in the next few months.”

“Except in these two cases I have mentioned, there are no other situations in which the prostate can be operated on in half an hour unless the problem is a urinary tract obstruction or hematuria [blood in the urine],” Dr. Elist says. “In these two cases, the problem can be resolved with a catheter.”

The fact that Dr. Marandi told Ayatollah Khamenei to lighten his workload and avoid strenuous tasks could suggest complications. From Dr. Elist’s perspective, it’s possible that  “either the urinary tract has developed strictures or the cancer has recurred.”

“It is quite possible that Ayatollah Khomeini has undergone prostate surgery before,” he says.

The potential political consequences are hugely important. Mehdi Khalaji points to Ayatollah Khomeini’s ailments and Mohammad Reza Shah’s cancer, both of which were kept secret for a long time. “Ayatollah Khomeini had a stroke in 1986 and became comatose,” he says. From 1986 to 1989, a number of crucial historical events took place, “from the conclusion of the war [between Iran and Iraq] to the removal of Ayatollah Montazeri [as heir apparent to Khomeini], to the fatwa against Salman Rushdie and the revision of the constitution. But later, when the evidence came to light, we realized that in 1986 Khomeini was actually on death’s doorstep.”

In the case of the Shah, Khalaji points out, even Queen Farah did not know about his cancer until a few months before leaving Iran. “The Shah’s cancer affected his decisions; it made him a passive decision-maker,” Khalaji says. “If the Shah did not have cancer, major events could have gone in another direction.”

Dr. Elist also points to the possibility of a “change of direction” as a result of illnesses. In addition to Mohammad Reza Shah’s cancer, he cites other figures who have suffered from prostate cancer: Former Secretary of State Colin Powell, former presidential candidate Bob Dole, General Norman Schwarzkopf and Nelson Mandela. “Who knows how this illness affected decision-making and changed people’s lives?”

“The wrong diet, especially fatty foods; genetic factors; race and age are all important in prostate cancer,” Dr. Elist says. “But there are other factors too, like tension, anxiety, constant stress and sleep deprivation, which can affect the body’s defense system and lead to sudden trouble such as cancer or the spread of cancer.”

But Mehdi Khalaji has another scenario in mind. “I do not think the operation was really prostate surgery,” he says, “and I do not think Ayatollah Khamenei was hospitalized the day that they say he was. It could be that all of it was staged and we have no idea how serious the operation was.”

He is only certain about one thing: “The physical condition of the Leader is a national security issue.”

Source: IranWire

Trading Sex on Facebook, Iranian Style

Trading Sex on Facebook, Iranian Style

The photos are something like the virtual equivalent of an Amsterdam red light district flesh window. They feature semi-nude young women with tattoos and heavy make-up, each introduced with one or two sentences. The picture for Baran is accompanied by this caption: “She is rather expensive, serves only Tehran, and charges double for a full night.”

Early this week Kamal Hadianfar, commander of Iran’s Cyber Police, reported that authorities have identified 135 Facebook pages engaged in online prostitution. “We have taken action against a number of them and others on the list of the Morality Police,” he said.

Despite the Islamic Republic’s strict social codes and severe punishments for sex workers, prostitutes appear on the streets of Tehran every night. Authorities routinely raid brothels, called ‘team houses’ by the police, and arrested women are typically sentences to years in prison and lashes. Occasionally state television broadcasts confessions by prostitutes, their faces camouflaged, who talk about their sad lives and repent.

The severity of the state’s punishment for sex workers who are arrested on the street or through conventional brothels has increasingly pushed prostitution onto social media, where sex workers and their clients can connect more securely than on a Tehran street corner. Facebook pages now serve as online sex shops, where pimps and madams, customers, aspiring sex workers, and pranksters vie for each other’s attention.

