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February 25 2014

February 17 2014

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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.

A Love Story With No Kissing? That's Cinema in Iran

A Separation

Leila Hatami and Peyman Moadi in “A Separation.” Credit: Habib Madjidi/Sony Pictures Classics

This article and a radio report by Shirin Jaafari for The World originally appeared on on February 13, 2014 and is republished as part of a content sharing agreement.

For any film to be shown in Iran, directors have to follow the strict Islamic laws.

Male and female characters can't touch. Women have to cover their hair at all times.

“Can you imagine how many stories you’re unable to tell as a filmmaker if you cannot show the slightest physical touch between members of the opposite sex?” asks Jamsheed Akrami, an Iranian director based in the US.

Akrami spent five years interviewing a dozen Iranian filmmakers, actors and actresses. The result is his latest documentary: “Cinema of discontent.”

They all lament the hardship they face in telling a story in film when they have to follow all the Islamic codes they have to follow.

“I’m not only alluding to the romantic subjects, you know, we’re talking about situations where you can’t even show parental affection or a male physician for example, cannot be shown examining a female patient,” he adds.

One of the directors Akrami interviews in his documentary is Bahman Farmanara. He explains how he got around one challenging scene in his movie “A Little Kiss.”

“There is a sequence in ‘A Little Kiss’ where the father, after 38 years of being in Switzerland, has returned suddenly because his son has committed suicide and he comes to visit his daughter,” he says. “Well, obviously according to the laws that we have to obey, a man and a woman cannot embrace each other. Even though in this particular instance they are father and daughter.”

Here’s how director Farmanara got around it.

“So what I did … when the daughter takes a few steps towards him, he takes his hat off,” Farmanara says. “So, he makes a move to stop her from coming close…”

Farmanara added that Iran is a “nation that in our films we don’t kiss, we don’t touch, we don’t hug but somehow miraculously from 37 million we’ve gone to 70 million.”

There are so many similar cases in Iranian films that if you watch enough of them, you would actually be surprised if the characters do touch or dance for example.

Yet filmmakers and actors constantly challenge the red lines.

In one film called “Gilaneh,” a mother who is taking care of her paralyzed son bathes him, moves him around and even at one point starts dancing to cheer him up.

In Akrami's documentary, the director, Rakhshan Bani Etemad says that she worried about the sensors, but felt the story had to be told to break the taboo.

Akrami says as an Iranian filmmaker “your most prized skill is the ability to work around the censorship codes. The artistic gift is actually a secondary requirement when it comes to making films in Iran.”

But with all the restrictions, Iranian films have been part of festivals around the world. And they have received recognition.

In 2012, for example, Asghar Farhadi made history when he won an Oscar for his film “A Separation.”

Many others film have won international awards.

Meanwhile Mahdi Kouhian, a documentary filmmaker in Iran, says since the election of Iran's president, Hassan Rouhani, there is a more positive atmosphere.

For example, he said he attended the Fajr Film Festival for the first time in four years.

The festival is held every year to mark the anniversary of the Islamic Revolution.

But filmmaker Akrami isn't as optimistic. That's because he says he doesn't see any fundamental changes.

“The election of Mr. Rouhani, to me, is just a cosmetic change. It's like putting make up on a monster, which basically wouldn’t change the nature of that monster. You still have a monster,” he says.

For him, the saddest part about Iranian cinema is that its best movies never got to be made.

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.
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February 11 2014

Iran: “Less” anti-U.S. Atmosphere

Iran celebrated the 35th anniversary of the Islamic revolution on Tuesday.Some netizens wrote about what hardliners reported after the celebration.Hadi Nili tweeted

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Iran on the Day to End Mass Surveillance

Iranian green movement protest, 2009. Photo by Waging Non-Violence (CC BY 4.0)

Iranian green movement protest, 2009. Photo by Waging Non-Violence (CC BY 4.0)

The revelations surrounding the surveillance practices of the NSA and other Western government intelligence agencies may have made 2013 the year the Internet lost its innocence within democratic states. But this state of perpetual, pervasive surveillance has long been part of everyday life within the Islamic Republic of Iran. While security and privacy concerns have recently become a mainstream concern in the Western world, Iranians have long known the risks of sharing information through communications technologies.

