In her latest monthly report, Shirin Ebadi, the human rights defender and winner of Nobel Peace Prize in 2003, has reviewed the human rights situation in Iran during the month of Khordad 1392 [Iranian month corresponding to 21 May to 21 June 2013]. In the introduction to the report for May-June, Dr. Ebadi has focused on the issues of the freedom of expression, and the importance of free flow of information, and she has assessed the way the Islamic Republic of Iran is approaching these two issues. In her report, this defender of human rights has made a reference to the ongoing hacking of websites [endorsed by the state authorities in Iran] , as well as the Intelligence Ministry’s summoning of the family members of Iranian journalists working for Persian language media organizations outside Iran.
Dr. Ebadi's latest monthly report has emphasized the importance of the officials of the Islamic Republic of Iran respecting the freedom of expression.
Moreover, the report by the 2003 Nobel Peace Prize Laureate, which is published in both Farsi and English languages, has set out to review the human rights situation in Iran under the three main headings of: “civil and political rights”, “social and economic rights”, and “cultural heritage and the environment”.
According to the website of the Centre for Defenders of Human Rights, the text of Dr. Ebadi’s report for Khordad 1392, which has been published on 1 Tir [22 June 2013], is as follows:
A Brief Report on Human Rights Situation in Iran in May-June 2013
During the month of Khordad, in which the 11th presidential elections in Iran were held, a number of websites, including the official website of the Centre for Defenders of Human Rights, were hacked on three separate occasions by a group calling itself "the unknown virtual jihad" group. According to the findings of some investigations carried out, it has become clear that the above-named group is operated and directed by the agents and officials of the Islamic Republic of Iran. Of course, this problem continued right until the end of Khordad, and even efforts by technical specialists did not manage to rectify the situation.
At the same time, there were severe disruptions in access to the Internet in many regions of the country, as a result of blocking and filtering the service and reducing its speed. It should be noted that a number of official websites and news agencies were also blocked by the "working group for determination of manifestations of unlawful content"
These kinds of unlawful activities are yet more examples of restrictions imposed on the freedom of expression and the free flow of information in Iran, and we have seen similar activities time and again in the past. Every time that the Islamic Republic of Iran senses that it is facing threat and danger, it resorts to a variety of unlawful courses of action, such as for instance hacking different websites, jamming the signals of Farsi language TV channels based outside Iran, and finally putting pressure on, or making threats against, the families of individuals who live outside Iran and happen to be engaged in journalism or other professions involving communications and information dissemination. In this manner, the regime tries to silence the voice of its critics, and create obstacles for the process of free flow and exchange of information.
In addition, in the month of Khordad [21 May to 21 June 2013], the Google company, that is to say one of the major providers of Internet search engines, announced that it has noticed a series of politically motivated efforts aimed at hacking the accounts of tens of thousands of Iranians using its services.
The noteworthy point that needs to be emphasized in relation to these unlawful and unethical courses of action is the fact that in the past, my own website, with the title “Shirin Ebadi”, was also hacked and the site became inaccessible to me. In addition, by misusing my name, the hackers embarked on publishing certain types of material which were not compatible with my points of view. Furthermore, on the Skype service too, several user IDs under the name of Shirin Ebadi have been created, but the fact is none of these has any connection at all with me.
In addition to the topics mentioned above, what now follows is a summary account of the human rights situation in Iran during the month of 21 May to 21 June 2013. This report is based on information published by various media channels and websites, and their accuracy has been verified. The report will appear under three separate sections, in both Farsi and English.
