Wednesday, September 22, 2004

Iran cracks down on reformist web sites - BBC reports on Iran's bloggers in censorship protest provides a round-up of crackdown on reformist website - and writes the following:

For the past few months, some judiciary officials in Iran have shown ultimate determination to shut down two reformist news websites, Emrooz and Rouydad.

First they officially ordered the Telecom company to filter them, then after a few months, since the websites hadn't stopped operating, they stormed their ISPs and arrested some technicians helping them.

Later, they arrested a few young journalists somehow related to the websites (among them two well-known bloggers, Babak and Shahram).

Last week they arrested the father of Sina Motallebi, well-known Iranian blogger who was himself arrested last year for three weeks which created a big splash both in the blogosphere and the mainstream press. After a few months, he fled to Netherlands where he started to write about his horrible situation in detention and described the ugly interrogation methods used by Iranian secret police and judiciary agents in great detail.

It's said that Saaed Mortazavi, the same judiciary officials who has allegedly been directly involved in the death of Canadian photographer, Zahra Kazemi, is leading all this crackdown. It was also him who first ordered to filter the two reformist websites last year.

Meanwhile, the results of a recent poll show that internet is the most trusted medium among Iranians.


- Hardline consrvatives are very concerned when it comes to foreign press. So please help us spread the word in the blogosphere -- by linking to the post or to other related resources -- and give the news maximum exposure.
Posted by hoder at September 14, 2004

It seems to me that the Mullahs are acting out of despiration. The more that Iranian people seek freedom of information through the internet, the more frightened the Mullahs become. They may be terrified that this freedom may lead to a revolution, as they know that they will probably be killed.
- By: David on September 17, 2004
A blog in French specialising on Iran and Middle East related issues and notably on Iranians' forage for democracy whose URL is as follows:
- By: vahid_agha on September 17, 2004
Not very successfully last time I was there... but I'm sure they'll go to any lengths to retain power.
- By: Alex on September 16, 2004
If you want to find up to date information about Internet censorship in Iran, visit the website of the International Freedom of Expression Exchange:
- By: ifex on September 16, 2004
The story is much more horrible as it is described here. Hossein Derakhshan can not write the whole story because he has relatives, who still live in Iran and he does not want to endanger them.
- By: Farhang on September 15, 2004
I'm curious -- do many Iranians use pgp and similar applications?
- By: Faried Nawaz on September 15, 2004
It's really sad to see the lengths that the rulers of the Islamic Republic will go to in order to stop the flow of information. The questions remains though how successfully are they really in stopping such a extensive medium as the internet?
- By: Babak on September 15, 2004

[via Joi Ito]
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Watching Internet censorship in Iran

Excerpt from Stop Censoring Us | Watching Internet Censorship in Iran that explains what the site is about:

Iranian government has started to filter popular websites and weblogs in Iran, while the Internet is effecively the only unrestricted interactive medium accessable to Iranians. The purpose of is to provide official and unofficial accounts on Internet censorship in Iran so that International observers and activists have a better picture about the situation of freedom of information in the Islamic Republic of Iran. Contact stop -at- censoring -dot- us
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Emrooz challenges Iranian conservatives

Here is a copy of a 7 January 2004 BBC report on Iran's restricting of a reformist website:

Iran's judiciary has ordered one of two main pro-reformist websites to be "filtered", making it unavailable to internet subscribers in Iran.

The Emrooz website was set up by people close to Iran's reformist President, Mohammad Khatami.

Since a crackdown on reformist press, the internet has become the main forum for dissident voices in Iran.

But with elections approaching, it is feared the judiciary's move may signal a new wave of political repression.

Emrooz carries news and current affairs articles that are broadly sympathetic to the reformist agenda, and challenge the wide-ranging powers of Iran's spiritual leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

Ayatollah Khamenei controls some of Iran's most powerful non-elected institutions, including the judiciary and the army.

The judiciary has closed down more than 90 newspapers in the past five years, and many of these responded by opening their own websites and continuing to publish online.

Censorship barrier

Individual writers also embraced new technology to write their own personal news diaries, known as weblogs or blogs.

Now it seems the judiciary may be turning its attention to these new websites.

The website was set up by supporters of President Khatami

Iranian internet service providers have always been prevented from permitting access to sites deemed pornographic or anti-Islamic by the authorities, most of which originate outside Iran.

