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Internet in Iran

One of the most pressing concerns for ideological and totalitarian governments is the control of information. The manifestation of new internet technology has caused a temporary time out in that process. In the early days of the internet, although the number of users was very limited, and Farsi websites were not common yet, it was possible to access information online without restriction. Within a short time, the totalitarian government figured out the political danger this free space presented to their regime. The government started to filter the internet, beginning with websites with pornographic content and continuing to politically oriented sites. Later, social networks such as Facebook and Twitter were also filtered as they encouraged certain political and social developments. Internet speed has also become an instrument exploited by the government by intentionally disrupting internet access. However, these controls do not satisfy the totalitarians who are dreaming of a “national internet (intranet)” and total control of data. A couple of months ago, Reporters without Borders (RSF) released a report, labeling Iran, as well as China, Russia, Bahrain and Vietnam – the five enemy states of the internet. According to this report, Iran intends to increase its supervision on the net and create a “national” or “Halal” internet (intranet). (1)
Legal limitations
One of the tools the Iranian government uses to control the flow of information on the net is through the passing of laws and regulations that provide a legal credence to their actions. In 2001, the High Council of Cultural Revolution passed the “directive of the general policies of computer information networks” and it was signed by the Supreme Leader of the Islamic Republic. (2) This directive established a committee which consisted of representatives from the Ministry of Intelligence, Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance, national Radio and Television, and later representatives of the Islamic Publicity Organization joined as well. The responsibility of this committee was to determine which websites needed to be blocked. The cat and mouse game between the Iranian government and the internet users began that day. The government would block websites and the users would look for ways to evade the filtration. It went so far, that according to the councilor of the Iranian Judiciary, the number of blocked websites numbered over five million. Abdolsamad Khorramabadi, a reporter from Mehr news agency stated, “The majority of these websites contain immoral and anti-social content, and are legally blocked. People spend many hours every day on various websites and this action has destructive effects. The Internet inflicts much harm to the society and planning is needed to reduce these harms that are presented by enemies. The enemies are trying to attack our religious identity by misusing the internet.” (3) The protection of Iranian religious identity is the government’s main argument used to justify controlling the net.
Internet and Politics
Currently, the filtration of websites can be triggered by publicizing content incompatible with Islamic values, opposing the constitution, insulting the Supreme Leader, causing pessimism and disappointment in people regarding the legitimacy and efficiency of the Islamic regime and publicizing and propaganda for illegal parties. The filtration increases during specific political events. The government even tries to limit the flow of information by reducing internet connection speeds.
For instance, a short time before the 2009 Iranian presidential election, Facebook, the most popular social network in Iran, was blocked. Even G-mail and Yahoo email could not be accessed in Iran at times when protesters planned to hold demonstrations against the disputed outcome of the elections. In March 2012, Alef website reported that “access to e-mail services has slowed down last week too. This triggered protests from the users and the media, but neither communications officials nor security officials offered any response to the problem. Considering the fact that more and more businesses use e-mail, disconnecting the services without prior notice causes vast troubles. Apparently those engaged in cutting e-mail services do not know much about the dimensions of the anti-security outcomes and how much descent their actions cause among the intelligence specialists; and have no regard for public opinion and the Iranian people.” (4)
Fighting back against filtering
Iranian internet users have tried to fight back in two ways. The first method is through letter writing campaigns and protests to try and have their voices heard by the authorities. The second method is to try and create ways to go around the filtering to access websites. Some designers of these proxies such as Hossein Ronaghi Maleki have been sentenced to imprisonment.
In one instance, more than a hundred people active in the media signed a statement which objected to the actions of the “filtering committee” that had limited certain news agencies and news websites. The statement partly read, “One of the most important problems for the media to act in this area is the plurality of the decision making centers on the issue. It has adverse and costly effects when any of those decision making centers gain practical powers to enforce their view points in the media without having to offer any acceptable reasons or excuses or without any legal process. A nonrelated authority calling an official outlet and asking them to either omit some material from their page or face filtration, has become a trend that has been on going in the past year.” (5)
There are groups who try to provide people with anti-filter software and proxies so that they can surf the internet freely. For example, the Deutsche Welle Persian website has tried to open the path for its readers through this technique. (6) Another example of this would be the Committee against Censorship in Iran, or Iran Proxy which tries to teach ways of escaping filtration by creating different blogs. Hossein Ronaghi Maleki, an official of this committee who worked under the pseudonym Babak Khorramdin, was arrested and sentenced to 15 years of Tazir (calculated by Islamic metrics), after his real identity was discovered. (7)
The National Internet Project
When the Iranian government was faced with a wave of anti-filter software allowing users to get around the government sponsored filters, they decided to increase their control over cyber space through a new idea. BBC Persian reports that the Iranian government has proposed the idea of a “national internet” as a solution to the problem of internet connections and threats of cyber attacks. However, research by the BBC shows that the result of this project is a network only seen in North Korea. Observers warn that “Iran might give up walking on the information superhighway by cutting away from the internet and be satisfied with walking the alleys of an intranet, separated from the outside world.” (8)
The news of the efforts by the government to start the “national internet” and cut the connections to the global network has evoked fear in Iranian users. In reality, it is a step that if taken, Iranian users would be put on a separated island and would lose the ability to freely access information forever. Although this dream of the government and nightmare of the people has not yet been realized, many Iranian youth fear that the final phase of this project will soon be announced.
Free access to information: a basic right
According to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, free access to information is a basic human right and no government can infringe on this clear right. The 19th Article of the declaration reads: “Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.” However, the Iranian government has infringed on this right by passing laws, filtering internet websites, keeping internet speed low and disrupting the internet on specific days. If finalized, the project of a national internet would not leave any opportunity to access and distribute information freely.
Lastly, we can consider the free flow of information as a right which when violated, leads to the violation of other rights, because the people who can access information freely, can recognize their rights and can express the violation of their human rights to other citizens and people all around the world.
Sources:
1. http://en.rsf.org/special-report-on-internet-11-03-2013,44197.html
2. http://www.webcitation.org/5wUJOk7Fl
3. http://old.mehrnews.com/fa/NewsDetail.aspx?NewsId=784979
4. http://alef.ir/vdcbwab80rhba8p.uiur.html?144186
5. http://www.iran-emrooz.net/index.php/news2/45965
6. http://www.dw.de/%D8%AF%D9%88-%D8%B1%D8%A7%D9%87%DA%A9%D8%A7%D8%B1-%D8%AF%D9%88%DB%8C%DA%86%D9%87-%D9%88%D9%84%D9%87-%D8%A8%D8%B1%D8%A7%DB%8C-%D8%B9%D8%A8%D9%88%D8%B1-%D9%85%D9%88%D8%AB%D8%B1-%D8%A7%D8%B2-%D9%81%DB%8C%D9%84%D8%AA%D8%B1%DB%8C%D9%86%DA%AF/a-16458585
7. http://sahamnews.org/1390/04/58061
8. http://www.bbc.co.uk/persian/iran/2013/04/130423_l93_iran_internet.shtml

