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February 25 2014

Iran Watches Ukraine With Envy and Dismay

Ukraine protests

Ukraine's protest, as covered by Iran's Farda News


Ukraine's protests and change of power in Kiev were covered with enthusiasm in Iran's media. While Iranian officials saw a Western plot led by the United States and Europe, Iranians who once staged mass protests against their own regime were reminded of a revolution that eluded them.

Iran's minister of justice said Ukraine can't be compared to Iran, but many Iranians draw parallels to Green Movement protests after the presidential election in 2009.

Iranian blogger Abgosht writes [fa] that there are several reasons why Ukraine (and Tunisia) where able to accomplish what Iranians failed to do:

The short and useful answer is that the red line for Ukraine's and Tunisia's [opposition] movement leaders was democracy, while the Iranian ones would maintain the regime's [establishment] framework… their people are not traitors, their police and security forces are good people, ours are thugs who believe national interests take priority over individual ones.

On Twitter, Sarah makes fun of the head of the Iranian military forces, Hassan Firoozabadi who said that “Ukraine's revolution was escaping from independence toward dependency.”

She tweeted [fa] quoting Iranian writer, Ebrahim Nabavi:

I don't know why Iranian officials, more than the citizens of Ukraine, Palestine, Iraq and Lebanon seem to be so preoccupied with these countries’ independence.

Free Democratic Iran tweeted, quoting a headline from the very conservative Iranian newspaper, Keyhan:

@_Cafe tweeted with irony:

We are ahead of Ukraine. That's why I need anti-filtering software to be able to write these few words on the internet.

Nima Akbarpour tweeted [fa]:

Ukraine's situation reminds me of Zapata's movie where the revolutionaries conquer power and then follow the same path.

February 17 2014

From Iran to the World: Humans of Shiraz

Who are the people of Shiraz, Iran and what are their dreams? A photographic story of Humans of Shiraz began on Facebook two years ago, inspired by the globally renowned Humans of New York. The page has more than 7,300 followers. These are profile photos with human stories from all walks of life.

Shiraz is the capital of the Fars province of Iran, and it is know as the city of poets and literature. Two world famous poets, Hafez and Saadi were born in here. The city is also considered by many Iranians to be the city of gardens.

Real Madrid

“I'm a football player…” “What's your biggest dream as a football player?” “To play in Real Madrid.” Photo by Humans of Shiraz (used with permission)

Photo by Humans of Shiraz (used with permission)

“I'm a football player…”
“What's your biggest dream as a football player?”
“To play in Real Madrid.”

To Be a Model Someday

Photo by Humans of Shiraz (used with permission)

Photo by Humans of Shiraz (used with permission)

“What is your field of study?”
“Electronic engineering.”
“What do you like the most?”
“I like modelling and I wanted to be a model someday…”
“What is the hardest thing of being a model for you?”
“Is that the people around me accept that and cope with with this issue in a good way.”

Heavy Metal

Photo by Humans of Shiraz (used with permission)

Photo by Humans of Shiraz (used with permission)

“I'm a heavy metal musician, and I play electric guitar… “

From Radiology to Selling Shoes

Photo by Humans of Shiraz (used with permission)

Photo by Humans of Shiraz (used with permission)

February 14 2014

Protests Erupt Against a TV Show in Iran

Sarzamine Kohan

Sarzamine Kohan

Protests against a TV series called Sarzamine Kohan (Ancient Land) erupted this week in several Iranian cities, including Dezful and Ahvaz in the oil-rich Khuzestan province. Demonstrators say the show was insulting to Bakhtiari people and the role its leaders played in Iran's Constitutional Revolution.

In at least one dialogue of the fictional show, Bakhtyaris are said to be “at the service of English”, meaning they were traitors. Sixty members of parliament wrote a protest letter to state-run Iranian television complaining about this representation.

Bakhtiari people, who primarily live in Chahar Mahaal, Bakhtiari and parts of the Khuzestan, Lorestan and Isfahan provinces, played played an important role in Iran's history.

Demonstration in Dezful

Freedom Messenger shared several films from a demonstration in Dezful, on Friday 14, 2014.

Several netizens tweeted about the controversial series.

Tevis tweeted

Today they destroy Bakhtiari, tomorrow they will do it with other ethnic groups.

The_Sina tweeted

Here are the photos of demonstration in Masjed Soleiman on Friday, February 15. If you demonstrate, do it the right way, without violence.

Mehdi Mohseni previously tweeted

Iran's Third Channel (the one broadcast the controversial series) played Bakhtiari music several times today. Probably to soften the present atmosphere.

February 12 2014

Insurgent Group Tweets Photo of Iranian Soldiers Abducted at Iran-Pakistan Border

Five Soldiers kidnapped nera Iran-Pakistan border, source: Jaish al-Adl's Twitter

Five abducted Irani soldiers. Photo released by  Jaish al-Adl's Twitter account

Iranians are using the #FreeIranianSoldiers hashtag to spread awareness about five Iranian border guards abducted at the Iran-Pakistan border. The Baloch Sunni-muslim insurgent group Jaish al-Adl (Army of Justice) claimed responsibility and published the above photo of the abducted soldiers through their Twitter account. 

Jaish-al-Adl operate in Sistan-Baluchestan, one of Iran's largest and poorest provinces, which is home to 2 million Sunni-muslims. The ethnic Baloch and Sunni-muslim insurgents in the area have been demanding more autonomy from the Shia-government in Tehran in recent years.
 