But this is the first time the judiciary has banned an Iran-based domestic political website in this way.

Internet access in Iran is simple to arrange and affordable for most middle class families.

Some seven million Iranians have access to the internet - that is one in 10 of the population, and double the number two years ago.

In Iran's highly restricted media environment, the internet has until now been a way for writers and the reading public to get around the barriers of censorship.

Now it seems the Islamic authorities may be trying to bring new media under the same tight controls as the press.
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Here is a copy of a 22 September 2004 BBC report that says the reformist Emrooz website was blocked - but has now re-appeared:

Hundreds of Iranian online journals have been protesting against media censorship by renaming their websites after pro-reformist newspapers and websites that have been banned or shut down by the authorities.

Many of the websites, known as blogs or weblogs, have also posted news items from the banned publications on their websites.

The protest was started by blogger Hossein Derakhshan, a student at Toronto university in Canada.

He told the BBC that although he felt the action was symbolic, he wanted to show Iranian authorities "that they would not be able to censor the internet in the same way as they have managed to control other media".

He said he was delighted with the response.

The hardline Iranian press has published a personal attack on him, he said, "which is proof that the authorities must be worried by the bloggers' protest".

Earlier this month, three reformist websites - Emrooz, Rooydad and Baamdad - re-appeared in a stripped-down form after having been blocked by the authorities.

One of them moved the content of its site onto a blog as a means of getting around the block.

It is thought that the number of Iranians keeping blogs is now between 10,000 and 15,000.

However, some recent reports have now suggested that Iranian authorities are considering the creation of a national intranet - an internet service just for Iran - which would be separate from the world wide web.

This would potentially mean that users would not be able to access anything the authorities do not want them to see.

But Mr Derakhshan said he and his fellow bloggers are working on a strategy to get around the intranet, using email subscription services.
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UPDATE Friday September 24:

Bloggers Unite Update

Iranian Truth has an update on the Iranian government's blocking of blogs out of Iran.

Also, Iranian Truth blog has a comprehensive list - in sidebar - of Iranian blogs news agencies publishing in English.

Monday, September 20, 2004

Iran rejects UN nuclear demands

The following is a copy of a BBC Middle East report confirming that Iran rejects UN nuclear demands.

The UN wants Iran to end all enrichment activities.

Iran has said it will not agree to halt uranium enrichment, despite the UN nuclear watchdog's call for a suspension of all such activities. It will also block snap sites checks if the issue goes to the Security Council.

"Iran will not accept any obligation regarding the suspension of uranium enrichment," chief nuclear negotiator Hassan Rohani said.

Uranium enrichment can be used to make nuclear weapons, but Iran says its programme is for peaceful purposes.

"If they want to send Iran to the Security Council, it is not wise, and we will stop implementing the Additional Protocol," Mr Rohani told a news conference in Tehran.

This demand is illegal and does not put any obligation on Iran. The IAEA board of governors has no right to make such a suspension obligatory for any country 

Hassan Rohani is Iran's chief nuclear negotiator. The Additional Protocol to the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty allows snap nuclear checks.

"We are committed to the suspension of actual enrichment, but we have no decision to expand the suspension," Mr Rohani said.

"This demand is illegal and does not put any obligation on Iran. The IAEA board of governors has no right to make such a suspension obligatory for any country."

Iran suspended enrichment a year ago as a confidence-building measure, but has continued support activities such as building the centrifuges that refine the uranium.

European rift

Iran also accused Britain, France and Germany of breaking an accord reached last year on Iran's co-operation with the IAEA.

The Board of Governors considers it necessary, to promote confidence, that Iran immediately suspend all enrichment-related activities 

"The three Europeans have violated the terms of the accord regarding enrichment because the suspension of enrichment was voluntary," Mr Rohani said.

In its resolution, the IAEA said its board of governors had judged that an Iranian promise made to the three European nations last year to suspend uranium enrichment activities had fallen short of expectations.

On Saturday, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) passed a resolution calling on Iran to suspend all uranium enrichment activities and asked Iran to grant access to its inspectors.

The resolution imposes an implicit deadline of 25 November, when the IAEA board of governors is next set to meet and review Iran's alleged nuclear weapons programme.

The IAEA keeps open the option of further steps if Iran fails to comply with its demands that could include taking Tehran before the UN Security Council.

