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Stories from Middle East

Iranian Judiciary Sets 1-Month Deadline to Block Viber

Iranian judiciary has set a one-month deadline for Hassan Rohani's government to block or to control messaging applications Viber, WhatsApp and TangoMe.

Connecting Istanbul and London to Crowdsource the Web We Want Festival

Web We Want/Southbank Centre Festival. Image used with permission.

Web We Want/Southbank Centre Festival. Image used with permission.

Twenty-five years ago, Sir Tim Berners-Lee invented the World Wide Web and gave it to the world. To mark this anniversary, we are building a major new three-part festival at Southbank Centre, where we will ask all kinds of people to share their ideas of how the Web should develop over the next 25 years.

Inspired by Tim Berners-Lee’s World Wide Web Foundation and working in partnership with our ‘Web We Want’ global campaign for a free, open and universal Web, the Web We Want Festival is an extensive celebration of how the Internet has changed our lives. It will also explore some of the things that threaten the Internet as we know it and what solutions there might be.

Mirroring Tim Berners-Lee’s vision for the web as a place for equality, we’re asking local and distant community groups, neighbours and strangers, techies and technophobes, old and young, urban and rural, with any level of web-literacy to create the substance of the festival.

To do this, we are having a Web We Want Think-In on Sept. 5 to plan the festival, listening to your ideas all together at the same time. This virtual brainstorming session will take place at a Think-In Hub in Istanbul at the Internet Ungovernance Forum (details here) and in London at Royal Festival Hall (register to attend here). Online, anyone can participate using the #WebWeWantFest hash tag on Twitter.

Suggest artists, ideas, activities and what would you like to see happening so the Festival becomes an enabler of a global movement. Become a part of the party!

An Election Film Week in Lebanon to Say #NoToExtension of Parliament Term

What better than the seventh art to mobilize? In another effort to push for Elections in Lebanon and prevent an extension of the Parliamentary term #NoToExtension, Lebanese NGO Nahwa Al Muwatiniya (meaning Towards Citizenship) held an “Election Film Week”.

Six works from Chile, Iran, China, Ghana and the US, varying between documentaries and fiction are being screened between August 28 to September 2 at Cinema Metropolis (a theater promoting indie movies)  in collaboration with the Lebanese Association for Democratic Elections (LADE).

On the Facebook Page of the event, where the programme is listed, the organisers note:

We have been struggling with a fragile democracy in Lebanon, ever since its independence. Today, more than in the darkest days of the civil war, the foundations of our democracy are at risk. But we’re not alone in this. The world is full of stories about the human struggle for self-determination and democratic participation. Broadening our perspective serves our effort to improve the quality of the political system in Lebanon. 

The films we picked share stories from different countries, all which portray the election process. Collectively, they reveal a combination of human values and ideals and the efforts politicians make to win an election.

To see a glimpse of the movies, check out the trailer posted on Nahwa Al Muwatiniya Youtube Page.

The current parliament extended its four-year stay for the first time in May 2013. And like a year before, various parties are supporting the move this time around under the pretext of security conditions.

The end of the parliamentary term comes amidst a period of turmoil in Lebanon. The country has lacked a president since May 25 after parliament failed to elect a new head of state and top officials could not reach political consensus. A general strike by syndicates demanding to approve a new enhanced wage scale for civil servants has threatened to paralyze the entire country. Lebanon has experience instability on both Syrian and Israeli borders after soldiers were kidnapped by members of Islamic militant organization ISIS.

Iran's Grand Ayatollah: 3G Internet Is Immoral

Grand Ayatollah Makarem Shirazi, a prominent Shia scholar, has said 3G Internet is immoral and inhumane, Iranian sites reported on Tuesday.

Iran has the highest number of internet users in the Middle East, but its average data speed is about a tenth of the global average.Internet speeds in Iran have accelerated by 30 percent since summer 2013, after Hassan Rohani won the presidential election.

Iranian Photojournalist Arrested Alongside Washington Post Reporter Is Released

An unidentified female Iranian-American photojournalist was released on Thursday, Aug. 21 after being held in police custody at an unidentified location since July 22.

The photojournalist had official accreditation from the Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance, and was arrested alongside her husband and on the same day that Iranian-American Washington Post reporter Jason Rezaian and his wife Yeganeh Salehi were arrested.

Since then, the husband of the photojournalist has been released. Rezaian and Salehi remain in the custody of the Iranian Judiciary in an unknown location and have yet to be issued formal charges. 