In October 2013,  Jaish-ul-Adl which is called a terrorist group by the Irani state, ambushed and killed 14 Iranian border guards. In response,  authorities in the Shia-dominant country executed 16 people from Sistan-Baluchestan allegedly associated with Jaish-ul-Adl.
 

 Mohammad Reza Aref, an Iranian reformist politician, tweeted:

An Iranian social media researcher and blogger Narima Gharib tweeted:

Canadian-Iranian Maryam Nayeb Yazdi tweeted:

 

Iran-based Twitter user Opium calls for unity:

Hey you, don't tell me there's no hope at all  Together we stand, divided we fall. #FreeIranianSoldiers

— opium (@opiums) February 10, 2014

 
Since 2006, Baluchis, who make up 2% of Iran’s population, have accounted for about 20% of state executions, according to the Abdorrahman Boroumand Foundation, a US-based group which tracks human rights abuses in Iran.
 
The Irani government believes Jaish-ul-Adl is hiding in Pakistan's Balochistan province, which borders Iran's Sistan-Baluchestan province. Pakistan is battling its own Baluchi insurgency,and has been criticized by Iran for failing to crack down on militant camps in its territory.
Reposted byiranelection iranelection

February 03 2014

Snow in Iran: 500,000 People Without Electricity, Gas and Water

Snow in Mazandaran. Source: Mehr. Photographer: Pejman Marzi.

Snow in Mazandaran. Source: Mehr News Agency. Photographer: Pejman Marzi.

500,000 people are reportedly trapped in villages without electricity, gas or water after a massive snow storm this weekend in Iran's northern provinces, Gilan and Mazandaran.

One local official called it the heaviest snowfall in 50 years. Thousands have been rescued and taken to emergency shelters or hospitalized.

ZA1-1RA tweeted:

I do not worry about my family, they have rice in reserve for months.

Farshad Faryabi tweeted:

Swedish Foreign Minister, Carl Blidt, [who is on a trip in Iran] won't go back to Sweden now because there is more snow in Iran.

Soheila Sadegh tweeted:

A school was destroyed in Gilan under heavy snow.

Maysam Bizar tweeted:

The price for bottled water rose four times during snowing days. If we do not have pity for ourselves, what we do we expect of enemies?

Mozdeh A tweeted:

What is a blessing for others, is a curse for us.

Saham Borghani shared a photo last month (January 10) of tea and snow.

Reposted byiranelection iranelection

Human Rights Video: 2013 Year in Review

A video by WITNESS on the Human Rights Channel of YouTube wrapped up some of the most significant protests and human rights abuses of 2013. Dozens of clips shot by citizens worldwide are edited together to show efforts to withstand injustice and oppression, from Sudan to Saudi Arabia, Cambodia to Brazil.

A post on the WITNESS blog by Madeleine Bair from December 2013, celebrates the power of citizen activism using new technologies including video, while readers are reminded that the difficulty of verification and establishing authenticity remains a big obstacle.

“Citizen footage can and is throwing a spotlight on otherwise inaccessible places such as prisons, war zones, and homes,” says Bair. “But given the uncertainties inherent in such footage, reporters and investigators must use it with caution.”

Reposted byiranelection iranelection

January 10 2014

Iran Voices: New Site Polls Citizens on Local Government

Iran Voices Homepage

Iran Voices Homepage

Iran Voices has a mission different than most other Iran-related websites. The new website calls for accountability from local authorities with an online survey of citizens.

Periodically, Iran Voices will publish reports about specific cities based on the surveys and send them to media, local politicians and the municipality itself.

The very first report, in October 2013, was about the city Ahwaz, at the center of the oil rich Khuzestan province. It was based on survey responses from 52 citizens.

Ahwaz bridge source: http://commons.wikimedia.org/

Ahwaz Bridge. Photo by Arad M. shared on Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-SA 3.0)

According to the report, the main priority of survey respondents was to have more green areas, followed by more jobs, more security, and a solution for air pollution. Among the public institutions, citizens said the judiciary system and security forces provide the least satisfying services, followed by governmental offices, hospitals, banks and the municipality.

Iran Voices acknowledges that a small sample of the population cannot be fully representative of a city as a whole, but says it can be an indicator. To this end, the main idea behind the project is that all voices should be heard.

60% of survey respondents say local representatives have never asked for their opinions, while 90% say they wish their voices were heard.

A local news hub

Iran Voices also aims to compile and highlight Iran’s local news, which is often neglected by the media's Tehran-based news angles and focus on national politics.

Iran Voices hopes to become a platform where Iranian citizens can talk about local issues and problems of their villages, cities, provinces and regions, a platform for citizens and civil activists to exchange ideas and reach out to officials.

A director of Iran Voices says to Global Voices, “Our initiative is a small step to raise awareness, beyond haggles and hassles, about people's daily concerns including the behavior of public authorities.”

“There are millions of topics about Iran which circulate on social media in Farsi on a daily basis, however most of these topics are focused on general policies and capital-related events,” says the director, who wishes to remain anonymous.

“At Iran Voices we believe that issues and events happening in other provinces, cities and villages are no less important than what is going on in Tehran. Therefore our website took a step forward in order to cover these local issues.”

Iran Voices categorizes the news under different headings such as economics, health, culture, sports and education. It also uses the Ushahidi software which enables users to categorize information geographically and place it on a Google Map.

The National Endowment for Democracy (NED) in the United States funds the project.

Reposted byiranelection iranelection

January 06 2014

A Year of Campaigns for Iran

Just Access

A photo from Just Access, a campaign by Arseh Sevom to highlight the effect of sanctions on ordinary Iranians.

