Social Media’s Silent Filter
Iranian free-thinkers VS Islamic regime of Iran
(Farshid Soltani ,Yoones and Sirous Sanjabi members of Yarsan Democratic Organization (YDO
This Article/Report is about the conflict between Islamic regime of Iran as a dictatorship and freedom fighters whose weapon is social media. Banning media outlets is a hallmark of a dictatorship.
In some Asian and Middle Eastern countries like Iran, China, and Afghanistan governments have put a filtering system on the internet so people who connect to the internet in these countries can’t reach up to 70% of websites. For example, in Iran, people can’t even reach Facebook! It’s blocked. That’s really annoying but it’s not something new. These are few ways to skip filtering.
White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer once said that only a dictatorship would prevent the media from access to public information.
Nowadays the internet has linked us all in a human chain that spans the globe. It definitely has a key-roll in freedom of speech.
Soon after the 1979’s Revolution, once Islamists succeeded in ending democracy and turning Iran into a one-party dictatorship, the Islamic regime governors has set up a massive propaganda campaign to win the loyalty and cooperation of Iranians. They took control of all forms of communication in Iran: newspapers, magazines, books, public meetings, rallies, art, music, movies, and radio. Viewpoints in any way threatening to their Islamic beliefs were censored or eliminated from all media.
After 38 years, they are still in conflict with free-thinkers and free media. Although after advancements in technology and IT(Information Tech) it has been great advantages for freedom fighters to state their opinion and tell about the cruelty of the Islamic governors via social media like Facebook, YouTube, twitter and variety of Websites and Weblogs.
On the other hand, the dictatorship in Iran has commenced a costly struggle to stop information being spread among its folks and keep them away from being aware of government unlawful and inhuman crimes all around the world.
The Islamic regime has two procedures against net activists:
1: If they live in Iran, then they will be arrested, tortured, even be executed.
2: If they live abroad, then the source of the news or information will be blocked or sometimes the website/blog will be hacked to keep it away from individuals.
In 2009 they did both 1 and 2 altogether to stop unrests. A hang up occurred in all cell-phone operators before the day of the presidential election. After protests against the results, Islamic regime blocked YouTube, Yahoo Messenger, Microsoft Messenger and other web-based program and applications to prevent some videos being spread and seen by Iranian people because those videos contain the governors’ crimes like driving over protester’s body or shooting to people (“Neda Agha Soltan” and “Kianoosh Asa” as an example). They also ordered journalists not to cover any news about unrests and dismissed any foreign reporter/journalist to keep them away from the sources of news. Also “Mohammad Quchani”-“Etemad-e-Melli” newspaper editor and some other reporters were arrested. Actually, at the first wave, 500 prominent activists were arrested.
Bahraini woman uses a mobile phone to take photos during clashes with riot police in Sitra, south of the capital Manama.
(The importance of social media network)
Let’s read some reports to make the issue more clear:
On October 30, 2012, the cyber police arrested 35-year-old “Sattar Beheshti” for actions against national security on social networks and Facebook. Beheshti had criticized the Iranian government in his blog. Beheshti was found dead in his prison cell on November 3 and was believed to have been tortured to death by the cyber police authorities. BBC reports on 8 November 2012 that Sattar Beheshti, 35, was arrested by Iranian police on charges of “actions against national security on social networks and Facebook.”
Reuters, May 16, 2016:
“Iran has launched a new crackdown on social media, arresting fashion models active on photo-sharing websites and a blog website manager after Tehran’s top leader declared war on un-Islamic thoughts on the Internet. The semi-official student news agency ISNA also reported on Monday the arrest of Mehdi Butorabi, the manager of the popular Persian Blog. The Center for Investigation of organised Crime, a branch of the elite Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC), monitors social media to hunt for evidence of immorality or subversion. Iran blocks access to Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube…
The Guardian, December 5, 2013
Iran’s Revolutionary Guards have carried out a new wave of arrests of cyber activists and members of pro-opposition social networking websites. At least five Iranians who had shared news about the situation of political prisoners on Facebook have recently been held by the security apparatus of the country’s elite forces… Some of the five Iranians were administrators of popular culture and social pages on Facebook… Iran’s English-language state newspaper, Tehran Times, also said that 16 people that officials have linked to “foreign agents” were arrested in the southern province of Kerman for crimes related to cyber offenses. These individuals…are accused of acting against national security through co-operation with foreign networks and designing websites and developing content for counter-revolutionary websites with the aim of overthrowing the Islamic Republic system. Earlier in the week, a popular Iranian technology website, Narenji, said that seven of its employees, including journalists and technical staff, had been arrested by Revolutionary Guards…Iran’s Revolutionary Guards and the judiciary, controlled by Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, are independent of the Iranian government under Rouhani as well as the intelligence ministry. Many of the arrests in recent years of activists and politicians have been carried out independently by the revolutionary guards.
