Turmoil in Tehran, Continued

This cycle of protests, counter-protests between the opposition and the Iranian government (and their paid protesters) isn’t even close to being over yet.

Here’s what’s happened in the last 72 hours:

Wednesday, December 30:

Late Tuesday, the Venezuelan Ministry of Foreign Affairs released a statement expressing “its most energetic rejection of attempts at destabilization promoted by the U.S. government against the Government and People of Iran.”

Seyyed Ali Mousavi Habibi, the late nephew of Mir Hossein Mousavi (pictured), whose body had been kept by the government, was released to the family and was buried in Tehran’s Behesht-e-Zahra cemetery.

Iranian Intelligence Minister Heidar Moslehi told reporters on Wednesday that the government had “no doubt,” that the Mojahedin-e Khalq (MKO) was involved in the killing of Habibi. (The MKO is an exiled Islamic socialist organization that seeks the overthrow of the Islamic Republic. The United States considers the MKO to be a terrorist organization.) The opposition continues to maintain that Habibi was killed deliberately by government forces.

State-run Press TV also reported that Iranian police had “detained the owner of the car involved in the shooting.”

The government orchestrated counter-protests on Tuesday and continued them on Wednesday, where they, according to the Los Angeles Times, “[called] for the death of antigovernment protesters and opposition leader Mir-Hossein Mousavi.” The Wall Street Journal added that the Tehran metro was free for all riders on Wednesday, presumably as a tactic to encourage people to attend the government rallies.

At a government Tehran rally, conservative cleric Ayatollah Ahmad Alamolhoda stated that the opposition leaders Mousavi and Karroubi should “repent” or be declared “enemies of God,” whereby they could face possible death sentences.

CNN reported that legislator Hassan Noroozi specifically mentioned three targets who “must be arrested: Mehdi Karrubi, Mir Hossein Mousavi and Fa’ezeh Hashemi. Hashemi is the daughter of former reformist Iranian president, Ayatollah Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani and was the founder of a feminist magazine called Zanan (Women).

The Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA), a government-run news service, added that opposition leaders Mousavi and Karroubi had fled Tehran for a town on the Caspian coast. However, that report that was quickly denied by Karroubi’s son, Hossein Karroubi.

General Esmail Ahmadi Moghadam also told IRNA that Iran had arrested more than 500 protesters during the Ashura protests, adding that 300 were still in prison.

IRNA also reported that Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei “dismissed comments by foreigners” concerning Sunday’s Ashura protests.

In the US, The Denver Post called for “for the U.S. and its allies to more strongly support those seeking basic human rights in Iran.”

The Washington Post reported that the Obama administration was preparing to draw up new sanctions against “discrete elements of the Iranian government, including those involved in the deadly crackdown on Iranian protesters, marking a shift to a more aggressive U.S. posture toward the Islamic republic.”

Israeli newspaper Ha’aretz concluded that “Israel does not have independent strike capability against Iran – not in the broad sense of the term.”

In an interview with French newspaper Le Monde, Stanford professor Abbas Milani said that he didn’t believe anyone was in control of the opposition movement.

Meanwhile in Geneva, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay released a statement that she was “shocked” by the recent violence in Iran.

“People have a right to express their feelings, and to hold peaceful protests, without being beaten, clubbed and thrown into jail,” she said. “Those who have been arrested, for whatever reason, must be accorded due process that is fully in line with international human rights standards and norms, including the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.”

The Voice of America said Iran was jamming its broadcasts, and noted that the BBC had been experiencing similar jams since December 20, the day after Ayatollah Montazeri’s passing.

Coincidentally on Wednesday, the British government released previously secret files concerning how the Foreign Office and Downing Street dealt with the shah in the waning days of the royal government. British veteran diplomat Sir Denis Wright, working under the the pseudonym Edward Wilson, met with recently deposed Shah Reza Pahlavi in the Bahamas in March 1979 to deliver the message that the British government would not allow the shah to settle in the UK.

The archives also revealed that Prime Minister Margret Thatcher sad that she was “deeply unhappy” not to be able to offer refuge to the shah, whom she said had been a “firm and helpful friend to the UK.”

