Human Rights in Iran: An Update

by Pejman Yousefzadeh on January 8, 2012

I wish that I could write that things are getting better. But . . . well . . . they aren’t:

Iran is mounting new clampdowns on Internet expression, including rules that will impose layers of surveillance in the country’s popular Internet cafes, as Tehran’s political establishment comes under increasing strains from economic turmoil and threats of more international sanctions.

In the most sweeping move, Iran issued regulations giving Internet cafes 15 days to install security cameras, start collecting detailed personal information on customers and document users’ online footprints.

Until now, Iran’s cybercafes have been a youth-culture mainstay of most towns and neighborhoods, used not only by activists but also by other Iranians who believe the security of their home computers is already compromised.

Iranian users also have reported more blocked sites this week, as well as new barriers to accessing social-networking services. Internet connections, too, have bogged down.

You really ought to read the whole thing, though doing so is a depressing task. Note the discussion of the creation of an intranet; a move that is designed to cut Iran off from the rest of the world.

And then, there is this:

Iran’s former President Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani found himself living the old cliché about revolutions devouring their own children on Tuesday, when a court in Tehran sentenced his daughter to six months in prison for “spreading propaganda” against the regime. The verdict against a highly visible member of the influential Rafsanjani clan — longtime kingmakers within Iran’s political elite — is the latest sign of deepening political strife ahead of parliamentary elections to be held in March.

A former member of parliament turned political activist, Faezeh Hashemi had emerged in recent years as a sharp critic of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s government. While Hashemi isn’t a political heavyweight in her own right — she is best known as an advocate for women’s sports and for flashing Chanel under her traditional black chador — she infuriates the regime by championing her father’s politics. (Former President Rafsanjani had been Ahmadinejad’s nemesis within Tehran’s clerically dominated political system. The incumbent effectively ran his re-election campaign in the controversial 2009 poll against Rafsanjani rather than against the rival candidates, backed by the former President, who continued to occupy important clerical positions.) The verdict against Hashemi appears to be based on a recent interview in which she said Iran “was being run by thugs and hooligans.”

Of course, at the end of the day, all of these actions may well be viewed as expressions of weakness by the regime; it obviously has to worry about dissent against it coming from multiple directions. But it is utterly awful to contemplate how many innocent lives will be ruined and destroyed in Iran before political liberalization has a chance of taking place.

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