Shunood, the term most often used for surveillance in Farsi, comes from the word shenidan, which means to listen. Relatedly, surveillance within Iran is commonly associated with the wiretapping of phones — a common practice within Iran since the introduction of the technology to the country. In July 2013, the outspoken Parliamentarian Ali Motahari discovered his office had been bugged with recording devices — many suspected the devices were installed by Iran’s previous hard-line Minister of Intelligence. In recent years, advances in communication technologies have changed the state’s surveillance apparatus.  From data mining and eavesdropping through the ultra pervasive Deep Packet Inspection (DPI) method, to control over meta-data collected by telecommunication companies, and physical wiretapping (which is the most popular method inside Iran), researchers have identified various digital surveillance methods.

During and after the Green Movement of 2009, security researcher Chris Parsons found strong evidence suggesting that sophisticated surveillance technologies such as DPI were used by the government during this period. Tebyan Zanjan, an Iranian website covering ICT news, has reported on different methods of government data collection, from DPI to telephone wiretapping, further illustrating the government’s surveillance capabilities.

In sum, it is common knowledge among Iranians that if the state can, it will spy on its citizens.

Two important legal standards exist for surveillance practices. Both call for due process in instances when the state engages in surveillance. Article 25 of the Constitution indicates:

The inspection of letters and the failure to deliver them, the recording and disclosure of telephone conversations, the disclosure of telegraphic and telex communications, censorship, or the willful failure to transmit them, eavesdropping, and all forms of covert investigation are forbidden, except as provided by law.

At the same time, Article 104 of Iran’s Criminal Code of Procedure for Public and Revolutionary Courts states:

In cases where there is a need to inspect and detect mailing, telecom, audio and visual correspondences related to the accused, in connection with investigation of a crime, the judge will inform the respective officers to confiscate [these materials] and send them to him or her. Once they are received, they will be presented to the accused, noted in the minutes, and attached to the file after being signed by the accused. Refusal of the accused to sign will be noted in the minutes and in case the items are not of relative importance, and if the confiscation is not necessary, they will be returned to the owner obtaining an acknowledgment of receipt.

While laws exist to protect the privacy of individuals, there is a dissonance between the laws and practices of the state. These protections are often lost between the many different authorities who administer these practices within a complex, larger government apparatus, with various Ministries and organizations of different branches involved. The central entity involved in mass data collection from communications technology is the Telecommunications Company of Iran (TCI), or Mokhaberat in Farsi. This organization falls under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Information Communication Technology (ICT), but maintains private shareholders. While there are conflicting reports concerning the precise nature of the influence of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards over the TCI, it is widely known that they own the greatest shares of the TCI, placing this body in the hands of an entity accountable only to the Supreme Leader. Although often difficult to prove, many experts suspect these shareholders are associated with elements within Iran’s Revolutionary Guards and Basij (IGRC).

The Ministry of Intelligence, the IGRC, FETA (Iran’s Cyber Police), Ministry of Defense, Ministry ICT, the Passive Defense Organization (PDO), and the Supreme Council for Cyberspace (SCC) are all involved in the country’s surveillance regime, but they are often accountable to different authorities and represent different motivations and ideologies, ranging from hard-line elements in the opposition to reformist or moderate influences within the elite.

On February 11, when the world takes a stand for privacy rights in the wake of Edward Snowden’s NSA leaks, we should not forget the practices that have always existed, and continue to prosecute and imprison Iranians. While we stand up against countries like the United States, Canada, and the UK for their violations of our privacy rights, ASL19 urges the world not to forget the circumstances in a country that does not require revelations to reveal the unjust state of privacy and human rights.


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February 09 2014

Iran: Five Soldiers Abducted near Iran-Pakistan Border

Five Iranian soldiers were kidnapped on Friday, near Iran-Pakistan border by Sunni extremists. Iranians launched a tweet campaign to support abducted soldiers.Amin Sabeti tweeted

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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.

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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.”