Clarion Project, August 30, 2016
Hundreds of Instagram, Telegram, Whats App and other social media users were arrested or summoned by the Iranian regime. Since 2012, it has been reported that the Iranian government blocks 27 percent of Internet sites at any given time. As of 2013, close to half of the top 500 sites – including YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter – had been blocked. In 2012, the Iranian government passed legislation which required Internet Cafes to gather a variety of personal details about their users. Internet cafes are required to write down the forename, surname, and name of the father, national identification number, and postcode and telephone number of each customer. Besides the personal information, they must maintain other information of the customer such as the date and the time of using the Internet and the IP address, and the addresses of the websites visited. They should keep this information for each individual for at least six months.
Center of human rights in Iran (CHRI), March 21, 2017
Iranian security forces arrested an unknown number of administrators of 12 reformist-aligned Telegram channels on March 14-16, 2017, deleted the channels’ content and changed their names. No agency has claimed responsibility for the arrests. The internet and social media apps are heavily restricted and censored in Iran, with hardliners viewing any form of internet freedom as a threat to the sanctity of the Islamic Republic.
Center of human rights in Iran (CHRI), April 27, 2017
Three 24-year-olds named “Alireza Tavakoli”, “Mohammad Mehdi Zamanzadeh” and “Mohammad Mohajer” have been sentenced to 12 years in prison each in Iran. These guys were posting articles and cartoons on Facebook and Telegram that criticized the political and religious situation and also shared material from others, an informed source told the CHRI. They were held in Evin Prison’s Ward 209, controlled by the Intelligence Ministry, where they were interrogated without access to legal counsel and then transferred to Ward 8
AHRAZ (Association for the Human Rights of the Azerbaijani people in Iran) on May 18, 2016
Hanna news agency. April 10, 2016
Amir Velizade and Abdolaziz Azimi Ghadim were detained by the security forces in Tabriz city. On 6 April 2016, Amir Valizade director of Telegram Channel called “Rationality, Analysis and Action” was arrested by the security forces in the city of Tabriz and was taken to an unknown location. A week later on 13 April 2016, he was transferred to the quarantine of Tabriz central prison. The reason for his detention is not known.
MMO-Champion, May 17, 2016
TEHRAN — Iran’s judiciary unleashed one of its periodic crackdowns on social media permissiveness on Sunday, announcing the arrest of eight people involved in online modeling without a mandatory head scarf and questioning another woman, a former model, live on state television on Sunday.
A blogger, Mehdi Abutorabi, 53, who managed a publishing tool called Persian Blog, was also detained, the semi-official student news agency ISNA reported Monday.
The former model, Elham Arab, 26, had been something of an Instagram star, posting pictures of herself in bridal gowns with eye-catching, dyed-blond hair. But on Sunday, months after her Instagram account had been shut down, she wore a pious black scarf and matching gloves as she was questioned by two prosecutors during a live television program.
Independent, 30 March 2017
A 21-year-old man has been sentenced to death by Iranian authorities for “insulting Islam” through messages he sent on an instant messenger app.
Human rights lawyers claim that Sina Dehghan, who was just 19 when he sent the messages, was tricked into signing his own death warrant after being persuaded to confess to the breach of Islamic law with the promise of release if he did so.
But after obtaining a confession, prosecutors dropped the agreement and sentenced Dehghan to death in January this year, according to the Centre for Human Rights in Iran (CHRI).Iranian always pay their activities abroad with their lives when they approach Iran. Two examples to say are “Diako Hashemi” and “Dyia Sawari”.
According to Hengaw news agency, 24 years old Diako Hashemi, an Iranian Kurd who used to live in Finland since 2011 went back to Iran because he was informed that his father had passed away but Islamic regime’s intelligence service(Etela-at) arrested him. Two months later he was found dead because of intolerable, severe torture.
Ahwaz Monitor, 4 March 2017
23 years old Dyia Sawari, an Iranian human rights activist who was denied asylum in the Netherlands and forced to return to Iran after fleeing Iranian regime persecution was sentenced on Friday to six years imprisonment in an Iranian court for the ‘crime’ of attending protests calling for freedom. According to reports, he was savagely tortured during his detention to force him into signing a false confession.
Blocking, eliminating or hack the websites and weblogs, blocking YouTube or Facebook, BBC, DW, VOA, etc are some of these activities against people who want to spread information and news among Iranian folks.
According to Freedomhouse reports two-thirds of all internet users, 67 percent live in countries where criticism of the government, military, or ruling family are subject to censorship. Social media users face unprecedented penalties, as authorities in 38 countries made arrests based on social media posts over the past year. The map below shows that Iran is NOT in a good situation when we talk about freedom on the net.
Iran doesn’t have a good situation when talking about freedom on the net.
The diagram below shows that Iran has been among the worst countries about freedom on net from 2011(the year that the organization started gathering data) up to now.