Iranians witnessed two major political events in 2013: The election of a new president and the beginnings of a nuclear deal. Both of them kindled hope in the hearts of many Iranians for a better, less painful future.

Meanwhile, repression and censorship continues in the country: from the filtering of WeChat to the mass arrest of tech people and poets.

Several internet campaigns launched throughout 2013 with diverse topics ranging from fighting cancer to making fun of the Israeli Prime Minister; from protecting dogs to campaigning for a fictional presidential candidate.

A Common Enemy

Two Iranian cinema stars, one inside the country and one in exile, joined efforts in an online campaign to support compatriots suffering from cancer.

In May, Bahram Radan in Iran joined former co-star, Golshifteh Farahani, now living in exile in Paris, in a video on YouTube as part of a campaign to save the life of Shahrzad, a fellow Iranian suffering from Acute Myeloid Leukaemia (AML).

Act Like Man, Dress Like a Woman

Several Kurdish men have photograph themselves dressed as women as part of a Facebook campaign to say, “Being a woman is not an instrument to punish or humiliate anybody.” The photos appeared on a Facebook page named “Kurd Men for Equality”. The story began when a man dressed in a red dress was paraded by security forces through the streets of Marivan in the Kurdistan province of Iran in April as punishment by a local court for a domestic dispute.

manwoman-253x300

#IranJeans: Yes We Do Wear Jeans

In October, Iranians flooded the internet with posts, tweets and photos as they mocked the Prime Minister of Israel, Benjamian Netanyahu's remark that Iranians are not free to wear jeans.

jeans_Iran (1)

Fictional Character for Presidential Election

In May,the activist website United4Iran and the serial web comic Zahra's Paradise launched the virtual campaign “Zahra For President 2013″ to expose Iran's corrupt political system through satire.

zahra2-375x137

Just Access

A combination of international sanctions and mismanagement by the Iranian government are blamed for the current state of medical chaos in Iran.
JUST ACCESS by human rights organisation Arseh Sevom was one campaign launched to restore access to medication, humanitarian goods, and other non-sanctioned items for people living in Iran.

Global Voices recently reported on the medical situation in Iran by interviewing Iranians inside country.

justacces

Saving “Best Friends”

A non-governmental shelter for stray dogs, Pardis Animal Shelter, in Tabriz started its work at the end of October along with a virtual publicity campaign. Iran's authorities frown on dog ownership and dogs generally. On their Facebook page the shelter say they wish, “To be the voice and shelter for voiceless and defenseless creatures!”

Pardise animal shelter Facebook page

Pardise animal shelter Facebook page

December 23 2013

Chat is a Dirty Word in Iran? WeChat Blocked

WeChat

Internet service providers in the Islamic Republic have blocked access to WeChat say reports on several news sites and blogs [fa]. WeChat is an application that enables smartphone users to connect to online social networks. While the Iranian president himself, and at least a couple of his ministers use different social media platforms themselves to communicate with followers, Iranian citizens are banned from access to sites like Facebook.

Iran Vatan Dust tweeted [fa] about the news:

Next thing will be that they try to filter people's thoughts.

Faaar Ranak tweeted [fa]:

It does not matter whether you use WeChat or not. The main problem is that they are filtering it.

Iranian blogger, Gilboygreen writes [fa]:

Why did the Islamic Republic filtered WeChat? Because they are scared when people talk to each other. Today, possibly [an application] got filtered that symbolized dialogue. What is the reason that people are not allowed to talk to each other? The authorities should answer this question. When a channel to dialogue, to exchange ideas and to communication is blocked, how do you expect people to solve the problems in society via dialogue?… Do not fear the word “chat”. Chat is a simple, human act, accepted in different societies.

Another blogger, 1ironi writes [fa]:

According to non-written law [tradition], whatever product, including food, that comes to Iran from abroad for the first time is banned… There are several examples of this kind of product becoming targets, such as eating tomatos, watching TV [they were all labeled Haram sinful]. Several MPs increased pressure recently to ban WeChat, but we can still use it via psiphon [circumvention software].

Iran-man-massoud blogs with irony pointing a finger to Iran's new president [fa]:

Thank you Rouhani.

December 15 2013

With No Easy Access to Medicine, Iranians Suffer Sanctions

Medicine shortages are an unintended consequence of sanctions against Iran

Medicine shortages are an unintended consequence of sanctions against Iran. Photo © Copyright Shutterstock

A combination of international sanctions and mismanagement by the Iranian government are blamed for the current state of medical chaos in Iran.

“It’s been five months now that we are looking for an anti-allergy vaccine for my brother,” says one person interviewed by Global Voices about Iran's public health situation. “One of our relatives with cancer cannot find his medicine,” remarked another. “I am struggling to find insulin,” says a diabetic man.

This has been the reality for Iranians since the middle of 2012 after American and European Union banking sanctions were tightened, making it virtually impossible for Iranians to conduct foreign transactions.

Domestic news outlets have reported on the scarcity of medications for illnesses ranging from hepatitis to cancer to hemophilia and polio. Even the availability of anesthetics has been affected.

There have also been deaths from ailments that could have been treated with medication. The death of a 15-year-old hemophiliac boy [date] is one example. 

While this indirect effect of sanctions is not yet widely known internationally, the cause has been championed by activists and netizens with artwork and petitions. In December 2012, the Iranian artist Sanaz Sohrabi even created a performance artwork in front of the United Nations in New York. 