One of these pages has more than 21,000 followers. The admin of this page is called “Aunt Mary” and the followers address her as such in their comments. Aunt Mary last posted yesterday, uploading three new photos. “My dears, this is Sahar, my sexy love…only in Tehran,” the post reads. “She does not go anywhere else. The cost for the night is half a million [about $190]. Whoever insults her will be blocked. Cash up front.”

I do a Google search on the pictures. All three have been published before on Facebook pages Duff Persian, Hot Duff II, andDuff Tehran. In the course of one day the pictures received more than 2,000 ‘likes’ and 823 comments. Some comments have objected to what Sahar, or perhaps Aunt Mary, charges, and some have tried to bargain the price down. Others have posted sexual jokes and a few have left a telephone number and asked Aunt Mary to contact them swiftly.

A few women have posted comments to advertise themselves, edging in on the space Aunt Mary has created for the girls she runs. “If you are looking for good sex, please include your phone number in your Facebook message along with a fully charged pay as you go SIM card writes Negar. “The priority is with those who pay for more for the SIM card …I am not a SIM card thief. If you don’t trust me, don’t waste my time.”

Pay As You Go SIM card thief or “charge thief” is a common refrain on these pages. These profiles customarily require a fully-paid SIM card number first before contacting male customers, a practice that seems largely designed to defraud potential customers. The profile names are usually a combination of a female name and a lewd prostitution term. Many users have purchased the credit for Pay As You Go from Iran Cell mobile company, but have not received the expected service. An example can be seen right below the above comment. “Please don’t trust them,” Hamed writes. “They are all alike. Twice I have purchased credit for…but when I sent it I got no answer and was immediately blocked.”

Many have posted comments similar to that of Hamed. That is likely why other pages have emerged with names such as “Fighting Charge Thieves” or “Introducing Charge-Stealing Prostitutes.” Some pages or profiles use phrases like “Real Sex Without Charge” to advertise themselves, like one page that has 14,000 followers.

The page’s administrator explains that the page is not a charge thief and lists certain rules. “This page has become like a zoo,” reads the admin’s latest post. “I have said a hundred times that if you want sex, send us a message with your phone number + the name of the person you want + your town. We do not verify numbers posted in our comments section, so you might get swindled. To have your turn you must get the account number of the person you want by phone and deposit 100 thousand tomans [around $37] into the account.”

The admin has said similar things in previous posts, but this time, in a more patient tone, he points out the difference between a ‘real prostitute’ and a charge thief. “A real prostitute is so busy that she has no time to answer your message, but a charge thief answers you immediately because she wants your payment.”

Despite the admin’s admonishments they are many phone numbers included in the comments which follow. I begin dialling them one by one. The first number I dial does not answer, and I scan through comments on various pages and dial numerous numbers. Most do not answer or do not ring at all. At last a young man picks up. He is 25-years-old, from Varamin, a city near Tehran and knows nothing at all about the page on which his number has appeared. When I explain he laughs aloud and says, “I have never visited such a page. They are pulling my leg. I mean my friends. Please, please give me the page address. I want to visit it and see what they have written about me.”

Among the comments there is one from someone who calls herself Annaz. “I don’t want credit or money before sex,” she writes. “I just want good sex.” I call the number and after a few rings a man with a deep voice and a Kurdish accent picks up the phone:

- Sorry to bother you, but I would like to speak to Annaz.

- That’s me.

- You’re Annaz?

- Lady, a bastard has published my number on the Internet under the name of Annaz. I have been going crazy. I have no idea what they have written, but every day seven or eight people call and ask how much for Annaz. As God is my witness, I don’t know any Annaz.

The next person who answers is Parsa, who talks without embarrassment. “I left my number and two days later Auntie called me,” he says, “But I found the price too high…I had to deposit the money upfront. I didn’t go for it. When they get the money they disappear.” Parsa is 21, knows all the pages, and says that his friend has been swindled. The friend deposited the money but was not contacted afterwards. Parsa says he too has been duped like this. “One time I bought credit and the guy turned out to be a thief,” says he. “Now I am not fooled so easily.”