Thursday, December 31:

Protests and counter protests continued on New Year’s Eve in Tehran.

According to the state-run Press TV, the Intelligence Ministry of Iran told “rioters not to be manipulated by foreigners seeking to once again dominate Iran.”

The Wall Street Journal reported on a “quiet war” against “star students,” which it explained as “being a star means ranking top of the class, but in Iran it means your name appears on a list of students considered a threat by the intelligence ministry. It also means a partial or complete ban from education.”

That paper also noted that a European Parliament delegation schedule to visit Tehran January 7-11, 2010 had drawn “rebuke” from some of their American counterparts.

The Telegraph (UK) also reported that according to a recent defector from Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei’s private guard who is currently at a safe house in France that Khamenei “has a voracious appetite for trout and caviar; is an avid hoarder of collectables from bejewelled pipes to fine horses; and that he suffers regular bouts of depression which are treated in part by audiences with a mid-ranking mullah who tells vulgar jokes.”

In another bizarre and humorous coincidence, given the timing, the Iranian Football Association accidentally sent a New Year’s greeting to the Israeli Football Association, which responded in kind.

The Associated Press reported that Reza Pahlavi, the son of the deposed shah, “urged nations worldwide on Thursday to withdraw their ambassadors from Tehran to protest against a relentless government crackdown on opposition demonstrators that resulted in at least eight deaths this week alone.”

I reported on the pushback of the Iranian government online, through the use of null routing and whitelisting during crackdown days.

January 1, 2010:

Presidential candidate Mir Hossein Mousavi, in his first public statement since the Ashura violence, said on his website that Iran was in “serious crisis,” and that he was ready to become a “martyr” for the cause. He also outlined a five-stage solution for the political crisis, including accountability, transparency, freedom of political prisoners, freedom of the press, and recognition for legal rights for people to freely assemble and associate.

Opposition website Rah-e Sabz (Green Path) also reported today that Chinese-made anti-riot police vehicles were arriving in the Iranian port city of Bandar-e Abbas.

German newspaper Die Welt published an op-ed by famed human rights attorney Shirin Ebadi, whose sister, Dr. Nuschin Ebadi, a professor of dentistry, was arrested earlier this week in Tehran. The Nobel laureate called for the “immediate release” of her sister.

While no clear leader has emerged yet, The Washington Times reports: “Amir Abbas Fakhravar, 35, a former student leader who spent several years in prison in Iran and now lives in the Washington area, said contacts are taking place on Facebook and Skype and that activists plan to create a “revolutionary council” of about 15 people inside and outside Iran to lead the “Iranian Green Revolution.” He said this leadership might emerge before Feb. 11, the 31st anniversary of the fall of Shah Mohammed Reza Pahlavi – another official holiday when masses of Iranians are likely to go into the streets to continue their protests.”

Conservative American columnist Bill Kristol wrote in The Washington Post: “The United States has not even begun to do what it could — rhetorically and concretely, diplomatically and economically, publicly and covertly, multilaterally and unilaterally — to try to help the Iranian people change the regime of fear and tyranny that denies them justice.”

Cyrus on: PRI’s The World (Dec. 31, 2009)

Dear Friends,

I’ve been informed that my piece on how Internet tactics have changed by both the Iranian government and the opposition, particularly since Sunday’s Ashura protests, will be airing today.

It will be available on any of these stations (and their Internet streams):

NYC – 3 pm Eastern – WNYC – 820 AM – www.wnyc.org
Washington, DC – 8 pm Eastern – WAMU – 88.5 FM – www.wamu.org
Los Angeles – 12 pm Pacific – KPCC – 89.3 FM – www.kpcc.opg
Boston – 4 pm Eastern – WGBH – 89.7 FM – www.wgbh.org
San Francisco – 2 pm Pacific – KQED – 88.5 FM – www.kqed.org

You can also likely find it on your local public radio station, and The World’s site later in the day and also on my site if you miss the broadcast.

Also, don’t forget about The World’s Tech Podcast, hosted by my boss, Clark Boyd. It comes out every Friday.

Lemme know if you hear it!

Happy New Year to all!

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Media Appearances: Radio Free Asia, CNN, Brian Lehrer show

In the last 24 hours, I’ve been quoted in three major news outlets.