The daily struggle to find affordable medication

“Finding Insulin is so difficult,” says Shahla an Iranian who must use insulin on a daily basis. (Due to potential consequences of speaking to non-Iranian media, we mention people’s first names only). He says patients are forced to purchase insulin at free market prices that are 20 as high as those mandated by the state. Shahla says the Iranian Diabetes Society tries to address the problem by distributing free insulin to doctors that they can give away, but there is only a limited supply. “Whenever I get desperate, I call my doctor and he gives me one or two insulin containers and I use them each for a month,” he says.

In July, the US Treasury Department stated that the U.S. allows for the sale and export of food, medicine and medical devices to Iran in spite of sanctions. Nonetheless, sanctions against banks make it impossible for importers to buy drugs and pharmaceuticals. “It’s as if they tell you that there is a spring from which everybody can drink, but you need to pass through so many obstacles to reach to the spring. It will indirectly stop you,” explains Arash, a businessman who imports pharmaceuticals to Iran.

According to Arash, many have switched to suppliers in Asia (mostly in China and India) to get around the sanctions. Others have continued trading with suppliers in the US and Europe through intermediaries (such as Turkish and United Arab Emirate banks) but Arash says the process is too complicated. ”If you want to do it through currency exchange dealers, you need to spend a lot of money,” he complains.

“Of course in this situation you need to set the price [to the consumer] higher, otherwise you will lose money in the business, but then the government won’t let you increase the price. Therefore, in both cases, you won’t be able to distribute the medicine to the market as fast as needed,” explains Arash.

Several people online have shared the same concerns.

Leila Zadeh tweeted:

Peter Tatchell tweeted:

Shortage of drugs

Besides high prices, the shortage of drugs is a major issue.

Sarah, an Iranian woman whose 6-year old son suffers from severe diabetes, says it has been more than a month since she has been trying to find a specific brand of Insulin for her son. “I went to dozens of pharmacies, but they do not have it, “ she says. “The last time I was finally able to find three insulin containers in one pharmacy.” She says each container is only enough for two to three weeks.

Another Iranian, Sahar, says her sister’s father-in-law suffers from cancer and at the moment finding medicine is a serious struggle. Others repeat her complaints.

In October of last year, Fatemeh Hashemi, the head of Iran’s Charity Foundation for Special Diseases, a non-governmental organization representing six million patients, said the shortage of medicine for a number of diseases such as cancer and multiple sclerosis is “serious” and that lives are at risk.

In March, Kheirollah Gholami, a leading pharmacist from Tehran University’s medical school said anesthetics have either vanished from the market or are difficult to find. “If the situation continues to be like this, we really don’t know what to do. You can’t use a hammer to make patients unconscious,” he told the semi-official Ilna News Agency.

The scarcity of medicine is not simply a problem for serious illnesses, but also affects patients with everyday allergies or pains. “You can only find domestic aspirin which may not be up to standard and can be very dangerous,” explains Amir. He says his doctor recently prescribed him 10 Vitamin D3 pills, which are produced domestically. “I had to buy these 10 pills from four different pharmacies,” says Amir.

The problem still exists

After the temporary nuclear agreement between Iran and the 5+1 world powers in Geneva, the West agreed to ease some sanctions in exchange for Iran agreeing to stop specific aspects of its nuclear program.

In the long run, lifting sanctions could alleviate the difficulties in importing medicine and pharmaceuticals. For now, the problem continues. Arash, the pharmaceutical importer, says that even after financial sanctions are lifted, it will take a long time for Iranian banks to rebuild trust to facilitate business.

But Arash is hopeful. He says finally at least some of the sanctions will be lifted and gradually medicine imports will get back to normal. Until then, the problem will continue to affect the ill and the infirm.

Reposted byiranelection iranelection

December 10 2013

“Digital Hooligans” from Iran Attack Messi's Facebook

Leo Messi's Facebook page

Argentinian footballer Leo Messi's Facebook page

“Digital hooligans” from Iran bombarded thousands of insulting and threatening comments in Persian on the Facebook page of Argentinian football player Lionel Messi as the World Cup groups were determined on Saturday. Argentina, Iran, Bosnia-Herzegovina, and Nigeria were polled together.

Many of the comments use very foul language.

Many Iranians published comments and tweets calling the cyberattack shameful.

Kargadan tweeted [fa]:

Zuckerberg [Facebook's founder] and the Iranian government, should hand in hand clean out Facebook's page of Iranians to save our honor.

Sooskak tweeted [fa]:

It's good that Facebook is filtered [in Iran].

Baridya tweeted [fa]:

If the Islamic Republic collapsed today, it would take 15-20 years for this people's culture to improve.

Blogger 5Char published [fa] a screen shot of insulting comments and says it is typical of a generation that grew up under Islamic Republic.

Another blogger, Andarbab says [fa]:

These people try to make up for their inadequacy with slogans and insults. They are the same people who chant “Down with the USA” yet wish to get a US Green Card. They insult Messi, yet wish to get a souvenir fan photo taken with him.

November 24 2013

Thousands Applaud Iran's Nuclear Dealmaker Javad Zarif on Facebook

Javad Zarif's Facebook profile

Screenshot of Iran Foreign Minister Javad Zarif's Facebook profile

Thousands of Iranians poured comments of praise on the Facebook page of Iran's Foreign Minister, Javad Zarif today, thanking him for brokering a nuclear deal.