Once he managed to find a woman through the pages. I asked him whether he found her picture attractive. “No way. I think these pictures are all fake. I just posted a comment below the picture. Then a man who had seen the comment sent me a private message with the number of a woman. He wrote that she does her job well and she is not very expensive. I was with her a few times, she charges 30 thousand tomans. If you don’t have a place of your own you can go to her place for 40 thousand tomans. It has become a little repetitive, that’s why I left a new message.”

I ask Parsa for the number of the now repetitive woman, who checks with her first and later tells me that she is expecting my call. Her name is Mahnaz and Parsa says that she is around 40, but when she picks up her voice is thin and she doesn’t sound that old. I ask her whether she has seen the Facebook pages. “No, I have not!” she answers immediately. “But I’ve heard about them.”

I don’t ask anything else, there is a pause of a few seconds. “I’ve heard that they put up pictures,” she says, finally. “You can be sure that someone in this job would never publish her picture or her number. And they would not take money upfront. The money has to be counted before your own eyes and be left where you can see it. When you have done your job then you pick up the money. These people are a bunch of con artists. I don’t know why men are so clueless and fall for it. But of course men deserve what they get.”

She laughs out loud when she finishes her sentence. She had agreed to speak to me on the condition that I did not ask her any personal questions. “I answered the call and talked to you because Parsa is very dear to me. Otherwise I would not answer the phone if I cannot recognize the number.”

I go back to the Facebook pages, and select ten photos from each page to run through Google search. I find most of them on other pages and some have been copied from foreign magazines, though it appears the admin has chosen only those who strongly resemble Iranian women. Only one-page features pictures that I cannot find elsewhere, but here the faces are completely covered, only the bodies show. Each day the admin posts the specifications of the women who are available that day. “For the weekend Nila: 168 height, 59 weight, 85 chest. 250 thousand tomans per hour.” Previous posts explain that the money is paid after sex.

I read the comments below the posting. “Don’t trust this bastard,” writes a user named Hamid. “Yesterday he gave me number to call and make arrangements with a girl called Shadi. I rang. Now the Cyber Police has called and has summoned me to go there on Saturday. Be careful, guys. It is all lies, I swear. I am worried sick until Saturday.”

A few hours later when I revisit the page Hamid’s comment has been deleted.

The Boys Are Back in Town: Iran’s Annual Charm Offensive Begins Amidst Fading Hopes for a Deal

In an autumn rite of passage that has become as predictable as the start of school and the changing of the leaves, this week has seen the launch of the Iranian government’s annual American charm offensive, as senior officials began arriving in New York for the United Nations General Assembly meetings. This year, as last, Tehran’s typical U.S. agenda of speeches, media appearances, gala dinners and other festivities is amplified by intense talks on the nuclear issue.

However, in contrast to last fall, when Iran’s UNGA activities seemed to herald a historic breakthrough on the nuclear impasse and even, perhaps, on the bilateral estrangement, the mood has dampened significantly. The stalemated nuclear negotiations have replaced anticipation with anxiety. The flurry of bilateral and multilateral discussions that will take place around this year’s UNGA will determine if a comprehensive nuclear accord can be achieved. This increasingly looks to be a make-or-break moment for diplomacy with Tehran.

As New Yorkers know all too well, the annual UNGA meetings transform the city into a carnival of world leaders and motorcades. But for Iran, the gatherings inevitably assume outsized significance, offering a rare opportunity for the country’s leadership to occupy the world stage from its adversary’s home turf.

During his own eight-year tenure as president, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei — who now serves as Iran’s supreme leader — made the New York trip only once, a 1987 visit that happened to coincide with a U.S. raid (and subsequent destruction) of an Iranian mine-laying ship in the Gulf. During the same session, American efforts to win a UN Security Council arms embargo on Iran ended with a statement by the permanent five Security Council members threatening sanctions unless Tehran accepted a cease-fire with Iraq. Needless to say, it was not a particularly amicable visit.

Another decade passed before Iranian leaders began contemplating a return to UNGA. Reformist president Mohammad Khatami’s multiple speeches in New York, where he promoted his vision of a ‘dialogue among civilizations’ helped energize his embattled supporters at home and won Iran new respectability in the international community. Khatami’s hard-line successor, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, astutely recognized the public-relations bonanza offered by UNGA, and over the course of his two terms in office managed to use his annual New York bully pulpit to provoke offense, outrage and ridicule among Iranians and the world.

Rouhani’s maiden American voyage last year came on the heels of his unexpected election. It was preceded by a well-scripted drumbeat of signals from Iran, such as the release of several prominent political prisoners, innovative Twitter diplomacy by Rouhani and his foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, and a conciliatory Washington Post op-ed piece penned by the new president.

The preparations paid off; the 2013 UNGA saw a series of unprecedented overtures between Washington and Tehran, including a bilateral discussion among the Iranian and American foreign ministers and a telephone conversation between the two countries’ presidents. Although secret talks were already well underway, the dialogue that took place on the sidelines of UNGA provided an official imprimatur for the newly revitalized process, as well as significant momentum toward hammering out the November 2013 interim deal.

This time around, however, with the deadline for concluding a final agreement only two months away, the mood is decidedly downbeat. Even after a year of serious and somewhat productive nuclear talks, the core issue of Iranian enrichment capabilities remains unresolved, and all available evidence suggests that the Supreme Leader has dug in his heels. From the start, both sides understood enrichment would prove one of the toughest issues to resolve; however, Tehran’s unwillingness to contemplate any reduction in its current enrichment capacity undercuts the implicit bargain undertaken last November, in which Washington backed away from its maximalist position on enrichment in expectation that Tehran would do the same.

UNGA will provide plenty of opportunity for working through these and other differences, but a creeping pessimism has infected even the biggest boosters of diplomacy with Iran. If Khamenei were prepared to compromise, the deal would already be done; Iran gains no real leverage from the perpetuation of severe multilateral sanctions that have eroded its economy. The alternatives to a diplomatic breakthrough remain profoundly unattractive for all sides. However, unless the discussions over the course of the next few weeks generate a quantum leap forward on the essence of this dispute — Iran’s proximity to nuclear breakout — watch for the debate to shift markedly over the course of October.

Reflecting the prevailing cynicism, this year’s UNGA endeavors have included little preemptive Iranian fanfare to smooth its delegation’s U.S. welcome. Instead of happy homecomings for imprisoned dissidents, this year’s visit was preceded by the announcement that a group of young Iranians who filmed themselves dancing to the pop song “Happy” had been sentenced to lashes and jail terms. Zarif’s Twitter account has been silent for months, and Rouhani only publicly confirmed his decision to travel to New York earlier this week. And — so far — the Obama administration has wisely refrained from fueling the kind of breathless speculation about the possibilities for a presidential rendezvous that some U.S. officials indulged in last year.

Still, the show must go on. A bid to join the Rouhani revelry remains a hot ticket, and even if Iran’s standard public relations juggernaut seems a bit stale, half the American punditocracy will line up to hear Zarif’s justification for the two-month detention of an Iranian-American journalist as a purely internal matter. (Not surprisingly, he has yet to be asked about any other imprisoned dual nationals, such as former Marine Amir Hekmati who has now spent more than three years in Iranian prisons on trumped-up charges.) And the regional context provides a convenient distraction for the Iranians’ audiences, as the rising threat posed by the dystopian furies of extremist violence in the Middle East overshadows the world’s persistent concerns about Iran’s nuclear ambitions.

Meanwhile, the real action will unfold off-stage, among the teams of negotiators seeking to hammer out a formula for ending the impasse over Iran’s nuclear program. Everything else is a sideshow.