It is investigating suspicions that Iran is enriching uranium to make weapons in secret, but Iran says it has a right to enrich uranium as part of its peaceful nuclear programme, including power generation.

US says 'clock is ticking' for Iran

Today, China Daily reports that US says 'clock is ticking' for Iran. Here is a copy of the report, in full:

A senior U.S. official says Iran should comply with a resolution passed by the International Atomic Energy Agency and freeze all uranium-enrichment activities.

U.S. Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham says he is pleased with the IAEA resolution adopted Saturday calling for Iran to suspend parts of its program that could be used to make nuclear weapons.

"I think that the IAEA board of governors sent a very clear message that Iran must cease its pursuit of nuclear weapons, and answer questions, which the board has raised, and suspend its enrichment activity," he said. "We were very pleased by this consensus, by the closing of whatever gaps existed, in terms of tactical approaches, and we should all expect that Iran should follow the obligation and cooperate fully with the IAEA. The clock is ticking down now on Iran towards the next meeting."

The 35-member IAEA board is scheduled to meet again in November to decide whether the Iran issue should go to the U.N. Security Council for possible sanctions.

Secretary Abraham was in Vienna for a conference on combating nuclear smuggling. He said the United States supports a project, together with Russia and the IAEA, to return spent fuel from old reactors to the country of origin.

"We recognize that there is a world in which terrorists are attempting to gain access, either to nuclear weapons, or materials, and we intend to stop them," he said.

This month, the United States, Russia and the IAEA worked to return highly-enriched uranium from Uzbekistan to a nuclear facility in the Russian city of Dmitrovgrad. There, it will be blended down to low-enriched uranium and used in power plants.

The enriched uranium was used in a Soviet-designed research reactor near Tashkent, described as the largest of its kind in Central Asia.

The removal of such potentially dangerous nuclear material from Uzbekistan is seen as especially important, since the country has become a target for terrorists.

In July, suicide bombers set off explosives outside the U.S. and Israeli embassies in the Uzbek capital, Tashkent. The government blamed foreign Islamic extremists for the attacks.

There are about 130 research reactors around the world running on weapons-grade uranium.

Monday, September 13, 2004

UK Foreign Secretary Jack Straw on Iran

Over the past few months, I've noticed some disturbing talk about Iran. Today, after reading another news report, and Gavin Sheridan's blog, I have set up Iran Watch blog for storing reports and notes on Iran for future reference. Unfortunately, the blogspot name for Iran was already taken, so I've named this file Tehran Watch.

Gavin's post, entitled Jack Straw on Iran and dated September 12, 2004, is copied here in full, for reading and digesting later, along with other reports filed here:

Just came across this interview from July, with the UK Foreign Secretary, Jack Straw. He makes some curious points.

Well Israel, India and Pakistan are not signatories to the Non Proliferation Treaty. We want and very powerfully committed to a nuclear free Middle East but that has to happen in order. We now have a nuclear free Mahgreb with the decision by the leader of Libya to abandon their nuclear weapons’ programme. We also have a nuclear free Iraq. Iran and, and I have made this point on a number of occasions to President Khatami of Iran also needs to abandon its aggressive stance towards Israel. The fact that for example on national day parades they have three missiles with the legend written in English on the side death to Israel. Now this aggressive stance to Israel is bound to mean that Israel is going to take or seek to take steps to protect itself from annihilation.


Well no one’s threatening Iran’s territorial integrity, no one is saying that Iran should not exist. Israel’s territorial integrity I’m afraid is threatened. I don’t happen to approve of a lot of the actions which the government of Israel takes and I make that very clear but I also say that if you want a nuclear free Middle East then you have to ensure that first of all it is the Arab and Islamic countries which remove their threat to Israel and then we can put a great deal more pressure on Israel to abandon its undoubted nuclear weapons’ programme which has been there whether people like it or not for defensive purposes. But I also just make this point because Iran is in rather paradoxical position. On the one hand as you say it may feel threatened by the presence of American, United Kingdom and other coalition troops on both its eastern and its western borders in Afghanistan and in Iraq but the paradox of our liberation of Afghanistan and our liberation of Iraq from Saddam is actually to make the Iranian position much stronger. Before they were threatened by Iraq and to a degree by the instability in Afghanistan.

But perhaps most curiously:

No one has any intention of launching military action against Iran. Iran has said itself that it does not want nuclear weapons nor in terms of regional stability does it have any reasons to acquire them or build up a programme for them.

The fact that Iran is now bordered with two countries recently invaded by Western powers is an interesting one. I reckon we might see an effort by the US to see the regime in Iran fall, without the use of US forces to any large degree - they are pretty stretched as it is. But the use of Rumsfeld’s much loved light and quick special forces would also be a distinct possibility to halt the construction of Iranian nuclear facilities.

Iran: The next big international story?

Gavin Sheridan's post entitled The next big international story?, dated September 12, 2004, is copied here - in full - for future reference:

Iran has popped up now and then on this blog over the last number of weeks. I had indicated that the situation looks set to worsen, and if one were to read between the lines, it seems that in the run up the US elections, Iran will figure prominently. It looks like it might turn into a showdown.

This report from Fox news indicates how the story might develop. Senior US figures like Rumsfeld are hinting at something down the line, it is something to watch for. The Fox news report indicates:

President Bush said Monday the United States was exploring whether Iran had any role in the Sept. 11 attacks.

“We’re digging into the facts to see if there was one,” Bush said in an Oval Office photo opportunity. “We will continue to look and see if the Iranians were involved … I have long expressed my concerns about Iran. After all, it’s a totalitarian society where people are not allowed to exercise their rights as human beings.”

Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said it had been known that there were senior Al Qaeda members in Iran “for some time” and that Iran had been helping Lebanese Hezbollah in moving terrorists down through Syria into Lebanon, then down into Israel.

“So we know that Iran has been on the terrorist list,” Rumsfeld said. “We know that Iran has been notably unhelpful along the border of both Afghanistan and Iraq.”

Some experts wonder whether Tehran will be the next U.S. target in the War on Terror. Loftus said one option the United States could utilize to put pressure on Iran to stop its supposed dirty deeds — such as allegedly trying to make nuclear weapons — would be to establish a naval blockade.

American and British officials may ask the United Nations for action against Iran, Loftus added. Meetings are planned for September and November on the topic.

“My suspicion is, in September we’ll really have evidence that Iran is lying through their teeth,” Loftus said. “We’ll put in a naval blockade and without oil exports, in three weeks the economy of Iran will collapse and it will either be neutered or there will be a regime change from within.”

“We’re not going to invade Iran but [are] probably going to blockade it with the full backing of the United Nations,” he continued. “That’s what is in store for the fall.”

FOX News foreign affairs analyst Alireza Jafarzadeh noted that besides the Sept. 11 report detailing the known Iran-Al Qaeda ties, Iraqi officials have said Iran is the main source of foreign fighters behind the insurgency in Iraq.

“I think it all boils down to what policy the U.S. wants to pursue to contain the threat of Iran’s nuclear weapons and the bigger problems Iran is posing,” Jafarzadeh said. “They [U.S.] should pursue a zero-tolerance policy.”

This is amazing stuff, its very similar PR stuff to what happened in the lead up the Iraq war.

A naval blockade of Iran would certainly heighten tensions among the Shia community. Added to this are reports by American intelligence officials who believe that Iran has been supplying Shia rebels in Iraq with advanced weaponry, to aid the destruction of heavy armour, or even helicopters.

Further media reports dwell on the situation further, including this Reuters report:

The United States is determined to stop Iran getting atomic weapons, and has signalled Washington will not rule out an attack if peaceful diplomacy failed to achieve this.

President George W. Bush’s top official on nuclear on-proliferation, Undersecretary of State John Bolton, was asked during a brief visit to Israel if the United States could consider such an attack.

“President Bush is determined to try and find a peaceful and diplomatic solution to the problem of Iran’s pursuit of nuclear weapons,” he said. “But we are determined that they are not going to achieve a nuclear weapons capability.”

It continues:

The United States wants Iran brought before the U.N. Security Council to face possible sanctions, but Bolton said Washington did not see such measures as automatic.

“The most important reason to take Iran to the Security Council is to heighten political pressure,” he said.

“It is by no means inevitable that the Security Council has to impose economic sanctions or take other steps, that’s why this really lies in Iran’s hands.”

Iran on Sunday rejected European demands it abandon sensitive nuclear activities but reiterated its readiness to provide assurances that its atomic ambitions are entirely peaceful.