Finally, after ten years of negotiation, Iran and world powers came to a temporary agreement on the Iranian nuclear program on Sunday, November 23, 2013. The six month agreement rolls back Iran's ability to work towards a nuclear bomb, while economic sanctions will be eased.

Representatives of Iran and 5+1 after striking a deal. on Sunday, November 24, 2013. Source: Irna

Representatives of Iran and 5+1 after striking a deal. on Sunday, November 24, 2013. Source: Irna

Both Tehran and Washington praised the deal, but differences in understanding of the deal between the two sides emerged immediately. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry's said the deal does not say Iran can enrich uranium, while the Iranian president, Hassan Rouhani, said the agreement recognises “Iran's nuclear rights,” including the right to enrich uranium.

Online, opinions about the deal vary too. And many Iranians did not forget their sense of humor in reactions.

Among those praising the deal, Solmaz Naeemi wrote to the Foreign Minister on Facebook [fa]: “You said either we win or lose together. We won together.” Saffiye Noura said [fa]: “This news [nuclear deal] is no less important than the liberation of Khormashar [an occupied city during the Iran-Iraq war, liberated by Iranians].”

Persain Banoo considers that the enemies of the Islamic Republic must be desperate now. She tweeted:

Behzad Parsa tweeted [fa] with irony:

With 5% enriched uranium we can not even light a cigarette, let alone make a nuclear bomb.

Also Saleh has doubts that a nuclear agreement can improve people's lives and tweeted [fa]:

What advantage is there in this agreement for Iranians? [Remember] how the economic situation was before sanctions.

Also skeptically, the blogger Shahinsahr politik, says [fa]:

What will you [Islamic Republic] do with the disagreements with the Iranian people… Do you think with this [nuclear] agreement, people will forget the regime's crimes and their demands?

November 18 2013

1,000 Days of House Arrest

Three Green Movement Leaders under House Arrest, source:Rahesabz

Three Green Movement Leaders under House Arrest. Source: Rahesabz

The three leading figures of protests that gripped the attention of the entire world as millions took to the streets of Iran remain locked up in their homes after more than 1,000 days of house arrest. On November 12, 2013 Mir Hossein Mousavi, his wife, Zahra Rahnavard and Mehdi Karoubi marked the 1,000th day of confinement without trial or any official charges.

The Green Movement erupted after the controversial 2009 presidential election that saw the re-election of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Several bloggers, news websites, and activist sites such as Rahesabz (see photo) remembered the three leaders during the week of the 1,000th day.

No Trial, No Fresh air

In a video message, Mehdi Karoubi's wife, Fatemeh Karoubi, says that her husband has health problems that have worsened under house arrest [he is kept in a building that is separate from his actual house] and that he is deprived of fresh air [it seems all windows are locked]. She emphasizes that there has been no trial.

“Hope, the last thing dies”

ُMaryam Ghasemi tweets :

If we count to 1,000 we will get bored. If we draw a line on a wall every day, there will be no more space after 1,000 days.

Ali Nemati Shahab reminds us of a “lesson from history” as he marks the 1000th day by tweeting:

[Alexander] Dubček [the reformist leader of Czechoslovakia] waited for 20 years to revive Prague's spring, he used to say “Hope is last thing that dies.”

Arash Bahamani tweets:

Let us also tweet #بشمر1000 [meaning count to 1,000] for all who were forced to leave Iran in the last 34 years [since the revolution].

November 12 2013

How to Have Fun With Nuclear Negotiation

European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton

European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton during the Geneva negotiation with Iran. Source: Irna, photo by Mohammad Reza Alimadadi

Another round of nuclear negotiations between Iran and six world powers ended on Saturday, November 9, 2102 in Geneva, Switzerland without a deal. Still, negotiators spoke of making “significant progress.” For ten years there have been international initiatives to curb nuclear technology development by Iran. Several Iranian netizens looked on the light side of the story with funny posts and tweets.

US Secretary of State John Kerry, who was at the negotiation table said that the new round of talks had “narrowed the differences” and that they would work together to resolve further dispute.

Hamed tweeted [fa]:

I think these differences must be about who is paying for the hotel. Probably Kerry was asked to pay… Let's each pay his/her share.

Kourosh tweeted [fa]:

One sign shows the progress is that [conservative] Fars News published Kerry's photo without drawing horns on his head or a mustache on his face.

The Iranian Foreign Minister's smiles made headlines in recent weeks.

Khashayr Pakfar tweeted [fa]:

Eventually Kerry will tell Zarif to “Throw a nuclear bomb on my head, explode one in Tel Aviv, but stop smiling already!”

France took a hardline stance during nuclear talks and several Iranians blame the French government for spoiling the negotiations.

Hafez Hakami tweeted [fa]:

What is France's position in the world now? Are you a super power? Do you have interests in the Middle East? If you know what's good for you, keep your interventions to Africa.

November 06 2013

A Blogger, Tortured to Death in Prison One Year Ago

Nasreen Stoudeh with Sattar Beheshti's mother

Rights lawyer Nasreen Stoudeh with Sattar Beheshti's mother at a memorial event for the murdered blogger. Photo via “Exile Activist”

On the first anniversary of the death of Iranian blogger Sattar Beheshti in prison, human rights activists, friends and family members gathered on October 31, 2013 to remember him in Tehran.

Beheshti was arrested at the end of October 2012 and was pronounced dead some ten days later. At the time, forty-one political prisoners bravely published [fa] a statement saying they witnessed signs of torture on Sattar's body.