The first was Radio Free Asia:

伊朗的用户本身也对此行动表示振奋,在美国的伊朗问题专家和新闻人Cyrus Farivar 表示,“我在推特上搜索关于伊朗消息时,可以看到许许多多中国网民推出的贴上了#cn4iran 标签的话题。他说中国和伊朗的情况有很多相似之处,他认为,中国人也和伊朗人民一样,热烈地珍惜渴望一个自由表达的环境。但他认为官方对互联网的控制要比伊朗严格许多,这也是中国网民的不幸之处

I can’t read this, but here’s what Google makes of it:

Iran’s actions by the users themselves have also inspired, in the United States, Iran experts and journalists Cyrus Farivar said, “I was pushing special news search on Iran, you can see many Chinese netizens launched labeled # cn4iran label topic. He said China and Iran, there are many similarities between the situation, he believed that the Chinese people and the Iranian people, like a warm desire to cherish the freedom of expression environment. but he believes the official control of the Internet than in Iran strict many, this is unfortunate with Chinese netizens.

On CNN, here’s what I said:

“It’s clear the government has been definitely restricting the Internet in a much more controlled way,” said Cyrus Farivar, an Iranian-American freelance journalist who writes about technology issues. “They’re definitely paying attention and, at the very least, trying to intimidate people.”

“There’s this kind of global attention being paid across different countries and cultures and languages,” said Farivar, who noted the emergence of a Twitter hashtag — #CN4Iran — THAT appears to have been started by Chinese supporters of the Iranian protesters.

Despite their best efforts and good intentions, supporters outside the country won’t decide the outcome of the most recent round of protests, Farivar said. The actions of Iranians on the ground will.

“I think it’s naive to think that just because you’re changing your location to Tehran [on a Twitter profile] that you’re confusing the Iranian authorities,” he said. “That would make them seem less intelligent than they are.”

and finally, on today’s Brian Lehrer Show, where I was on with WSJ reporter extraordinaire Farnaz Fassihi.

Turmoil in Tehran

Update (January 1, 2010 6:20 pm Pacific Time): I’ve just finished a new post to include news of the last 72 hours.

In case you’ve been hiding out in a post/continuing holiday stupor, Iran is going nuts.

Like a lot of people, I’ve been glued to Twitter and various websites, trying to get a handle on what’s going on in Iran. I’ve been interviewed by Radio Free Asia and CNN in the last 24 hours to provide my thoughts. And I’ve been twittering up a storm myself, passing along useful links when possible.

So, here’s what’s been going on:

Dissident cleric Grand Ayatollah Hussein-Ali Montazeri passed away in Qom on December 19, 2009.

The important seventh day of mourning for Montazeri coincided with the annual Shi’ite holy commemoration of Ashura, December 27, 2009. As a result, many dissidents, reformists and other anti-government protesters took to Iranian streets in a renewed and continued uprising against the June 2009 re-election of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

Around 10 people have been reported killed during the chaos, including Seyyed Ali Mousavi Habibi, the nephew of reformist presidential candidate Mir-Hussein Mousavi. Opponents of the government have called it an “ordered murder,” while Tehran police have described it as a “terrorist incident” and Keyhan, the state newspaper, has suggested that Mousavi himself orchestrated the killing. The government is apparently keeping his body for “further investigation.

The other leading opposition candidate, Mehdi Karroubi, was reportedly attacked after leaving a Tehran mosque on December 28, 2009.

Hundreds have been reported arrested, including the sister of Nobel laureate and human rights attorney Shirin Ebadi, as well as Ebrahim Yazdi (whom The Daily Show interviewed in June 2009), and many journalists and leaders of the reformist movement.

In addition, Reza al-Basha, a 27-year-old Syrian working for Dubai TV has also been confirmed arrested. The Agence France Presse is also reporting the arrest of a British citizen.

Tehran has accused the US and the UK of “interfering” in Iranian affairs, and summoned British envoy Simon Gass to the Foreign Ministry office in Tehran. The government also turned out thousands of supporters of its own in cities across Iran.

The Speaker of the Iranian Parliament, Ali Larijani, called for “the harshest punishment” against the Ashura protesters.

Yesterday, President Barack Obama said: “Along with all free nations the United States stands with those who seek their universal rights. We call upon the Iranian government to abide by the international obligations that it has to respect the rights of its own people. We call for the immediate release of all who have been unjustly detained within Iran. We will continue to bear witness to the extraordinary events that are taking place there. And I’m confident that history will be on the side of those who seek justice.”

Some Iran watchers view these protests as a key turning point. Prof. Abbas Milani of Stanford University described this moment as the “hour of reckoning” for the reform movement.

Despite the fact that there’s been a new wave of attention towards Iran online — including Chinese netizens using #cn4iran — and protests worldwide, I agree with The Telegraph‘s (UK) Will Heaven, when he writes: “There has been no revolution in Iran,” adding “There’s nothing wrong with spreading awareness outside Iran, but it’s horribly naive to think that supporting illegal activity in a foreign country has no ethical dimension. It’s equally foolish, of course, to kid yourself that you’re on the front line.”

So, what’s next?

Well, if there are any seventh-day mourning ceremonies for those who were killed on Ashura, then that will fall on January 3, 2010. Further, January 16, 2010 is the 31st anniversary of the day the the Shah fled Iran, and January 29, 2010 will mark the 40th day of mourning for Ayatollah Montazeri. Further, the 40th day anniversary for Ashura will be February 5, 2010, exactly during the celebration of the “Ten Days of Dawn,” marking the return of Ayatollah Khomeini to Iran in 1979.

December 21: Cyrus on PRI’s The World

Dear Friends,

I’ve been informed that my piece on the Internet legacy of the late dissident Iranian cleric, Ayatollah Montazeri, will be airing today.

It will be available on any of these stations (and their Internet streams):

NYC – 3 pm Eastern – WNYC – 820 AM – www.wnyc.org
Washington, DC – 8 pm Eastern – WAMU – 88.5 FM – www.wamu.org
Los Angeles – 12 pm Pacific – KPCC – 89.3 FM – www.kpcc.opg
Boston – 4 pm Eastern – WGBH – 89.7 FM – www.wgbh.org
San Francisco – 2 pm Pacific – KQED – 88.5 FM – www.kqed.org

You can also likely find it on your local public radio station, and The World’s site later in the day and also on my site if you miss the broadcast.

Also, don’t forget about The World’s Tech Podcast, hosted by my boss, Clark Boyd. It comes out every Friday.

Lemme know if you hear it!

Happy Holidays to all!

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Montazeri.com vs. Montazery.com: Ayatollahs wage war on Internet (AFP, Dec. 2000)

Grand Ayatollah Hossein-Ali Montazeri has passed away. All the major news outlets are covering the death of this intellectual, dissident high-ranking cleric in Iran.

However, I’m obviously fascinated with Montazeri’s small role in Iran’s Internet history. As best as I can tell, this is the first example of the Islamic Republic’s getting involved in the Internet directly and going after a particular person directly, even through cybersquatting.

Back in 2000, the Agence France Presse covered this interesting episode.

Montazeri.com vs. Montazery.com: Ayatollahs wage war on Internet
Friday 15 December 2000 – Agence France Presse

PARIS, Dec 15 (AFP) – Dissident cleric Hossein Ali Montazeri, once in line to be Iran’s supreme leader, this week dropped a political bombshell by publishing his memoirs onthe Internet and provoking a cyber war with the leadership in Tehran.

Montazeri, 79, who had been chosen to succeed Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, founder of the Islamic republic, has been living under house arrest in Qom, south of Tehran, ever since he was forced to resign weeks before Khomeini’s death in 1989.

A fierce opponent of Iran’s current supreme spiritual leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Montazeri in recent years has from time to time managed to make his opinion known through his sons.

But he struck a hard blow on Monday when he published a 600-page memoir on an Internet site based in Britain, which his sons verified as his work.

The document, published in Persian and available at www.montazeri.com, provides important testimony to some of the most dramatic moments of the revolution and the war with Iraq.

Authorities in Tehran have so far not publicly reacted to Montazeri’s memoirs but on Thursday a counter-site — www.montazery.com — appeared on the internet and described itself as representing the office of Khamenei.

