Stories from Quick Reads and Iran
Global Voices collaborators the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran released a newly written report yesterday entitled “High Hopes, Tempered Expectations: Views from Iran on the Nuclear Negotiations.”
The report engaged with 28 members of Iranian civil society including former members of the Iranian Parliament, journalists, academics, lawyers, economists, filmmakers, writers, publishers, actresses, playwrights, activists, and family members of political prisoners. The key finding was unanimous support for the nuclear negotiations and an agreement to lift sanctions. The following are some of the key findings made from this sample group.
• Seventy-one percent of respondents expect economic benefits from an accord, typically citing increased investment and oil revenues, and gains to employment, manufacturing, and growth. However, one-fifth of those expecting economic gains believe these benefits could be lost to ordinary Iranians due to governmental mismanagement.
• Twenty-five percent of all respondents expect any economic benefits would reach only the upper levels of society and those connected to power, due to entrenched and rampant corruption and the administration’s lack of authority to confront rival centers of power.
• Sixty-one percent of the respondents believe a deal would improve the chances of achieving political and cultural reforms, as the administration could now turn its attention to such issues and it would be significantly strengthened politically in its ability to enact change.
• Thirty-six percent expected no improvement in political or cultural freedoms. Some cited the Rouhani administration’s lack of power and authority, especially vis-à-vis the legislative and judicial branches and Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ali Khamenei. Others questioned Rouhani’s willingness to push forward with reforms, noting his few efforts even in the spheres that are under the president’s direct control.
This post first appeared on Arseh Sevom's Dar Sahn page.
Iran’s deputy interior minister announced that the police and the intelligence ministry would be monitoring the internet and social media for activity regarding the upcoming elections in the country.
In a press conference in Tehran during the week of June 1, 2015, Deputy Interior Minister Hossein Zolfaghari announced that a “Security Committee” to monitor election-related activities would be created earlier than expected. “The security committee will be made up of representatives from the police, Revolutionary Guards, army, and state radio and television.” Zolfaghari also added that similar committees would be created throughout Iran.
In view of the sensitive situation on Iran’s western borders and the movements of terrorist groups such as IS in the area, the upcoming Iranian elections will take place in an atmosphere of security.
The deputy interior minister has informed the Persian-language media that 60,000 polling stations would be set up for the elections of members of parliament and members of the Assembly of Experts and 300,000 people will be working with the government in this process.
A growing number of social media users in Iran combined with speedy information circulation have Iranian authorities seriously concerned. In addition to monitoring online sources, the security committee will create a “security map” to identify sensitive areas for upcoming elections.
Discussions regarding the implementation of “intelligent” filtering have proliferated Internet policy discussions within Iran. “Intelligent” filtering is a process whereby they filter select content on a social media platform, rather than the entire site. Our recent research covered the extent of this program on Instagram. In response to “intelligent’ filtering discussions, Abdolsamad Khorramabadi, an advisor to the Committee Charged with Determining Criminal Content (CCDOC) told Tabnak news on May 5, “Facebook will definitely not be included in this type of [smart] filtering, and will remain completely blocked.”
Commenting on the policy on May 14, the New York based International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran stated,
The continuation of the Facebook ban reflects the profound fear with which Iranian officials view social media networks, which have proved enormously popular in Iran, particularly among the younger generation.
Previous Iranian discussions of “intelligent” filtering on social networks never breached how the government would implement this program on networks that use HTTPS protocol, such as Facebook. The only known implementation of this program has been through the unencrypted Instagram API.
For further information on this announcement see the International Campaign for Human Right's recent report: “Iranian Officials Re-Affirm Facebook Will Remain Completely Blocked in Iran.” For technical understanding of “intelligent” filtering, see Frederic Jacob's Instagram testing and analysis on GitHub.
Iran's Minister of ICT Suggests Instagram Will Not Be (Completely) Blocked Until an Alternative Is Found
Iran's leading reformist newspaper, Shargh, ran an article this past Sunday entitled: “The promises of the Minister of ICT to clear the problems of mobile social media.” The focus of Iran's Minister of Information and Communication Technology Mahmoud Vaezi was the filtering status of popular mobile applications, with a particular focus on Instagram.
He told Shargh the following:
اصلا نگران نباشید. تصمیم مشخص ما آن است که فعلا برنامای برای محدودیت فعالیت شبکهای اجتماعی موبایلی نداریم و قطعا زمانی این موضوع را اعلام خواهیم کرد که جایگزیهای مناسبی برای این شبکها در داخل کشور ایجاد شده باشد.
You should not be worried. Our policy is that we will not restrict the activities of any mobile social media, and when we do announce it, it will be when we find an alternative for this network inside the country.
The popularity of mobile applications has led to some directives from institutions outside of the current administration's hands, such as the Judiciary for filtering. Shargh noted:
بعد از چندیبار تذکر از سوی نهادهای بالادستی به وزارت ارتباطات مبنی بر ارائه برنامای جهت نظارت هرچه بیشتر بر محتوای این شبک ها، «فیلترینگ هوشمند» به عنوان اولویت برنامای دولت مطرح شد زیرا واعظی وزیر ارتباطات معتقد است تمام آنچه از طریق این شبکها منتشر مشود، شامل محتوای نامناسب نیست، بلکه نزدیک به 90درصد مطالبی که روی این شب ها قرار مگیرد، جزء محتوای پاک است.
After a few warnings given to government by higher authorities, the ministry decided to use smart filtering, which will be the priority in the government’s program to monitor social networks, because [Minister for ICT] Vaezi believes all the materials published by these networks are not bad. Close to 90% of the materials publicized on these networks are clean materials.