Iranian blogger Arsalan Rahimi celebrates that Nasreen Stoudeh, a lawyer who defended several political prisoners and was jailed herself, and Mohammad Nourizad, a political activist and former journalist in conservative Keyhan, both made an appearance at the memorial event.

The blogger writes [fa], “What activists in exile do and say, cannot have the same impact as the presence of these two people…. it does not matter what they believe, or whether they meet with Khatami [former reformist president]. What is important is they are fighting against oppression… Long live them and all who struggle inside country.”

Another blogger, Bala-vision, says [fa] that according to several judicial sources Sattar Beheshti was tortured. In recent days, several other netizens were arrested too.

Another blogger, “Exile Activist” shared photos from the anniversary event (above) and reminds us that Beheshti was a blogger who spoke out for the working class.

Oppressed Mother

During a speech at the event (see video below), Mohammad Nourizad comforted Sattar Beheshti's mother, and chastised Iran's leaders, called them “the real face of an oppressor.” Speaking to Beheshti's mother he said, “The revolution was carried out to protect people like you, but all 290 members of the Iranian parliament saw the blood of your son and deny it.”

Remembering Sattar in Stockholm

Political activists lit candles in Stockholm, Sweden. The protesters remembered several other political prisoners too.

Several Iranian bloggers are still in jail and recently Amnesty International warned that jailed blogger,Mohammad Reza Pourshajari was being denied adequate medical care.

About four years ago, another blogger, Omid Reza Mirsayafi died in prison under suspicious circumstances.

October 27 2013

Iranian Student Leader Majid Tavakoli Is Out on Bail

 Majid Tavakoli hugging his mother after being released from jail has circulated on Iranian social media.

Majid Tavakoli hugging his mother after being released from jail has circulated on Iranian social media.

Majid Tavakoli, a prominent Iranian student leader was released on bail on Monday for the first time in four years. Family members say Majid may go back to jail in few days.

Tavakoli's arrest on December 2009, after criticizing the Iranian government while at Amir Kabir university, created a strong online protest campaign to counterattack the regime's attempt to humiliate him by claiming he had fled from authorities dressed as a woman after delivering a Student Day speech.

Hundreds of Iranian men dressed as women in their Facebook profiles to support Tavakoli and express their solidarity with women.

Social pressure for release?

Blogger Kermeki talks about what kind of pressure may have had an impact on Tavakoli's temporary release. Advancing Human Rights executive director David Keyes, publicly asked the Iranian foreign minister, Javad Zarif, when Majid Tavakoli would be freed and he replied that he had never heard of him. Kermeki believe that this, along with social media campaigns, played a role in his release. Zarif has a presence on Facebook (which is banned in Iran) and internet users have also been raising awareness about Tavakoli there.

Celebrating Resistance

A video shared on YouTube, shows students at Amir Kabri University immediately celebrating his release at a rally with songs and banners:

Blogger Harf Rishe says [fa]:

Majid Tavakoli means that the Green Movement is alive.
Majid Tavakoli means that four years passed, for one person in the presidential palace [meaning former president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad]
(…)
Majid Tavakoli means that the Green Movement is not a political party that needs Khamenei‘s permission to exist.

The blogger adds that if we truly believe in it, we can be the heart of Green Movement too. Leaders of the Green Movement are still under house arrest following massive protests after the controversial 2009 presidential election.

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October 17 2013

Happy Ending This Time for Iran's Nuclear Crisis ?

Mohammad Javad Zarif

Iran's foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif (Source: ISNA)

Nuclear talks between Iran and six world powers in Geneva ended on Wednesday, after two days of intensive dialogue. Both Iran and its counterparts gave a positive review of the negotiations and now prepare for a further round of talks in November.

According to diplomatic sources, the Iranian delegation said Iran is ready to scale back sensitive atomic activities in exchange for urgent sanctions relief.

Iranian netizens shared their feelings and opinions on the saga that has now continued for ten years. Talk after talk, city after city, while the crisis persists.

Will there be a happy ending this time?

On Twitter, Arash Sobhani, says with irony that:

Nuclear energy is our absolute right [the Islamic Republic has repeated this slogan for years] but details of the negotiations about this absolute right remain confidential. Only the regime and the world powers know what happened. Knowing this is not the people's right.

Also on Twitter, Madyar is hopeful and says :

Good news is coming from Geneva. It seems the first practical steps are taken.

Korosh says the top nuclear negotiator, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, has a real problem beyond the negotiations: back pains that force him to sit in wheelchair. Korosh writes:

Despite his back pain, he moves forward with a smile to make enemies know he is able defend the rights of Iran.

Also on Twitter, Drekshepherd thinks the negotiations can open a new era in Iran-USA relations:

From now on instead of “Down with USA”, let's chant “Long live peace and humanity from Iran to USA.”

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October 11 2013

Afghan Netizens Debate Presidential Candidates

A total of 27 candidates have registered for Afghanistan's presidential elections, which will take place on April 5, 2014. Along with the warlords who have dominated Afghanistan's political space for decades, there are also a few technocrats running in next year's ballot. As language and ethnicity play crucial roles in Afghan politics, candidates have tended to select their two vice-presidential picks from different ethnic groups in order to increase their electability. Fawzia Koofi, a famous female politician, has withdrawn from the ballot, leaving only one female presidential candidate. 

October 6, 2013, was the last day of registration for the presidential nominees. The candidates were required to submit the names of their would-be-vice-presidents, 100,000 signatures of support for their nomination and $20,000. Candidates currently part of President Hamid Karzai's government have resigned from their posts. As soon a the list of the candidates became known, Afghans began to debate the candidates and their VP picks on Twitter:

Naseh (@Mann_Naseh) tweeted:

#Afghanistan opposition leader Abdullah Abdullah will certainly be in the #election run-off if he can't win outright.