Source:

Suzanne Maloney

Senior Fellow, Foreign Policy, Center for Middle East Policy

Bahai| Unerfüllte Versprechen – Irans Versagen in der Menschenrechtspolitik

Der Iran hat eine Reihe von Versprechen hinsichtlich des Umgangs mit den Bahá’í im eigenen Land in keinster Weise eingelöst, heißt es in einem aktuellen Bericht der Internationalen Baha’í-Gemeinde. 

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Der Bericht „Unfulfilled Promises” (dt.”Unerfüllte Versprechen“) wurde Anfang dieser Woche im UN-Hauptquartier in Genf vorgestellt. Dieser geht auf 34 spezifische Zusagen ein, die der Iran im Februar 2010 beim UN-Menschenrechtsrat gemacht hatte und die in irgendeiner Weise dazu beitragen könnten,  schwerwiegenden Menschenrechtsverletzungen gegenüber den Baha’i entgegenzuwirken.

“Der Iran hat vollkommen darin versagt, seinen Verpflichtungen nachzukommen, die er vor vier Jahren in Hinblick auf die Verbesserung der Menschenrechtslage der Baha‘i, eingegangen ist,“ kommentierte Diane Alai, Sprecherin der Internationalen Baha‘i-Gemeinde (BIC) bei den Vereinten Nationen in Genf.

“Der Menschenrechtsrat beruht auf dem Standpunkt, dass sich seine Mitglieder für die Wahrung und Förderung der Menschenrechte ehrlich und aufrichtig einsetzen. Der Iran, mit seinen „unerfüllten Versprechungen“, ist ein trauriger Beweis für Diskrepanz zwischen der Rhetorik des Landes und seiner Realität“, so Alai.

Die Zusagen des Iran erfolgten im Rahmen des sogenannten Universal Periodic Review (UPR). Alle vier Jahre findet bei den Mitgliedstaaten im Rahmen des UPR Prozesses eine Prüfung ihrer Menschenrechtsbilanz statt. Allen Staaten werden die gleichen Bewertungskriterien auferlegt. Die erste UPR Prüfung des Iran erfolgte im Februar 2010, die nächste steht im Oktober 2014 an.

Während der Überprüfung im Jahr 2010 akzeptierte der Iran 123 von anderen Ländern gemachte Empfehlungen hinsichtlich der Verbesserung ihrer Menschenrechte.

Vier dieser Empfehlungen bezogen sich speziell auf den Umgang mit der Baha‘i-Gemeinde.

Drei der vier Empfehlungen, die der Iran akzeptierte, forderten insbesondere einen  “fairen und transparenten” Gerichtsprozess der sieben ehemaligen Baha‘i-Führungsmitglieder, der zeitgleich während des UPR im Jahr 2010 stattfand.

“Wie jeder weiß, war dieses Gerichtsverfahren durch zahlreiche Verletzungen eines ordnungsgemäßen Prozess geprägt – vom Ausschluss der Öffentlichkeit bis hin zur offensichtlichen Befangenheit der Richter”, sagte Alai. Das Urteil der Sieben gleiche nach Auskunft der Verteidiger “eher einer politischen Kundgebung, als einem rechtsgültiges Dokument“ und bringe „keine Belege für diese Unterstellungen hervor.“

Eine weitere Empfehlung fordert den Iran auf, diejenigen strafrechtlich zu verfolgen, die zu Hass gegen die Baha‘i anstiften.

“In der ersten Jahreshälfte von 2014 stieg die Zahl solcher Angriffe in den Medien drastisch an – von 55 im Januar auf mindestens 565 im Juni“, zitierte Alai Zahlen aus dem Bericht. „Die Regierung unternahm jedoch nichts dagegen, da diese Angriffe auf Veranlassung der Regierung geschahen“.