In 2009 the Islamic Parliament ratified the law of cyber-crime. The emphasis was on the crimes against the National Security. The so-called crime covers all kinds of enlightenment activities in the net. Iran’s Police Chief Brigadier General “Esmail Ahmadi-Moqaddam” announced plans to set up a cyber police division to counter “internet crimes.
According to Agence France-Press, Ahmadi-Moqaddam said “the cyber police would take on anti-revolutionary and dissident groups who used Internet-based social networks in 2009 to trigger protests against the re-election of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
Sometimes Iranian authorities go crazy and do hilarious things that prove their insane manner encountering social media issues:
Alarabiya 29 May 2016
Iran has set a one-year deadline for foreign social media to hand over data on their Iranian users, state news agency IRNA said Sunday.
Iran set is an active group of bloggers tracing their destiny, giving advises to all bloggers to keep their data saved and so on. They report that over 300 bloggers have been sentenced to prison and lashes in Iran up to now.
Iran’s stance on censorship and Internet access has been complicated since the emergence of social networking sites. After the disputed presidential elections in 2009, many Iranians took to twitter to voice their dissent and organize protests, which led to the Iranian establishment to ban Facebook and Twitter.
Reform-minded Jannati, who is the son of a powerful Guardian Council hard-liner cleric, has since made attempts to ease Iran’s strict Internet policies, but his efforts have been thwarted by Iran’s conservatives, who worry that their power is being undermined by Western influence. In early January, Jannati was criticized by hard-liners after an interview he gave with Al Jazeera English in which he called for the lifting of blocks on social networks and said he wished to see the Iranian judiciary “come along with the changes that are taking place in Iran.” A representative for Iran’s judiciary criticized Jannati’s statements, saying he “is not at the level to comment on the judiciary’s affairs” a line that suggests deep cleavages and domestic rivalries among members in Rouhani’s administration and the judiciary.
Since the last presidential election, Rouhani has voiced his intent to ease restrictions on censorship and Internet freedom. In an exchange with Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey, Rouhani stated his belief that access to information is the right of Iranians, mirroring a similar promise he made when he told popular youth magazine Chelcheragh that as president, he would work to minimize censorship and that he believes Internet filtering is “futile”.
How Iran aims to create a “halal internet”
At the same time, Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei issued a decree on 6 September renewing the Supreme Council for Cyberspace’s mandate for four years. Created in March 2013 to oversee the Internet and headed by the president, this council consists of senior military officers, leading government officials (including the parliamentary speaker, the head of the judicial system, and the ministers of culture, intelligence and information and communications technology), the head of the Revolutionary Guards, and several Internet experts.
Its mission is to “facilitate the introduction of a national information network, a government priority, and to develop the judicial and police system necessary for the country’s cyberspace.” Khamenei has also instructed the council to “ensure the network’s security, promote an Islamic way of life, protect the privacy of society’s members and effectively combat infiltration and abuses by foreigners.” But its look like using people as a spy to approach their evil aims.
Yarsan and Yarsanis under the Islamic regime
The pressure and discrimination over Yarsani people are even worse because they don’t have a representative in Islamic Parliament of Iran or any media such as newspaper or TV etc to express their ideas or send their messages out letting everyone know about their problems. As a result, social media is highly crucial for Yarsani minority. At the other hand, the Islamic regime of Iran has been reluctant to any kinds of activity in the name of recognition the Yarsan and Yarsanis to the whole world, including their political, religious, ideological and other peaceful actions through the internet. Here are some examples:
Ressorection-Iran.mihanblog.com which was created by two Yarsani-Kurd activists named Farshid Soltani and Payam Azhbar, members of Yarsan Democratic Organization(YDO) national committee of Sweden. The Weblog dealt with unlawful deeds by the Islamic regime in Iran such as Dhia Savari’s detention and Sina Dehghan. Islamic regime’s authorities eliminated the blog in April 2017.
Yaran-k-f.blogspot.se belonging to Yaran culture association (Yaran Kultur Forening), Farshid Soltani is admin of the blog. Blocked.
yarsan.samenblog.com, Yoones Sanjabi, a member of YDO’s central committee and his brother Sirous Sanjabi head of Swedish national committee, two Yarsani activists are managing a weblog together. The blog is generally about Yarsani folks and religious issues of Yarsan as well as criticizes about the crazy policy of Islamic regime. Blocked.
www.yarsanmedia.org is the official website of YDO. Blocked.
kurdanyarsan.blogspot.se is about Yarsan religion. Blocked.
www.yarsanf.org, the official website of Yarsan Federation (Yarsan Forbundet). Blocked.
Yarikurd.net is the official website of Yarikurd Organization (RYK), a political-religious organization about Yarsan. Blocked.
samuelkub.blogspot.se, Samuel Kermanshahi, a Yarsani activist. Blocked.