April 17, 2012

National Internet Hoax? Pay Deflates, Prices Inflate, Goldfish Released

Butcher of the Press leaves…Not!

Regular readers of Arseh Sevom’s weekly review won’t be surprised to find that former Tehran prosecutor, Saeed Mortazavi, is topping headlines once again. This time with rumors of his resignation after a contested promotion to director of the biggest financial holding organization in Iran, Social Security Organization [Sazman-e Tamin-e Ejtema’ie]. (See the weekly reviews from February 14 and March 06 for more information.) Mortazavi is no stranger to controversy and condemnation. After the 2009 demonstrations against the flawed presidential elections, he was summoned for a hearing in connection with  atrocities that occurred at Kahrizak prison. Dismayed parliamentarians threatened that his promotion, instead of punishment, would mean the impeachment of his boss, the Minister of Labor.

As the week came to a close, news sites in Iran posted reported Mortazavi’s resignation. The butcher of the press, the alleged mastermind behind Kahrizak, it was reported, had caved in as a result of protests. For a few minutes it seemed that calls for justice might be heeded in the absence of an effective judicial system. The exiled journalist, Masih Alinejad, wrote in her blog:

“Saeed Mortazavi, the same judge assigned to Kahrizak detention center and accused of the murder of its inmates, has received one promotion after another over the past three years… He has come to personify a policy which places the oppressor in charge and the oppressed behind bars.”

Early on Sunday, however, the Fars News Agency reported that Mahmood Ahmadinejad had refused Saeed Mortazavi’s resignation.

National Internet or April Fool?

Arseh Sevom has been covering the story of Iran’s plans to construct a national or “halal” interenet for more than a year now. This has recently become big news, as a piece in the International Business Times reports.

The Islamic Republic of Iran’s plan to create a national internet is justified as a way to “uphold national security,” “safeguard the minds of youth” from “corrupting Western values,” and give the Iranian Cyber Army an edge in the soft war, according to the Supreme Leader.

Now many are questioning the plans, wondering if it is even possible.

Iranian ICT Ministry: “It wasn’t us.”

Amid all the publicity, the Iranian Ministry of ICT issued a statement denying plans to cut  access to the internet calling the whole thing a “13th of Farvardin prank” [the 13th of Farvadin corresponds to April 1] accusing “the propaganda wing of the West” of spreading false rumors.

UPDATE: Read a more detailed reaction to the National Internet from Arseh Sevom here.
Labor Activist Faces Long Sentence

Inside Iran, labor activist, Reza Shahabi, was sentenced to six years in prison. Mr. Shahabi’s family announced that he is suffering from a critical health condition and is in urgent need of surgery. As in all such cases, Reza Shahabi’s charges include “acts against national security.” His imprisonment has caused Reza Shahabi’s family severe psychological and economic hardship.

Prices Inflate While Paychecks Deflate

Earlier last week, some 2000 workers from the Karoon Sugar Cane Industry protested shrinking real wages and shortened contracts, stating they could barely cover basic necessities. ILNA news agency reports that the move to gather in front of the Neybor factory in Shushtar was triggered after a change in management led to layoffs of seasonal workers before the end of their contracts.

Adding to their problems, the workers had already been denied any benefits or wage increases.

On 11th of April, Jamejam newspaper in Tehran reported that “representatives of Neybor factory workers gathered in front of the parliament demanding an urgent meeting with MPs to discuss the issue immediately.”

Arseh Sevom could not verify whether the demonstrators were granted the meeting with MPs.

This all comes as Shirin Ebadi warns of the debilitating effects of sanctions on Iran’s poor and middle class. In an interview with the New York Times she stated,  “The people need these sanctions to be removed for a sustainable life.”

Help Activists Not War-Mongers

In Canada, Iranian activists held a conference appealing to  international political actors to assist civil rights activists instead of contemplating waging another devastating war in the region.

NGOs This Way Please

The deputy head of the Presidential Office’s Center for Women and Family Affairs, Parvin Hedayati, has called on NGOs to become members of a governmental “Social Network.” She announced that only those NGOs that register for the Iranian NGOs Social Network will receive support from the Islamic Republic. Last year, another Iranian official had talked of a similar website for youth NGOs. Both are currently offline.

The efforts to keep NGOs under the central state’s umbrella corresponds with its efforts to criminalize independent civil society as Arseh Sevom has reported in Legalizing the Murder of Civil Society.

No University Degree for “Seditionists”

In another episode of the ongoing battle against those who protested the 2009 presidential elections in Iran, the Minister of Science, Research and Technology has announced that “Seditionists are not entitled to admissions to Iranian universities.” By “sedition” he refers to the peaceful protests following the disputed 2009 elections.

Raising Their Voices

The International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran released a video comprised of quotes from Iranian intellectuals opposing war. Political activist Fakhrosadat Mohtashamipour is quoted as saying “When we have a democratic movement, then war is certainly not the answer. We believe that with some patience and resistence, the people can take society away from this militarized and coup-like atmosphere. It can be seen on Youtube:

Oppression of Iranian-Kurdish Community Detailed in Report

In a report released on April 11 by The Iran Human Rights Documentation Center (IHRDC), the repression of the Kurdish-Iranian community and the targeting of Kurdish-Iranian activists is detailed. The organization’s 70-page report, “On the Margins: Arrest, Imprisonment and Execution of Kurdish Activists in Iran Today,” reveals a disturbing and shocking pattern of repression and violence by the Islamic Republic of Iran against its Kurdish community. Arseh Sevom summarized the report here.

Thank You Mr. Mayor!

Last but not least, in a heartwarming measure, Amol Municipality organized a Nowrooz goldfish release event. Children were taught “to care about lives of other creatures and learn how to cope with situations when they need to let go of what they hold dear in life.” The mayor of Amol in Mazandaran province, Ahmad Amir Soleymani, was quoted as saying, “Environmentalists are real supporters of truth…we are all responsible for preserving life and the continuation of life. Let us not allow nature to die. Let us wipe out sickness and death, and let us remember that the environment is but a reflection of our own inner selves.”

Arseh Sevom says, “Thank you Mr. Mayor!” It’s refreshing to hear concerns about preserving life and nature when the discourse is so filled with threats and violence.

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