Hafiz Hamim (@HJalalzai) took note of those who had resigned from their ministerial positions with the hope of claiming the presidency. 

Wahidullah Shahrani is among the three Afghan ministers who have resigned to run for 2014 presidential elections.

 

Candidate (@candidatepaw) added on Twitter: 

The Afghan Minister of Mines resigned today. He will be running as a Vice President for Qayom Karzai in the coming Presidential Elections.

While Ekram Shinwari (@EkramShinwari) flagged the participation of another Karzai regime heavyweight:

Gen.Abdul Rahim Wardak former Afghan defense minister also filled his nomination papers for running in upcoming presidential elections today.

The candidates’ files will be reviewed and approved by the Independent Election Commission (IEC) and a final list will be announced by November 2013. Farzad Lami, an Afghan journalist and blogger, (@FarzadLameh) confirmed the number of candidates, tweeting:

27 candidates file nomination papers for #Afghanistan presidential elections scheduled for April 5th, 2014.

Prominent Candidates: 

  • Qayum Karzai: President Hamid Karzai's older brother, a former Afghan MP and presidential advisor who owns businesses in Baltimore, Maryland.

VP picks: Wahidullah Shahrani (former minister of mines from Uzbek ethnic group) and Ibrahim Qasemi (a lawmaker from the Hazara ethnic group).

VP picks: Mohammad Khan, Hezb-e Islami's deputy leader and Haji Mohammad Mohaqiq, an MP, lawmaker and one of the recognized leaders of the Hazara ethnic group.

  • Abdul Rasul Sayyaf: Accused of war crimes himself, Abdul Rasul Sayyaaf has fought to enact a law granting amnesty to people accused of war crimes. He is also known as the man who brought Osama Bin Laden to Afghanistan. 

VP picks: Mohammad Ismail Khan, a former water and energy minister and Abdul Wahab Irfan, an Afghan senator.

  • Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai: President Hamid Karzai's top advisor, who placed fourth in the 2009 presidential election and is well-known among Westerners, especially in Washington. Ghani also consults for the World Bank.

VP picks: General Abdul Rashid Dostum (popular among ethnic Uzbeks) and Sarwar Danish, a former justice minister (supported by former ethnic Hazara warlord and vice president, Karim Khalili,). 

  • Zalmai Rassoul: Former foreign minister, popular in the West and supported by President Karzai.

Vice presidents: Ahmad Zia Massoud, brother of Ahmad Shah Massoud (ethnically Tajik) and Habiba Sarabi, Bamiyan's provincial governor (ethnically Hazara).

 

Karzai the elder, Sayyaf, Rassoul, Abdullah and Ghani are viewed as the strongest candidates in the 2014 vote. (Wiki commons photos remixed by author)

Karzai the elder, Sayyaf, Rassoul, Abdullah and Ghani are viewed as the strongest candidates in the 2014 vote. (Wiki commons photos remixed by author). 

Razaq Mamoon, an Afghan journalist and blogger, blogged [Dari] about Dr. Abdullah's incorrect choice of vice presidents. 

ائتلاف جمیعت اسلامی با بخش انشعابی حزب اسلامی، و یک بخش حزب وحدت اسلامی ( به رهبری آقای محقق) یک ائتلاف فوق العادهکم توان است وچانس پیروزی شان نیز کمتراز بیست وپنج درصد خواهد بود

Coalition of Hezb-e Islami and Hezb-e Wahdat (partially led by Mr. Muhaqiq) is an extremely weak alliance and its chance of winning might be less than 25%.

As Afghanistan's politics has long been associated with corruption and civil war, its politicians are commonly viewed as being either corrupt,  war criminals or both. Samira Hamidi (@HuriaSamira), disappointed with the lack of choices for 2014, posted on Twitter:

With the Presidential candidates all mixed faces of democrats and extremists, whom to trust and vote [for]??

Will the winner be an alleged war criminal?

Much netizen attention was focused on Abdul Rasul Sayyaf's controversial candidacy. Sayyaf, who has been blamed for the death of thousands and credited with training insurgents, may have trouble garnering sufficient support to win the vote, but will be able to fall back on his own constituency of hardcore conservatives.

Farzad Lami (@FarzadLameh) tweeted of Sayyaf's candidacy: 

The person who invited Osama to #Afghanistan is now running for president. 

A blogger, Shami Witness’ (@ShamiWitness) ironic tweet reads

Some more hilarity in #Afghanistan. Abdul Rasul Sayyaf going to run for the presidential elections.

Samira Hamidi (@HuriaSamira) echoed the ridicule:

What a joke! Sayyaf as a next #AFG President? We don't need Taliban, he is enough for making women's life miserable.

Subel Bhandari, a journalist covering Afghanistan and Pakistan, highlighted the fact that with candidates like Dr. Abdullah, who has the backing of highly-placed officials in the Karzai regime (Marshal Fahim and Ismael Khan), it will be difficult for Sayyaf to achieve victory. 

Momentum grows for Dr Abdullah. Marshal Fahim & Ismael Khan to support him for presidency http://tolonews.com/en/afghanistan/12098-marshal-fahim-vows-support-to-abdullah-for-presidency … Puts Sayyaf out of picture.

