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Regardless of the exact political course that ensues in Iran over the next decade, the opposition movement that gained momentum in the aftermath of the country’s 2009 election has already made its historical mark. Nicknamed the “Twitter Revolution,” the movement showcased young, zealous Iranians pioneering the use of citizen journalism and social networking sites in a significant standoff against the regime.
The clash emulated the same cat-and-mouse behavior that has become habitual between the people and the government of Iran. The government has a ban on alcohol, yet Iranians say it is easier to obtain vodka than water. Drug trafficking is punishable by death, but Iran has one of the highest incidences of drug use on the globe. Circumventing the censorship of Western music and movies, Iranians buy black market DVDs and download the latest songs and films off the Internet. A psychology textbook would call it forbidden fruit; Iranians call it life.
The “an eye for an eye” approach proved to be a tactical advantage for the Iranians during the protests. In a strict, dictatorial climate where journalists and any media coverage were banned by the government, a nation of citizen journalists emerged, eager to tell their stories to the world. As crackdowns became increasingly violent, factions of the opposition became more aggressive and courageous in taking on Basiji militants in the streets.
The government, frustrated by the effectiveness of the Internet in stirring the international response to post-election confrontations, unleashed its Cyber Army to infiltrate blogs, to arrest individuals because of content on their Facebook pages, to block access to major sites such as Yahoo and Google, and at times to shut down the Internet altogether. In retaliation, the opposition launched an equally aggressive cyber offensive, using proxy servers to access sites by bouncing connections off third party host sites, and penetrating major government sites.
A cyber hacker and political activist — who we’ll refer to as “Neema” — belongs to the Marze Por Gohar Party (Iranians for a Secular Republic) and reported that he and his constituents began hacking government websites two years ago. He said that the group launched its cyber war initiative in defense and support of opposition groups whose websites were being censored and hacked by government forces.
Neema’s real name has been withheld to protect his identity, but he spoke to FrontPage Magazine while on a trip away from his home in Tehran. Speaking on the telephone or emailing about the issue at home or in his office would put his life in danger.
“Civil disobedience includes cyber warfare. We have always believed in non-violent protest, and that means being innovative in using methods that will weaken this government,” Neema said. “If the Islamic regime is resorting to every tactic at their disposal to suppress people’s free expression, then we will do the same to their ideology and notions.”
Most recently, the MPG party claims they have hacked several governmental sites, including the Iranian Ministries of Energy, Intelligence, Islamic Enlightenment and Guidance, Research and Technology, Housing and Urban Development, and others.
Political activists and hackers like Neema live all across Iran and target different sites, he said.
Neema claims that he singlehandedly infiltrated President Ahamdinejad’s site, www.president.ir, which he admitted was the hardest site to keep down. He said it went offline multiple times for intervals under an hour.
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