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January 31 2014

Iran: Several Miners Arrested

Iran's Anarchist Workers’ Facebook page reports that several striking miners got arrested in Yazd province.Iran's students tweeted

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January 29 2014

Coursera Online Courses Blocked in Syria, Iran and Cuba by US Sanctions

Hit by US Sanctions, online learning platform Coursera is no longer available for students from Syria, Iran and Cuba. Those effected were surprised to have the following message on their screen as they tried to access their courses:

“Our system indicates that you are trying to access the Coursera site from an IP address associated with a country currently subjected to US economic and trade sanctions. In order for Coursera to comply with US export controls, we cannot allow you to access to the site.”

Iranian student Navid Soltani immediately expressed his outrage on Coursera's Facebook page:

2014-01-29 01_41_59-Navid Soltani - Photos of Coursera

Blogger Leila Nachawati shared his sentiments:

Syrian blogger and developer Anas Maarawi criticized the US sanctions on his blog [ar]:

وبين مطرقة النظام السوري الذي يحجب مئات مواقع الإنترنت، وسندان “العقوبات الأمريكية” يزداد الخناق على الشباب السوري الراغب بالتعلّم، أو بالأحرى من تبقى من الشباب السوري القادر على الوصول إلى ما تبقى من الإنترنت في سوريا.

“Between the censorship imposed by the regime, which includes blocking hundreds of internet sites, and the effect of US sanctions, it has become nearly impossible for the remaining youth in the country to have access to online learning.”

Editor-in-chief at Wamda Nina Curley was more pragmatic in her approach and asked if it was inevitable:

However, one of Coursera's professors, Rolf Strom Olsen, couldn't understand why non-Americans are affected as well:

January 27 2014

Iran: A Facebook Administrator Arrested

Iran's cyberpolice say they have arrested administrator of a Facebook page called “Sherarat” (meaning villainy”). Iranian police added this Facebook page used to publish stories and photos about thugs and made publicity about their actions.

January 24 2014

De l'impasse syrienne à la guerre régionale

Alors que se poursuivent les préparatifs de la conférence de Genève 2 sur la Syrie, rien ne laisse augurer une fin prochaine des affrontements. Au contraire : le conflit prend un tour plus confessionnel et s'étend à toute la région. / États-Unis (affaires extérieures), Iran, Liban, Proche-Orient, (...) / États-Unis (affaires extérieures), Iran, Liban, Proche-Orient, Russie, Syrie, Guérilla, Islam, Mouvement de contestation, Relations internationales, Fondamentalisme, Réveil arabe 2011- - 2013/07

January 21 2014

Iran:Tehran Welcomes China's Help to Launch the National Internet

Iranian authorities in the Ministry of Information recently met with their Chinese counterparts and said they welcome China's experience to launch Iran's national internet.”
Amin Sabeti tweeted

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January 15 2014

Un rayon de soleil égaré dans le ciel de Téhéran

En cette veille de l'hiver, nous fêtons la plus longue nuit de l'année, Yalda . Mon père n'est plus parmi nous. A sa place, en haut du salon, sur le fauteuil en bois orné de velours défraîchi, est assis mon oncle. Il n'a pas la carrure ni l'éloquence de son frère aîné. Son complet gris mal taillé et mal repassé tient à sa taille par une fausse ceinture Versace de seconde main en cuir marron clair. Retraité de l'éducation nationale, il fait le taxi pour arrondir les fins de mois avec sa vieille Peugeot montée (...) - Lettres de... / Iran, Proche-Orient, Culture
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January 12 2014

Iran: Tech Bloggers in Jail

Jadi remembered and tweeted on Saturday, 11th of January, about jailed tech bloggers in Kerman province.The technology news website in Kerman reported on December 3, 2013 that seven of their writers and technical staff were suddenly arrested with no information about where they were taken.

Iran: “City Councillor Lost Post Over Facebook Account”

Azamolsadat Hosseini says she lost her post in Behshahr‘s City Council over her Facebook account. Several Iranian officials use Facebook and Twitter to communicate their message but these sites and many other ones are filtered in country.

Iran: Jailed Blogger Needs Specialized Medical Treatment

Amnesty International says “the health of jailed Iranian blogger Mohammad Reza Pourshajari,a prisoner of conscience,is worsening. He is in urgent need of specialized medical treatment.” Mohammad Reza Pourshajari(aka Siamak Mehr) was arrested in September 2010.In his blog, Iran Land's Report, he would criticize the Islamic Republic and Islam with strong words.

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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:

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.

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