Current smart filtering of Instagram pages means Iran-based mobile users are blocked from viewing selected pages.
Following the publication of this post, one Internet researcher, Amir Rashidi noted the Minister's statement regarding no viable ‘alternatives’ is a political form of appeasement between hardline elements (such as in the judiciary) and those who support more Internet freedom (such as the Rouhani administration). As noted in the Tweet below by researcher Nariman Gharib, Lenzor exists as a local Iranian alternative to Instagram.
@maasalan there is an alternative right now in Iran. Lenzor
— Nariman Gharib (@ListenToUs) April 12, 2015
— Amir Rashidi (@Ammir) April 12, 2015
Iran's Foreign Minister Javad Zarif penned a response to the letter 47 Republican U.S. Senators sent to Iranian leaders. The letter was in opposition to nuclear negotiations with Iran over its nuclear program. Zarif was quick to pen the response, and tweet back to the Republican Senator Tom Cotton who originally tweeted the letter to Zarif, President Hassan Rouhani, and the Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei.
— Tom Cotton (@SenTomCotton) March 9, 2015
— Javad Zarif (@JZarif) March 10, 2015
Mohammad Moghimi, the attorney of the Iranian activist and cartoonist Atena Faraghdani was arrested on 10 June following a visit to his client in jail. His charges are based on the fact that he shook Faraghdani's hand. Faraghdani was recently sentenced to 12.5 years in prison for posting drawings and content critical of the government on her Facebook page.
According to the Human Rights Activist News Agency, Moghimi has been transferred to ward 10 of Rajai Shahr Prison in Karaj. His bail has been set to 20 million tomans -approximately $7000 USD. It is likely Faraghdani will face similar charges.
— Mansoureh Mills (@Mansourehmi) June 14, 2015
— Katniss/Lisbeth (@shokufeyesib) June 16, 2015
The social media campaign for Faraghdani's release can be followed under the #freeAtena hashtag.
This post first appeared on iranhumanrights.org and is published here in collaboration with the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran.
Tehran Mayor Mohammad Bagher Ghalibaf said last week that the Tehran Municipality is prepared to enter negotiations with the Iranian Judiciary to convert the Evin Prison complex in northwestern Tehran into a public park.
For decades, the notorious Evin Prison has been one of the primary facilities where Iranian political prisoners have been detained, interrogated, tortured, and executed. Some of the worst testimonies about torture and forced confessions at Evin are related to at least three separate wards Iran’s Intelligence Ministry and the IRGC operate within the complex, unmonitored by the Iranian Judiciary.
On January 21, during the aftermath of the Charlie Hebdo attacks in France, Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei penned an open letter to the ‘youth in Europe and North America’ defending Islam, and the Western world's skewed reception of the religion. He also started tweeting the sentiments of the letter on his @khamenei_ir twitter account, starting the hashtag #Letter4U. A closer look of this hashtag indicates it remains active through bots, which are still crawling through Twitter four months after the launch of the campaign.
— Khamenei.ir (@khamenei_ir) January 21, 2015
In late March Morgan Carlston noted that spam bots were promoting the hashtag on Twitter.
Morgan elaborated in a blog post:
There are hundreds if not thousands of accounts, most of them with over 10000 tweets. Twitter has a limit of 1000 tweets per day, and the accounts seem to have been created with this in mind.
Many of the accounts use fake photos taken from a variety of places. Some of them show celebrities, while others journalists or other media personalities.
— Morgan Carlston (@MorganCarlston) March 22, 2015
David Masad, a computational science researcher retrieved the tweet rhythm for the hashtag between May 8th to the 11th, and found the image below, which indicates that bots are still being deployed to spread tweets with the #letter4u hashtag, along with a link to Khamenei's website. Mason explained in an email to Global Voices,
The chart shows the exact same number of tweets using the hashtag being tweeted at precise, regular intervals, with no changes based on the time of day. Human conversations go in bursts, exhibit cycles based on times of day that people are in Twitter, and in general are *not* regular.
26 year old British-Iranian Goncheh Ghavami was arrested in Iran on June 2014 for protesting for equal access for women during sporting events. She was arrested after she attempted to attend a men-only volleyball match at Azadi Indoor Stadium in Tehran. International petitions have been ongoing for her release, until her release on March 31, 2015. Her brother Iman Ghavami posted on petition.org, where many had signed for her release of the news:
Mar 31, 2015 — I have big news for you.
Today I can tell you that Ghoncheh is free! As we were celebrating Iranian New year, Iranian Government wiped out the rest of my sister's sentence. Ghoncheh will not have to spend another day, another hour in prison.
This is amazing news and I wanted you to hear from me directly. You stood by us during those difficult months. You gave my family courage and hope. The uncertainty of autumn and the dark clouds of winter have gone. And the sun once again is shining for my family. Spring is here.
My mum has finally become her old happy self and has found peace again. My mum and I will not forget your generous support and thank you sincerely. Together we brought Ghoncheh home. Ghoncheh also asked me to thank you all for your support.
This has been the best spring for my family. Hopefully this spring brings happiness and peace to all Iranians and all of you.
London based Iranian journalist Masih Alinejad won the 2015 Women's Rights Award at the Geneva Summit for Human Rights and Democracy for her Facebook page “My Stealthy Freedom” this past week. The page invites Iranian women to post pictures of themselves without a Hijab, in defiance of Iran's Islamic laws that enforce compulsory hijab. With over 750, 000 followers, this page has been considered something of social media movement for Iranian women.
Below is a video from her acceptance speech at the Summit: