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Rouhani Government “Closed Seven Million” Websites in First Term

CHRI - A cabinet minister appointed by centrist President Hassan Rouhani has admitted that the Ministry of Telecommunications and Information Technology filtered "seven million" websites during Rouhani's first term (2013-17).

Imprisoned Teachers’ Rights Activist Returned to Evin Prison After Three-Day Hospitalization

CHRI -  Esmail Abdi ended his hunger strike on June 6, 2017 after a "positive" meeting in Evin Prison, according to a statement posted by the Iranian Teachers' Trade Association (ITTA) on its Telegram channel. The statement said the meeting took place between Abdi, his lawyer Amir Salar Davoudi, assistant prosecutor Hajimoradi (first name unknown), two members of the ITTA's board of directors and Abdi's mother on June 16, 2017.

Abdulkarim Shah Bakhsh; 8 Years of Torture and Harassment in Prisons

Abdulkarim Shah BakhshHRANA News Agency – Abdulkarim Shah Bakhsh, 55, Baluch Sunni political prisoner, after eight years of imprisonment in exile in the Central Prison of Ardabil, is held without leave and medical treatment for the diseases such as; “asthma, swelling and scarring of the lungs” with coughing up blood. In his referring to the prison clinic, he was told that he had to pay “6 million IRR” for his medicines as they had to get them from outside the prison, while in the past eight years Mr. Shah Bakhsh had no income because of the imprisonment, and his family is in poverty caused by being “orphaned”.

Newly Reelected Rouhani Abandons Promise to End Six-Year House Arrest of Opposition Leaders

Newly Reelected Rouhani Abandons Promise to End Six-Year House Arrest of Opposition LeadersCHRI - In his first press conference after being declared the winner of Iran's May 19, 2017 election, President Hassan Rouhani refused to commit to ending the more than six-year extrajudicial house arrests of three opposition leaders—a pledge he made during his first presidential campaign.

Asked what he would do to free opposition leaders Mehdi Karroubi, Mir Hosseini Mousavi and Zahra Rahnavard, who have been detained for more than six years for leading the peaceful, mass protests against the disputed result of the 2009 presidential election, Rouhani suggested that a solution depended on cooperation from other branches of state.

"The country is ruled by laws and we should all submit to them," he said on May 22. "The executive, legislative and judicial branches have their own responsibilities. We are moving forward on the basis of the Constitution."

"I am responsible for the rights of every citizen, even Iranians living abroad," added Rouhani. "Wherever I see the rights of Iranians being violated, I will take action within my powers. In cases related to the judiciary, I will respond by direct communication or in joint meetings. The next government plans to implement the Charter on Citizens' Rights. In this respect, the rights of all people are important to me."

Rouhani made no reference to Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, whose adamant opposition to freeing the three detainees has kept them detained in legal limbo.

At a presidential campaign rally at Sharif University in Tehran on May 13, 2013, Rouhani said he hoped he could free the three within the first year of his presidency: "We can provide conditions such that over the next year, individuals who were imprisoned or put under house arrest for the 2009 events are released."

Amid Rouhani's virtual silence on the issue during his first term, other politicians raised it a number of times, including conservative Deputy Parliament Speaker Ali Motahari, who has repeatedly spoken of the need for a solution.

In an interview on May 8, 2017, Motahari repeated his suggestion that the issue could be resolved through negotiation.

"Some steps have been taken towards resolving the house arrests and we have to listen to the reasoning by the opposing side," he said. "We have to move towards improving the conditions in the country and prevent issues before they turn into a crisis."

Motahari has previously explained that Khamenei is the driving factor behind the continuing house arrests.

"One of the obstacles against their freedom has been the insistence by some officials that if they do not apologize and repent, it will damage the state and the supreme leader," said Motahari. "It isn't wrong to have an opinion about the 2009 incidents different than those of people in power...keeping (Mousavi, Rahnavard and Karroubi) under house arrest for six years is neither compatible with the law nor with religious teachings."

At the May 22 press conference, the newly reelected president was also asked about his policies on protecting the rights of the artistic community, particularly those in the music and film industries.

"One of the outcomes of this year's elections was that everyone was at peace with music," responded Rouhani. "However, we are not too fond of cheap music. Some say that's fine as well, but in any case, I am certain our new government will give more support to the cultural community."

"The situation did improve for music and cinema in our previous four years, but we will make greater efforts in the next four," he added.

Since 2013, when Rouhani was voted into office promising a more open society, numerous state-sanctioned musicians, including the popular musical artists Alireza Ghorbani and Sirvan Khosravi, saw their concerts canceled at the last moment.

Religious conservatives have justified their attacks on musicians by quoting vague statements and decrees by senior religious leaders. Khamenei has himself often warned about the alleged dangers of music, saying it will "lead people away from the path of God."

Rouhani also said his government would adopt proposals based on educational guidelines provided by the UN 2030 Agenda—vehemently opposed by conservatives—that do not violate Islamic principles.

"The ministers of foreign affairs, science and education wrote to the supreme leader explaining to His Excellency at length that the Islamic Republic of Iran has reserved the right to ignore parts of agenda 2030 that do not conform with our culture and national values," said Rouhani.

On the issue of women in the workforce, Rouhani said his government would do more to increase women's employment prospects.

"It's wrong to think that men have a higher status or that they are more capable than women," he said.

At the same time, Rouhani echoed Khamenei's sexist views by claiming certain jobs are more suitable for men than women.

"It's wrong to think that men have a higher status or that they are more capable than women," he said at the same press conference. "Of course men are better at some professions and women are better at others. (God) has given both their own special qualities."

"But women are not lower than men and keeping them inside the house does not make sense from social or legal standpoints," he added.

Arash Sadeghi in Critical Health Condition in Evin Prison

Arash SadeghiHRANA New Agency – Arash Sadeghi, imprisoned civil activist in ward 350 of Evin prison, has advanced stomach bleeding, so that he is “no longer able to eat solid food”. This prisoner, who is suffering from aspiratory chronic inflammation disease (asthma), stomach bleeding and intestinal colitis, caused by long term hunger strike, is still in prison and being deprived of treatment, due to opposing by the Iranian Revolutionary Guards.

Ahead of Iranian elections, international rights groups denounce targeting of activists

Ahead of Iranian elections, international rights groups denounce targeting of activistsIRAN HUMAN RIGHTS -  In advance of the Iranian Presidential elections on 19 May, which will take place in a largely restrictive environment, we, the undersigned organisations, urge that the Iranian government fulfill its international human rights obligations and cease the systematic targeting of human rights defenders (HRDs).

Iranian Judiciary Forbids Campaigners From Printing Rouhani's Criticism of Revolutionary Guard

 

CHRI - Hardliners Working to Suppress Reformist Leader's Endorsement of Rouhani


Rouhani's supporters campaigning for him at Tehran's Vali Asr street on Thursday
(photo by Islamic Republic News Agency)

Since reformist leader Mohammad Khatami endorsed incumbent President Hassan Rouhani's second-term election campaign, hardliners have been working to suppress the message, as well as Rouhani's criticism of his powerful, hardline opponents, the Center for Human Rights in Iran (CHRI) has learned.

Most recently, the judiciary has forbidden Rouhani's election campaign staff from publishing remarks by Rouhani that have been critical of judicial officials or the security and military forces, an informed source told the Center for Human Rights in Iran (CHRI) on May 17.

"We like the Revolutionary Guard and the Basij militia. All we are asking is to carry out the wishes of the imam (the leader of the 1979 revolution, Ruhollah Khomeini), who said that the military and security forces should not interfere with any political party or organization," said Rouhani on May 17 during his final campaign speech in the city of Mashhad.

The president was implying that the paramilitary forces have been interfering in Iran's politics, which Khomeini-who created the forces after the 1979 revolution-explicitly forbade them from doing.

Rouhani's campaign media advisers have been summoned and forced to sign a written pledge saying they would not promote the comments, an informed source told CHRI.

The statement also included a pledge to abide by the ban on printing images and statements by reformist leader Mohammad Khatami, and detained opposition leaders Mir Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi, who have been under extrajudicial house arrest since February 2011 for peacefully disputing the result of the 2009 presidential election.


The search results for Khatami's video message endorsing Rouhani
showing irrelevant info on a search engine on Iran's domestic internet.

Meanwhile, several Rouhani campaign offices have been attacked by police and plainclothes agents, who used tear gas and "beat up" staff and supporters.

An eyewitness who works for the Rouhani campaign in Tehran said the attacks took place against offices in several cities from the evening of May 16 until the late evening of May 17.

"On Wednesday evening, the police and plainclothes agents from an unknown agency showed up at Hassan Rouhani's campaign offices in several cities, including the Sadr headquarters in Tehran, and would not allow supporters to distribute campaign material such as posters and banners among the people," said the eyewitness, who requested anonymity for security reasons.

"At some campaign office locations, staff were beaten and kicked by the plainclothes agents, but no one was arrested," added the source.

On May 16, a Rouhani supporter tweeted: "Just now, Rouhani's campaign office in Valiasr [Sq. in Tehran] was attacked with tear gas, and people and staff scattered! Everyone removed their purple wristbands fearing they might get identified."

Purple is the Rouhani campaign's official color.

A Rouhani campaign worker confirmed the incident to CHRI, adding that the attacks were coming from supporters of Rouhani's main rival, Ebraim Raisi.

"Agents related to the Revolutionary Guard and Raisi's supporters attacked Hassan Rouhani's campaign offices throughout Tehran hoping to dampen the people's election fervor," said the source. "It seems they are reacting to the knowledge that they are going to lose."

Another witness told CHRI: "The plainclothes agents trashed the office, beat up the staff and tore up Rouhani's posters. They dispersed the crowds and threw tear gas at the entrance to the headquarters. At this point, the police did not get involved anymore, but they did divert traffic. They told us to evacuate and stop distributing posters."

Iranians will go to the polls to vote for their next president and local councils on May 19, 2017. Campaigning is officially banned after midnight on May 18, 2017.

Suppressing Khatami's Message

The intimidation of Rouhani's media advisers came a few days after judicial authorities contacted several Iran-based website administrators by phone to demand the removal of Khatami's video message endorsing Rouhani. 

"We started on a path with Mr. Rouhani and we are at the halfway point," said Khatami in a video message released on May 14. "Repeat your vote for the dear Mr. Rouhani to strengthen hope and a better future."


Khatami's video message endorsing Rouhani eliminated from Aparat's website.

The influential former president (1997-2005) posted his message online because Iranian media outlets have been banned from mentioning him.

"I can attest that Mr. Rouhani's government has been a successful one," he said, referring to the final nuclear deal signed in 2015 and decreasing inflation. "With all the limitations, problems and high expectations, the government has served the revolution, the people and the country very well."

A source at the Rouhani campaign headquarters told CHRI: "After the Khatami video in support of Rouhani was published, we received a call from the prosecutor's office threatening us with arrest if we did not delete the video from our website."

Iran's domestic version of YouTube, Aparat, has also removed a copy of Khatami's video endorsement from its site without explanation. 

When Aparat removed a video from Khatami backing reformist parliamentary candidates in the February 2016 elections, it posted a note explaining that it had been ordered to do so by Iran's principal online filtering body, the Taskforce to Determine Instances of Criminal Content.

... Payvand News - 05/18/17 ... --

IRAN: FURTHER INFORMATION: HEALTH FEARS FOR JAILED IRANIAN TEACHER IST: ESMAIL ABDI

IRAN: FURTHER INFORMATION: HEALTH FEARS FOR JAILED IRANIAN TEACHER IST: ESMAIL ABDIAmensty - The health of jailed trade ist Esmail Abdi has deteriorated following a hunger strike he started on 30 April in protest at the criminalization of peaceful trade ists. He is a prisoner of conscience serving a six-year sentence in Tehran's Evin prison.

Iran targets Telegram app as it seeks to control news ahead of May election


 

Iran targets Telegram app as it seeks to control news ahead of May electionCPJ - Iran has a history of cracking down on the independent press ahead of elections, with authorities arresting journalists and forcing reformist outlets to shut down. As Iranians prepare to vote in presidential and city council elections on May 19, authorities have turned their attention to Telegram, arresting several channel administrators for the app.


With mainstream social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter blocked for most users in the country, Telegram has become a popular way for Iranians to share news. A tech expert and a journalist with whom CPJ spoke said that Telegram played a critical role in the 2016 parliamentary Iranian election--in which dozens of moderate and reformist leaning candidates were elected to the Majles (Iran's parliament)--by allowing users to circumvent censorship. A video of former president Mohammad Khatami, for instance, in which he encouraged people to vote for reformist candidates, was widely shared on Telegram. Iranian media are banned from showing Khatami and YouTube is blocked, leaving Telegram as one of the few ways for supporters to share Khatami's message inside Iran.

A Telegram channel administrator, who goes by the name Vahid Online, told CPJ, "Telegram was the deciding factor in Iran's last election and I believe it will play a very important role in the upcoming presidential election."

The app is popular in Iran, where it has 40 million active users, according to Telegram chief executive Pavel Durov. Digital safety experts however, have criticized Telegram for security vulnerabilities such as its use of a proprietary encryption protocol whose safety cryptographers are unable to assess--unlike standard protocols, which are well-tested. It is also possible to use unencrypted chats by accident and Telegram' phone-number-based authentication system makes it easy for governments to take over accounts and access previous messages, experts have warned. Telegram told CPJ last year it rejects claims that its system is vulnerable. [CPJ recommends using Signal or WhatsApp for secure, encrypted messaging.]

Iranian authorities have also tried to regulate Telegram. In December, the Supreme Council of Cyberspace, a body that set policies on internet content, announced that Telegram channels with more than 5,000 followers must register with the Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance. According to the semi-official Mehr News, more than 2,000 channels are registered.

Amir Rashidi, an internet security researcher at the Center for Human Rights in Iran, told CPJ the group's research suggests the administrators were arrested because Iranian authorities had access to their identities through the registry and because they had a close connection to Hassan Rouhani's administration. A report by the New York-based human rights advocacy organization said that the registration scheme was probably implemented to help identify reformist voices.

Local news outlets reported that channels affected by the arrests include Reform News, with more than 111,000 followers, and Assembly of Reformists, with 94,000 followers, and that content on some channels was deleted after the arrests. CPJ was unable to determine if authorities ordered the channels to delete the content. Authorities have not publicly given a reason for the arrests, but Ali Motahari, a member of parliament, told the semi-official ISNA news agency, "about 12 administrators of reformist or pro-government Telegram channels have been arrested by an intelligence body." CPJ was unable to determine the status of their cases.

CPJ's review in recent months of the channels targeted found they mostly contained news, information, and analysis about Iran's presidential election, and often were supportive of reformists.

Rashidi told CPJ, "Telegram had a huge impact in Iran's last parliamentary election. Reformist activists had very limited access to major media outlets and the state radio and TV, so they used Telegram to send and spread their messages." Rashidi said that he thinks Telegram helped mobilize millions of people who voted for candidates featured on what was known as the List of Hope. "By using tools provided by the app (such as groups, bots and channels) Iranian voters were able to find names of the candidates based on the city they lived," said Rashidi.

Rashidi added that he believes the arrest of Telegram administrators is an attempt by authorities to create an atmosphere of fear and intimidation.

Telegram has not publicly commented on the arrests of channel moderators, but the company has been critical of moves by Iran to block users from making calls through Telegram, saying in an April 17 statement that Iran's action "suggests that this move is targeting Telegram specifically."

Iranian authorities have also targeted journalists ahead of the elections. CPJ has documented in recent weeks how Iranian authorities arrested journalists Ehsan Mazandarani, Hengameh Shahidi and Morad Saghafi, and sentenced Issa Saharkhiz to one year in prison one day after he was released from jail on a separate charge. The country also blocks access to millions of websites, including news and social networking sites.

Telegram has helped Iranians to expose some of the censorship. Last month, an apparent attempt by the state-run News 1 channel to censor a live news broadcast was widely circulated on Telegram. A clip shows a news anchor about to announce that Hamid Baghaei, an ally of former president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, is running for the presidency. Before the anchor says Baghaei's name, the camera cuts to the news room, where a second anchor says the station is experiencing technical difficulties. When the news feed returns to the first anchor, she can be heard asking the control room, "You don't want me to mention Baghaei's name?" before realizing she is live on air and finishing her report without mentioning the candidate.

Baghaei and Ahmadinejad were both found "unqualified" to run by Iran' conservative Guardian Council, which must approve all candidates that run for presidency.

The arrest of Telegram administrators has been criticized by Rouhani. The president, who has been vocal about his efforts to keep Telegram open, said last month that Iran's Minister of Intelligence informed him that those arrested "had not committed any crime," ISNA reported. Mahmoud Sadeghi, an Iranian MP, also tweeted that he is investigating the arrests. Sadeghi posted a message by a constituent who said her husband was arrested by six agents and is accused of "acting against national security." The message, which did not identify the woman or her husband, said that agents showed them a form with a Revolutionary Guard's logo on it.

Five reformist-leaning Iranian MPs also sent an open letter to the Minister of Intelligence about the arrests.

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