Most noteworthy on the first site are Montazeri’s remarks on how he tried in 1988 to prevent the summary execution of thousands of opponents to the Khomeini regime.

He states that Khomeini ordered the executions after the opposition launched a fierce offensive against Iranian troops from bases in Iraq.

“All those against the revolution must disappear and quickly be executed,” the cleric quotes Khomeini as saying in a written note.

Montazeri said he decided to intervene to prevent the killing of 2,800 to 3,800 men by writing a letter to Khomeini in which he appealed for compassion.

“I told myself ‘I am after all the Imam’s successor and I took part in this revolution’,” he says in his memoirs. “If an innocent man is killed, I am also responsible.”

Dear Switzerland: WTF?

Dear Switzerland,

You welcomed me with open arms as a child immigrant from 1997-1998. You unknowingly shaped my life in immeasurable ways. I attended your schools and played in your community bands. In short, I love the cheese and wine you produce, not to mention your beautiful landscapes. I’ve even made a lifelong friend.

I get that you have this image of yourself of being all progressive and such. Sure, you helped broker the peace between the United States and the United Kingdom after their help in the construction of ships like the CSS Alabama, an process that lead to the creation of the League of Nations, hosted in Geneva. You also host many of the world’s premier international institutions and are held in high esteem worldwide.

I mean, ok, you didn’t give women the right to vote until 1971, and heck you didn’t join the United Nations until 2002 (despite the fact that you host a large portion of UN organizations), but whatever.

And, while I knew this was probably coming, I was a bit surprised when I heard today that you decided to ban new minarets. You’re freaked out by Muslims, even though they’re roughly five percent of your population.

But I was even more baffled when I read this in The New York Times:

Of 150 mosques or prayer rooms in Switzerland, only 4 have minarets, and only 2 more minarets are planned. None conduct the call to prayer. There are about 400,000 Muslims in a population of some 7.5 million people. Close to 90 percent of Muslims in Switzerland are from Kosovo and Turkey, and most do not adhere to the codes of dress and conduct associated with conservative Muslim countries like Saudi Arabia, said Manon Schick, a spokeswoman for Amnesty International in Switzerland.

So you’re freaked out by four minarets across 40 thousand square kilometers of territory? Really? Are you that insecure? You do realize that that’s an average of one minaret per 10,000 square kilometers, right? (That’s like the size of Lebanon.) Further, apparently NONE of them do the call to prayer. You do know that, right?

Was propagandist crap like this really necessary?

Sadly, I guess it worked.

When I make classic Swiss fondue with a caquelon that I bought in Geneva a few years ago, I’ll give a thought to how I hope you’ll one day change your mind.

Bisous de la Californie,

-Cyrus

November 29: Cyrus on CBC’s Spark

Dear Friends,

I’ve been informed that my piece on the world’s first custom-designed Islamic search engine, IMHalal.com, is airing this week on CBC’s Spark!

It will be available on CBC Radio 1 at the following times:

Wednesdays at 11:30 a.m. (12:00 NT)
Saturdays at 4:00 p.m. (4:30 NT)

If you find yourself outside the reach of the CBC’s antennae, feel free to listen to it online, here, or of course, via podcast.

October 15: Cyrus on PRI’s The World

Dear Friends,

I’ve been informed that my piece on the new Islamic search engine, IMHalal.com, is airing today.

It will be available on any of these stations (and their Internet streams):

NYC – 3 pm Eastern – WNYC – 820 AM – www.wnyc.org
Washington, DC – 8 pm Eastern – WAMU – 88.5 FM – www.wamu.org
Los Angeles – 12 pm Pacific – KPCC – 89.3 FM – www.kpcc.opg
Boston – 4 pm Eastern – WGBH – 89.7 FM – www.wgbh.org
San Francisco – 2 pm Pacific – KQED – 88.5 FM – www.kqed.org

You can also find it on The World’s site later in the day and on my site if you miss the broadcast.

Also, don’t forget about The World’s Tech Podcast, hosted by my boss, Clark Boyd. It comes out every Friday.

Lemme know if you hear it!

Update: Audio will be here later today.