Source: Iran Human Rights Voice

 

Election:What Rouhani Victory Means for Iran

by Shaul Bakhash

            Hassan Rouhani’s surprising first round victory in the presidential elections represents a significant shift in the Iranian political landscape. In a field of candidates dominated by conservatives, Rouhani ran as a moderate. He questioned the necessity of the expanding security state and the constant oversight of student and civil society associations by the security agencies. He spoke of the need for greater freedom of press and speech. He devoted attention to women’s rights issues and promised to establish a ministry for women’s affairs.
      On the economy, while all the candidates promised to address problems of inflation and unemployment, Rouhani also focused on the institutions that make rational economic policy possible. He said one of his first acts would be to revive what were once key institutions such as the Plan Organization and the Supreme Economic Council, which outgoing President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad did away with.
      On foreign policy, during the election campaign the Supreme Leader, Ali Khamenei, continued to stress the need for resistance and steadfastness in the face of the ‘hegemonic’ West, warned against those who naively believe compromise with the West will gain Iran positive results, and ridiculed the idea that Iran was internationally isolated. But Rouhani, while appearing as steadfast as the other candidates on Iran’s nuclear rights, stressed the need to find a way out of the impasse with the West on the nuclear issue and to end Iran’s diplomatic isolation. He did not shy away, but rather defended, the softer line on the nuclear issue adopted by the government of President Mohammad Khatami, when Rouhani served as head of the National Security Council and as Iran’s chief nuclear negotiator. Lies den Rest dieses Beitrags

Election: US Reacts to Results

In two separate statements, the United States called on the Iranian government to heed its people’s will after the surprise election of Hassan Rouhani in the first round of presidential elections. The Obama administration also “remains ready to engage with the Iranian government directly” to reach a diplomatic solution in the long standoff over Tehran’s controversial nuclear program.

