In the last few weeks, under the presidency of the so-called moderate Hassan Rouhani, the Islamic Republic has ratcheted up its crackdown on the press, journalists, bloggers, Internet users, and activists.
More recently, four journalists have been arrested. One of the journalists works for the Washington Post and is an Iranian-American dual citizen (his wife is also detained), while two other freelance photojournalists who are American citizens have also been held. Although the writings of the Iranian-American dual citizens were not completely and outright against the Islamic Republic of Iran, nevertheless, the authorities have detained them.
In 2014, according to the Committee to Protect Journalist, several other domestic journalists in the Islamic Republic were arrested, including Saba Azarpeik, a reformist journalist working for the weekly Tejarat-e Farda and the daily Etemad, Iranian documentary filmmaker Mahnaz Mohammadi was sentenced to five years in prison, 11 staff members of Pat Shargh Govashir and the news website Narenji, Nardebaan and Negahbaan were sentenced to eleven years in prison, Mehdi Khazali, a blogger, Reihaneh Tabatabei, a journalist with Shargh and Bahar, Mashallah Shamsolvaezin, an Iranian journalist who received an award from the CPJ International Press Freedom, and Marzieh Rasouli, a reporter for cultural issues, to name a few.
The Islamic Republic has been utilizing several crucial institutions to crack down on press, bloggers, and Internet users. One is the Islamic Republic’s security forces, Nyrouhaye Amniyat, and the second one is Iran’s Islamic Judiciary system. The laws are being legalized by the judiciary system for sentencing and imprisoning the journalists and bloggers. In addition, these institutions also utilize other militia and paramilitary groups, such as Sazmane Basij-e Mostaz'afin, "the Organization for Mobilization of the Oppressed," in order to achieve their goals and objectives. In addition, in March 2012, the Supreme Council for Cyberspace was set up in order to centralize and more efficiently monitor Internet users.
Other monitoring institutions, when it comes to cracking down on Internet users, include the Cyber Unit of the Revolutionary Guard as well as the Islamic Republic Revolutionary Court, which have ratcheted up their censorship.
The reasons for the legality are justified by factors such as insulting the religion of Islam and governmental officials, endangering the national security of the Islamic Republic, spreading propaganda, insulting Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, as well as offending the values and principles of Shiite Islam.
According to the official Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA), eight Facebook users were recently sentenced by the Islamic Republic’s judiciary system to a total of 127 years in prison. Their crimes ranged from insulting governmental officials and the religion of Islam, to risking the national security of the Islamic Republic.
In another report by Persian Website, Kalame, eight Facebook users were sentenced to a combination of 123 years in prison. According to Kalame, the sentences are as follows: Roya Saberi Nejad Nobakht, 20 years sentence in prison; Amir Goulestani, a sentence of 20 years and one day; Masoud Ghasem Khani, 19 years and 91 days in prison; Faribourz Kardar Far, 18 years and 91 days in prison; Seyed Masood Seyyed Talebi, 15 years and one day in prison; Amin (Fareed) Akrami Pour, 13 years in prison; Mehdi Rei Shahri, 11 years in prison; and Naghmeh Shah Savandy Shirazi, 7 years and 91 days in prison.
According to the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran “The ruling by Judge Mohammad Moghiseh, which is harsher than what the law allows, is clearly intended to spread fear among Internet users in Iran, and dissuade Iranians from stepping outside strict state controls on cyberspace. ”
Iran has been labeled as one of the enemies of the Internet by Reporters Without Borders. In addition to Reporters Without Borders, the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) has also labeled the Islamic Republic of Iran as one of the worst enemies of the freedom of press.
Apparently, Rouhani, who is perceived by Western countries as a good change for the Islamic Republic, has been silent about and complicit in these atrocities and human rights violations. The reasons are evident. First of all, any political figure who is allowed to run for presidency, and has the blessing of the Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, supports the ideals of the Islamic revolutions, as well as the attempt to maintain the current status quo of the Islamic Republic’s political and ideological structure.
In that respect, when it comes to speaking up for ordinary people and human rights violations, all Iranian presidents across the political spectrum, including the reformist presidents (such as former president Muhammad Khatami), pragmatist ones (former president Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani) and moderate and realist presidents (such as Hassan Rouhani), prioritize their own political power, social and economic interests. They attempt to protect the Iranian government, and maintain their socio-political and socio-economic status. Second of all, the Iranian presidents are all political figureheads who attempt to set the Supreme Leader’s and the Islamic Republic’s foreign policy tone on the international arena. Third, and more fundamentally, the Islamic Republic is run by the security forces, the judiciary system, Iran’s Revolutionary Guards Corps and the Supreme Leader. All these sectors reports directly to Khamenei.
While the Obama administration and other Western powers praise the Iranian regime for the change in its foreign policy regarding nuclear issues, it would be constructive and encouraging if the West would also put more emphasis on the heightened human rights violations and crack down on journalists.
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