NilofarMassoud (@NilofarMassoud), complaining about the process of candidate registration, tweeted:

What a crazy day in #Afghanistan with the presidential candidates registration for the #elections

Sayed Salahuddin (@sayedsalahuddin), referring to the ethnic balancing tactic, tweeted

afghan elections: sayaaf apparently wants to nominate for presidential bid & has picked up ismail khan & an uzbek as his two deputies. 

Massoud Hossaini (@Massoud151) tweeted about the only woman candidate running in the presidential race:

Mrs. Khadija Azizi registered her name as the first #Afghanistan female presidential #elections candidate. 24 persons registered till now. 

Fawzia Koofi, who was planning to run for presidency, changed her decision. In one of her tweets (@FawziaKoofi77) she stated:

and finally my team and I decided not to run in upcoming election due to many reasons,one the hectic political situation we prepare for 2018.

Also expressing her concern regarding the decline of female presence in the presidential elections, she tweeted:

Glad some candidates included women in their tickets, but still decline of women presence as comparing to 2009 elections.

International correspondent, Lucy Kafanov (@LucyKafanov) was concerned about the possibility of delays to the vote, tweeting:

Nominations for #Afghanistan‘s presidential elections close today, though it's still a question whether vote will take place as planned

Finally, disappointed by the lack of improvements in the country after the last presidential vote, Sayed Salahuddin (@sayedsalahuddin) tweeted:

afghan man says no enthusiasm to vote in coming presidential poll as “no voters expectations” were addressed in past elections 

This post is part of the GV Central Asia Interns Project at the American University of Central Asia in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan.

October 08 2013

#IranJeans: Yes, We Do Wear Jeans, Mr. Netanyahu

#IranJeans

‘You see Mr. Nethanyahu, we all wear jeans.’ Mana Neyestani, a leading cartoonist (used with permission)


Iranians flooded the internet with posts, tweets and photos as they mocked the Prime Minister of Israel, Benjamian Netanyahu's remark that Iranians are not free to wear jeans.

Netanyahu, in an interview on BBC Persian on Saturday said “If the people of Iran were free they could wear blue jeans, listen to Western music and have free elections.”

Meir Javedanfar, an Iranian-Israeli Middle East analyst, says , “What Prime Minister Netanyahu was thinking about when he was saying these things about Iran was most probably the former USSR.”

It is #IranJeans vs. Netanyahu.

Arash Kamangir, a Toronto-based blogger and cyber activist, says on Twitter:

Iiriix, a project manager from Iran published a photo of a shop selling Jeans in Iran and writes:

Nima Shirazi notes that the Israeli Prime Minister called Hassan Rouhani, Iran’s new president, “a wolf in sheep’s clothing” and tweets:

hhhhhN,avi,D says he wants to know Nethanyahu's size in jeans and tweets:

The blogger Freedomseeker has another idea, and published a photo that apparently shows Iranian police stopping women in the street for what they are wearing. The blogger ironically says [fa], “Now I am listening to western pop music in disguise.”

Another blogger, Andarbab writes [fa] I am not for the Israeli Prime Minister, his problem with the Islamic Republic is about nuclear bombs and he does not care about Iranian people. But here is an article published [fa] in the semi-official Isna news where a cinema expert claims that his image was not broadcast on TV because he wore jeans.

September 25 2013

No Handshakes for US and Iran, But Hope Prevails

'At the negotiation table' Cartoon by Mana Neyestani via Iran Wire

‘US and Iran at the negotiation table’ Cartoon by Mana Neyestani via Iran Wire (used with permission)

Despite high expectations for even a simple handshake between U.S. President Barack Obama and Iran's new president, Hassan Rouhani, at the United Nations in New York this week, it did not happen. But the two presidents each delivered speeches to the 68th UN General Assembly on Tuesday, September 25, that rekindled hopes of reconciliation between the two countries.

“We are not seeking regime change, and we respect the right of the Iranian people to access peaceful nuclear energy,” Obama said.

In turn, Rouhani said he listened carefully to U.S. President Barack Obama's speech and hoped that the US “will refrain from following the short-sighted interests of war-mongering pressure groups” so that the two nations “can arrive at a framework to manage our differences.” In a conciliatory tone, he said that Iran “does not seek to increase tensions with the United States.”

Netzines expressed many different opinions on Rouhani's speech – from respect to disappointment, from deja vu to the rise new of new era.

Digital activist Arash Kamangir tweeted [fa]:

Rouhani did not want to get into a fight. He talked about peace. He appeared presidential.

Also on Twitter, Taaatweny1 writes with irony [fa]:

Some expected that Rouhani himself would shout in the UN, “Ban Ki Moon [UN general secretary], remember that Mir Hossein Mousavi [Iranian opposition leader] should be here.”

This refers to an earlier press conference with Rouhani on June 17, where someone heckled the president in front of the cameras, saying “Remember, Rouhani, Mousavi should be here!”

Jedaaal tweeted [fa]:

Rouhani's speech was the most secular and non-ideologic one we can expect for, even from an Iranian opposition member.

With irony Ali writes [fa]:

Ahmadinejad [former hardline president] must have prepared Rouhani's speech.

Farshid Faryabi tweets [fa] that although Rouhani's speech was written in an idealistic way rather than realistically political, his points on sanctions were good.

Both the US and Iran spoke about the need for negotiation and mutual respect to end crisis. May be as Mana Neyestani, a leading Iranian cartoonist [above] illustrates with her cartoon on Iran Wire it is time to leave the warrior garments behind. Maybe we can look forward to the two countries’ leaders shaking hands one day… hopefully soon.

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