Statement by the White House Press Secretary
            We have seen the announcement by the Government of the Islamic Republic of Iran that Hojjatoleslam Doctor Hassan Rouhani has been declared the winner of Iran’s presidential election.  We respect the vote of the Iranian people and congratulate them for their participation in the political process, and their courage in making their voices heard.  Yesterday’s election took place against the backdrop of a lack of transparency, censorship of the media, Internet, and text messages, and an intimidating security environment that limited freedom of expression and assembly.  However, despite these government obstacles and limitations, the Iranian people were determined to act to shape their future.
            It is our hope that the Iranian government will heed the will of the Iranian people and make responsible choices that create a better future for all Iranians.  The United States remains ready to engage the Iranian government directly in order to reach a diplomatic solution that will fully address the international community’s concerns about Iran’s nuclear program.
Statement by Secretary of State John Kerry
            We have seen the announcement by Iran’s Interior Ministry that Hassan Rouhani has been declared the winner of the country’s 11th presidential election.
            We admire the courage of the Iranian people who went to the polls and made their voices heard in a rigidly controlled environment that sought to limit freedom of expression and assembly. We remain concerned about the lack of transparency in the electoral process, and the attempts to censor members of the media, the internet, and text messages. Despite these challenges, however, the Iranian people have clearly expressed their desire for a new and better future.
            President-elect Rouhani pledged repeatedly during his campaign to restore and expand freedoms for all Iranians. In the months ahead, he has the opportunity to keep his promises to the Iranian people.
            We, along with our international partners, remain ready to engage directly with the Iranian government. We hope they will honor their international obligations to the rest of the world in order to reach a diplomatic solution that will fully address the international community’s concerns about Iran’s nuclear program.

 

Election: Diverse Iranian Press Reaction

      The Iranian press issued both praise and warnings after the election of Hassan Rouhani. In their editorials, reformist publications said the victory by a moderate cleric reflected a rejection of the status quo in politics, the economy and foreign policy. Newspapers heralded the beginning of a new era. The conservative press said the high turnout proved the popularity and legitimacy of Iran’s unique form of theocratic rule and the “ineffectiveness” of sanctions. But hardline commentators also warned that the stunning outcome did not mean Iran would accept “foreign hegemony.” The following is a collection of editorials translated by the BBC Monitoring Service.

Editorial in reformist daily Mardom Salari
            „The vote for Hassan Rouhani is a sign that people reject the current state of affairs and want to remove power from the fundamentalists… It was a vote for his two great supporters, [disqualified candidates] Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani and Mohammad Khatami… The other main message is the public’s interest in changing the way nuclear negotiations are carried out.“
Commentary in reformist daily E’temad
            „People have shown that they disagree with the country’s foreign policy over the last eight years, which has led to four [UN] resolutions against Iran… Dissatisfaction over the disqualification of Ayatollah Hashemi Rafsanjani also gave a boost to Rouhani.“
Commentary in reformist daily E’temad
            „A new political landscape has been created… This opportunity could result in political prisoners being freed and the lifting of the siege on [reformist] presidential election candidates from 2009 and basic steps toward reforming the economy.“
Commentary in reformist daily Bahar
            „Even reformism is going toward moderation and the centre… Both sides must move toward the centre and protect the country’s political atmosphere from radicalisation.“
Commentary in reformist daily Sharq
            „The new president must take control of the economic plan… and start the engine of production, employment, and growth.“
Commentary in reformist daily Sharq
            Conservatives „should not be dissatisfied with this outcome, because the dominant discourse in the election was that of moderation, which is also among their main objectives.“
Editorial in moderate daily Aman
            „The economic burden on the have-nots, unprecedented unemployment and price increases are among the reasons for the high turnout. The impact of economic sanctions is key. It seems that people voted for Rouhani to express their wish for moderate, peaceful policies.“
Editorial in hardline conservative daily Jomhuri-ye Eslami
            The vote represents „the acceptance of moderation and the rejection of extremist thought… Moderation does not mean accepting international hegemony and ignoring the rights of the Iranian nation.“
Commentary in hardline conservative daily Javan
            „The Islamic Republic has passed this election test in a proper way… The winner should learn from the Ahmadinejad years and the reformist era and not follow the same path. Rather, he should address the concerns of the people.“
Commentary in hardline conservative daily Keyhan
            „Enemy think tanks are in a spin… Their mistake was in ignoring the depth of the people’s belief in the Islamic System… The election proved the ineffectiveness of sanctions… [It] also showed the world that there was no vote rigging and fraud in the free elections.“
Editorial in conservative daily Khorasan
            „The participation of 72.7% of eligible voters indicates that the people followed the Supreme Leader’s [Ayatollah Ali Khamenei] call for an epic political act to protect the country and the Islamic system.“