“Baha’i haben weiterhin keinen Zugang zu jeglicher Art von iranischen Medien, in denen sie falsche Aussagen und Anschuldigungen gegen sich und ihren Glauben widerlegen könnten. Die Falschdarstellungen ziele auf nichts weniger ab als die Bevölkerung gegen die Baha‘i aufzuwiegeln und ihre Verfolgung zu rechtfertigen“, sagte Alai.

Weitere 26 Empfehlungen betreffen Menschenrechte, wie den Schutz vor Folter oder Freiheit von wirtschaftlicher Diskriminierung oder auch Zugang zu Bildung, welcher den Baha’i in vergangenen Jahren ebenfalls vorenthalten wurde.

“Unser Bericht belegt, dass keine einzige dieser Verpflichtungen erfüllt wurde“, sagte Alai.

Derzeit sind mehr als 100 Baha‘i ausschließlich aufgrund ihrer religiösen Überzeugungen in Haft.

Bei der Präsentation des Berichts wurde auch Mahnaz Parakand, eine der Rechtsanwälte, die 2010 die sieben inhaftierten Baha‘i-Führer zu verteidigte, vorgestellt. Sie sagte, es sei klar gewesen, dass der Ausgang des Prozesses von vorneherein feststand. „Die Justiz ist zu einem Ort geworden, die die Freiheit der Menschen einschränkt”, sagte Parakand.

„Die Richter des Revolutionsgerichtes sind zu Maschinen geworden, die einfach die Urteile, die das Informationsministerium gefällt hat, unterschreiben. Die Art und Weise wie das Verfahren geführt wurde, zeigt, dass der gesamten iranischen Baha‘i-Gemeinde der Prozess gemacht wurde, nicht nur den sieben Führungsmitgliedern”, sagte Parakand.

New report on Iran’s failed promises on human rights

15 September 2014

— Iran has completely failed to live up to a series of promises it made regarding its treatment of Iranian Baha’is four years ago, says the Baha’i International Community in a new report.

Titled “Unfulfilled Promises“, and launched today at the United Nations headquarters in Geneva, the report discusses 34 specific pledges made by Iran in February 2010 at the UN Human Rights Council that in some way could address human rights violations faced by members of Iran’s Baha’i community.

“Iran has utterly failed in every case to fulfill the commitments it made to improve human rights in relation to its treatment of Baha’is when it stood before the Human Rights Council four years ago,” said Diane Ala’i, the BIC’s representative to the United Nations in Geneva, discussing the report.

“The Council is built on the idea that its members will be honest and sincere in their pursuit of human rights, and Iran’s record of ‘unfulfilled promises’ is a sad testimony of the gap between that country’s rhetoric and reality,” said Ms. Ala’i.

The pledges made by Iran came during a procedure known as the Universal Periodic Review (UPR). Held on each member state every four years, the UPR is designed to be a process that treats all states equally in considering their human rights records. Iran’s first review was in February 2010, and it will undergo its next review in October 2014.

During its 2010 review, Iran accepted 123 recommendations made by other countries about specific steps it could take to improve its human rights.

Four of those recommendations referred specifically to Iran’s treatment of the Baha’i community.

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  • Among other things, “Unfulfilled Promises” discusses the sharp rise in anti-Baha’i propaganda this year. As illustrated by this chart from the booklet, the number… »

Specifically, three recommendations accepted by Iran called for a “fair and transparent” trial for the seven imprisoned Iranian Baha’i leaders, who, in fact, were being tried at the time of the UPR, in 2010.

“Unfortunately, as everyone knows, that trial was marked by numerous violations of due process, from a closed courtroom to obvious judicial bias,” said Ms. Ala’i, noting that their lawyers have said the indictment against the seven was “more like a political announcement, rather than a legal document” that was “written without producing any proof for their allegations.”

Another recommendation called on Iran to “judicially prosecute” those who incite hatred against Baha’is.

“Yet, during the first half of 2014, the volume of such media attacks rose sharply, from 55 in January to at least 565 in June,” said Ms. Ala’i, recounting figures from the report. “Yet the government has done nothing, as these attacks are made at the government’s instigation.