Iran Holds Persian ICT Week

Iran held the first annual Persian ICT week conference in Tehran's Ijlas center between August 30-31, 2014. The two day conference was a cooperative effort between Iran's ICT Guild Organization and the Arab ICT Organization. The theme of the conference was entitled, “Internet for Economic Growth,” and panels were held over the two days discussing youth using social media, the ICT industry post-sanctions in Iran, and the role of government in Internet development. 

Many users followed the event on both Facebook and Twitter using the hashtag #PersianICTWeek in English, and #‏هفته_فناوری_اطلاعات_و_ارتباطات_پارسی‌زبانان‬ in Persian. Government representatives from many countries including Malaysia, Qatar and Lebanon were present at the event.

In a meeting that followed the event, Iran's Minister of ICT Mahmoud Vaezi and his Qatari counterpart Khatem Hesam Jabar, met to discuss cooperation between the two governments in developing both nation's ICT industry. According to Iran's semi-official Fars news agency, the minister wished to share with Qatar the merits of Iran's new national information network, a project that endeavours to create a countrywide network of websites assigned to domestic IP addresses, separate from the worldwide web. Many Iranian figures have suggested this will aid in the development of domestic ICT infrastructure and economy. Vaezi stated achievements were made in electronic banking, cyber security and information technology, and explained the network was one of the best ways forward in the new youth dominated Internet culture. 

A large portion of the conference was focused on how Iranian youth were engaging in entrepreneurship within Iran's ICT sector, and the government's support of knowledge based industries amongst this new generation. This event preceded President Hassan Rouhani's September 1 televised speech, declaring the importance of the Internet for Iran's youth. 

 

 

Iran's President Says Internet Is Vital

Iranian President Hassan Rohani said in a speech on September 1 that the Internet is vital and Iran “cannot close the gates of the world for the younger generation.”

The next day, two Grand Ayatollahs defended high-speed Internet a few days after another Grand Ayatollah warned about it.

Mexican Cartoonist Compares James Foley's Execution with Presidential Interview

Flowers laid for American journalist James Foley - Arlington

Flowers laid for American journalist James Foley, Arlington Cemetery. Photo by Cynthia Rucker. Copyright Demotix (20 August 2014).

On August 21, Mexican cartoonist Francisco Calderón raised controversy after publishing on his daily cartoon section on Grupo Reforma, an image depicting president Enrique Peña Nieto wearing an orange jumpsuit and kneeling down in front of a masked executioner. The image is a clear reference to the brutal murder of reporter James Foley in Syria, on August 19, by the jihadist group Islamic State that was later published on video as a warning to the United States.

Thursday August 21, 2014 THE INTERVIEW THE ALL THE TERNURITAS WOULD'VE LOVED.

The title of the cartoon plays with the idea that an execution like the suffered by Foley would have been the kind of “interview” the “ternuritas” (cuties) would've loved. Ternurita is the name some people use for Peña Nieto government opponents.

Some Twitter users reacted to the cartoon:

Your cartoon is a total disrespect to the life of James Foley. Let's hope it's just your ignorance.

Because being firm when questioning is the same thing that beheading. Right, right winger cartoonist?

It's a shame that Francisco Calderon makes a cartoon with a beheading. Will he make one about dead children in Gaza?

Only Mexico can gather the necessary dose of insensitivity and numbskullness to make fun of James Foley's death.

Eerie Similarities in Deaths Provoked by Police Brutality in Staten Island and Paris

Eric Garner was a 44-year-old African-American man who died following an attempted arrest by the NY Police Department. On July 17, 2014, when police officers attempted to arrest Garner, he had broken up a fight. Garner who suffered from asthma was wrestled to the ground. Medical examiners concluded chokehold and chest compression as the primary causes of Garner's death and Garner's heart problems, obesity and asthma as additional factors. Here is a video of the accident [Warning: Graphic Images]

A few days later (28 August) in Roissy, France, Abdelhak Goradia, a 51 year old Algerian citizen also died inside a police van. The police was carrying Goradia to the airport to be deported back to Algeria when they initially affirmed that he died of a heart attack. Justice department corrected that assessment and stated that Goradia died from choking on his own gastric fluids. His lawyer stated that Goradia called him to say that he was taken away in handcuffs and a head gear. Goradia was previously charged with theft, petty crimes and violence.

VIDEO: Is the IDF Glorifying Its Air Bombings of Gaza?

Israeli blogger Elizabeth Tsurkov challenges the IDF to make an English version of a video it had released in Hebrew, which she describes as “glorifying air bombings of Gaza.”

She tweets:

At least 1,900 Palestinians have been killed, more than 10,000 injured, and 450,000 displaced since Israel launched a massive offensive called Protective Edge against the 40-kilometer-long coastal strip on July 8.

Follow our in-depth coverage: #Gaza: Civilian Death Toll Mounts in Israeli Offensive

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