 

Election: Stunning Results and Videos

Hassan Rouhani, the lone reformist candidate, won Iran’s presidential election with 50.7 percent of the vote. The cleric avoided the need for a run-off by securing more than half of the nearly 37 million votes. Mohammad Baqer-Qalibaf, the mayor of Tehran, came in at a distant second with less than 17 percent, followed by Saeed Jalili, Mohsen Rezaei, Ali Akbar Velayati and Mohammad Gharazi. The interior ministry reported a high turnout of about 73 percent and declared about 1.2 million ballots invalid. The following chart reflects the final results.

  Lies den Rest dieses Beitrags

Latest on the Race: Final Polls – and Shifts

Iranian elections are highly unpredictable due to the number of candidates and short campaigns. Polls for the 2013 presidential race were initially all over the map. But some polls now indicate that the two leading candidates are Hassan Rouhani and Mohammad-Baqer Qalibaf. The other four are Mohammad Gharazi, Saeed Jalili, Mohsen Rezaei and Ali Akbar Velayati. Not all of the polls conducted in Iran are uniform in methodology. These are sample polls taken during the last two weeks of the campaign by Mehr News Agency in Iran and the U.S.-based Information and Public Opinion Solutions. About 50 million Iranians are eligible to vote on June 14.

IPOS: Rouhani Soars, Voters Begin to Decide

Mehr: Qalibaf Slips

 

 

Old War Haunts New Election

by Garrett Nada and Helia Ighani

A quarter century later, the Iran-Iraq War looms over Iran’s presidential election as if it happened yesterday. All six candidates participated in the grizzliest modern Middle East conflict as fighters, commanders or officials. Over the past month, the campaign has evolved into a feisty competition over who sacrificed and served the most in the eight-year war.
A leading candidate lost a leg. Another candidate commanded the Revolutionary Guards. A third liberated an oil-rich frontline city. A fourth brokered the dramatic ceasefire.

            During the final debate on June 7, candidates invoked their wartime experience during the “Holy Defense,” as it is officially dubbed in Iran, as a top credential for taking office. It clearly shaped the worldviews of all six, despite their disparate political affiliations as reformists, hardliners or independents.
            But experience during the 1980-1988 war is also emerging as an unspoken credential in facing the future, specifically a confrontation with the outside world over Iran’s controversial nuclear program. The debate resonated with language of resistance that echoed from the war, which claimed up to 1 million casualties.
            Iran’s presidential contest illustrates how the war generation is now competing to take over the leadership from the first generation of revolutionaries. Four out of the six candidates were connected to the Revolutionary Guards, Iran’s most powerful military organization. Over the past decade, the Guards have also played an increasing role in the economy and politics. Veterans won nearly a fifth of parliament’s 290 seats in 2004.
            The six candidates had vastly different roles. Lies den Rest dieses Beitrags

Latest on the Race: Two Candidates Drop Out

Two candidates – one hardliner and one reformer  have quit Iran’s presidential race, leaving six competing in the June 14 poll. Gholam Ali Haddad-Adel, a “principlist” hardliner and ex-parliamentary speaker, dropped out on June 10. Mohammad Reza Aref, a reformist and former vice president, followed on June 11. He received a letter from former President Mohammad Khatami advising him to step down. 
One reformer, two independents and three conservatives now remain in the running. The only candidate to gain from the smaller slate of candidates is Hassan Rouhani, who is now the lone reformist candidate. Khatami and other reformist leaders have declared their support for Rouhani, a cleric and former secretary of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council. Haddad-Adel did not officially endorse any other candidate. The following are excerpts from their withdrawal statements.

Gholam Ali Haddad-Adel
       “I announce my withdrawal from the presidential race to help promote the conservative victory… I hope that the conservatives win in the first round, but if it goes to the second round, the competition will be between two conservatives.
      “With my withdrawal I ask the dear people to strictly observe the criteria of the Supreme Leader of the Revolution (Ayatollah Ali Khamenei) when they vote for candidates… I advise the dear people to make a correct decision so that either a principlist wins in the first round, or if the election runs to a second round, the competition be between two principlists.”
Mohammad Reza Aref
      “At dusk on Monday… I received a letter from Mohammad Khatami… He said it would not be wise for me to remain in the race…In consideration of Mr. Khatami’s explicit opinion, and the experiences of two past presidential elections, I declare my withdrawal from the election campaign.”

 

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