“Baha’is continue to be denied access to any form of Iranian mass media where they could counter the false statements and allegations being made about them and their faith, the purpose of which is nothing less than an attempt to rouse the general population against the Baha’is and to justify the persecution of them,” said Ms. Ala’i.

Another 26 recommendations cover human rights, such as protection from torture or freedom from economic and educational discrimination, that have also been withheld from Iranian Baha’is in recent years.

“Our report shows, on a recommendation-by-recommendation basis, how none of these commitments have been fulfilled,” said Ms. Ala’i.

There are currently more than 100 Baha’is in prison, she noted, all held solely because of their religious beliefs.

Today’s launch, held in room XXIV at the Palais des Nations, also featured the presence of Mahnaz Parakand, one of the lawyers who helped to defend the seven imprisoned Baha’i leaders during their trial in 2010.

She said it was clear that the outcome of the trial had been pre-determined.

“The judiciary has become a place to limit the freedom of people,” said Ms. Parakand. “The judges of the revolutionary court have become machines that simply sign the sentences that had been decided by the Ministry of Information.

“Everything in the way the trial took place showed that it was the trial of the Baha’i community of Iran, not of the seven leaders,” Ms. Parakand said.

Iran cleric: They used to say loudspeakers were forbidden

Customers use computers at an Internet cafe in Tehran, May 9, 2011. (photo by REUTERS/Caren Firouz)

The issue of high-speed Internet has once again become a hot topic in the Iranian media with two prominent clerics addressing the issue and taking opposing sides. According to Ensaf News, Ayatollah Mohammad Reza Nekoonam, a prominent cleric in Qom, defended high-speed Internet during a question-and-answer session with university students in Tehran.

“We have put so much pressure on the Internet that our Internet is at the [speed] of a wagon,” Nekoonam said. “I say that instead of becoming like snails, let’s get on this world train. I have told my seminary students that it is necessary for you to sell the carpets underneath your feet and go buy a laptop or tablet. I said if you are not able to speak to a billion people, you are not worth anything. A Muslim is someone who is civilized, not someone who is an idiot.”

Nekoonam said that the debate over high-speed Internet is no different from those over the introduction of other technologies. He said it was the same when loudspeakers arrived, and some clerics initially called them haram. Then they said the same thing about the radio, then television, then video, and now there are satellites everywhere.

He compared the Internet to “a free mule” in that one should jump on and told others who don’t know how to use it to get out of the way, adding, “They don’t know how to us the Internet, use Facebook, so they say all of it is haram.” He warned, “The world has grown, and it is not in our hands, and it will grow more than this.”

Ayatollah Ahmad Alamulhudda, a member of the Assembly of Experts and Mashhad Friday Prayer leader, a position to which he was appointed by an institution that operates under the purview of the supreme leader’s office, said that Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei was opposed to high-speed Internet.

“Today the biggest calamity is at the Ministry of Communications,” said Alamulhudda Sept. 16. “While the supreme leader has given orders not to increase the speed of the Internet, we are witnessing the trampling of his orders. And the Internet is in the pockets of all the youth, and this issue alone is resulting in the spread of cursing in society.”

This “calamity” is the promise of Iran’s Communications Minsiter Mahmoud Vaezi, who said that the ministry planned to increase Internet speed in the country. He has been summoned to testify in parliament on the issue.

In discussing access to social media and videos posted online, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, in an interview with The National Interest, said, “There is a debate in our societies over how far the government should go to protect the population — particularly the youth — from what people in traditional societies consider obscene: profanity, pornography.” He called it a “debate that is ongoing inside Iran, and it’s a debate that will be settled by various people participating.”

Zarif’s “various people” will certainly be both elected and unelected government officials, clerics and to a limited extent the media outlets that will choose based on their editorial inclinations which commentary to highlight and which to diminish.

Source:AI-Monitor

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