Human Rights Situation in Iran in Khordad 1392
Section 1: Civil, Cultural and Political Rights
A) Situation of Nonconformist Political and Social Activists
1. During this month, 29 people were arrested and detained, some of whom were released after a few days once they were able to post a bail. The arrested individuals included: three student activists at the University of Shiraz, Mohammad Reza Vahedi, Azita Firuz-Zadeh and Mehdi Farmani; the head of the youths' section of the election campaign HQ for Hassan Rouhani (one of the candidates in the presidential elections), Sa'idollah Badashti; three members of the youths' section of the election campaign HQ for Hassan Rouhani in the city of Tabriz, Behnam Nikzad, Amin Farid Yahya'i and Ali Arujzadeh; an official in the Islamic Iran Participation Front in West Azarbayjan Province, Esma'il Mirza'i; three members of the home-based church in Esfahan Province, Mohammad Reza Farid, Sa'id Safi and Hamid Reza Qadiri; four sympathizers and supporters of the council for the religious-nationalist activists, Reza Aqakhani, Nasrollah Lashani, Alireza Akbarzadeh and Hossein Bahira'i; the head of the Mujahedin of the Islamic Revolution Organization in Kohgiluyeh va Boyer Ahmad Province [western Iran], Seyyed Reza Askari; ; the head of the Islamic Iran Participation Front in Kohgiluyeh va Boyer Ahmad Province; a member of the Islamic Iran Participation Front in Kohgiluyeh va Boyer Ahmad Province, Qasem Yazdani; a member of the central council of the Mujahedin of the Islamic Revolution Organization in Kohgiluyeh va Boyer Ahmad Province, Seyyed Askar Erfanizadeh; five citizens who were present at one of the election campaign gatherings of Hassan Rouhani in Tehran, Mohammad Parsi, Mohsen Rahmani, Nafiseh Nikbakht, Shirin Mirkarimi, Mohammad Ehtesham and Zahra Saff Yari; a priest active in the Assemblies of God church, Robert Aseriyan; a social and civil activist in the city of Esfahan, Na'im Salavati; political activist Pezhman Zafarmand; and a student activist in Tabriz, Arash Mohammadi.
2. Afshin Koshtkari, a student activist, has been transferred to the Adel Abad Prison of Shiraz in order to serve his six month custodial prison sentence. At the same time, another student activist, Ashkan Zahabian, was transferred to the Babol [northern Iran] prison to serve his six month jail sentence. Finally, Akbar Amini, who had received a verdict of imprisonment for five years, has been arrested and transferred to Evin Prison.
3. Seyyed Mahmud Alizadeh Tabataba'i, a defence lawyer, has been sentenced to four months custodial prison sentence as well as 500 lashes. In addition, under the complementary punishment, he was also banned from practicing his profession as a lawyer for a period of five years. Saleh Moradi, an activist defending the rights of the members of the Derwish sect was sentenced to one year custodial prison term, in addition to one year in exile. Furthermore, Mahmud Beheshti Langarudi, the former spokesman of the Professional Association of Iranian Teachers, was sentenced to a five year imprisonment term which will be in addition to his previous four year suspended prison sentence. At the same time, Ehsan Hushmand, an activist supporting the religious-nationalist camp, was given a one year suspended prison term. Finally, Sa'id Madani, a member of the council for the religious-nationalist activists - who is currently in prison -. was given a jail term of six years in exile in the city of Bandar Abbas [southern Iranian port] followed by a further 10 years of exile in the same city, while Mohammad Sadeq Honarvar Shoja’i, a critical cleric and weblog writer who is currently in Evin Prison, was sentenced to one more year of imprisonment.
4. Mohtaram Rahmani, a social and civil activist, has been summoned to the Islamic Revolution Magistrate Court for interrogation. In addition, Hamed Siyasi-Rad, Mehdiyeh Golru and Hossein Ma'sumi too have been summoned to the Intelligence Ministry for interrogation.
5. The Intelligence Ministry has closed down the church of the Assemblies of God denomination [in central Tehran].
6. State intelligence and security institutions have prevented the holding of memorial ceremonies in Qom for the late Ayatollah Taheri, a cleric who was critical of the Iranian political system. Furthermore, the senior officials of the Islamic Republic of Iran did not allow the burial of Ayatollah Taheri's body next to Ayatollah Montazeri's grave [senior cleric also from Esfahan Province who was highly critical of the Islamic Republic].
B) Situation Regarding Books, Media, Writers and Journalists
1. Two journalists, Omid Abdolvahhabi and Hesamoddin Eslamlu, were arrested during the month.
2. The BBC and Radio Farda organizations have announced that Iran's Intelligence Ministry has summoned the family members of staff who are working in the Persian language departments of these media organs. The family members of Jamshid Barzegar are among those who have been summoned in this manner.
3. A court has issued a verdict suspending the publication of Iran newspaper temporarily for six months.
4. The bail of 700 million Rials for Yaser Ma’sumi, who collaborated with the website editions of newspapers, has been confiscated after he left Iran. The guarantor who posted the bail for him will now have to pay 40 million Rials every two months.
5. The website of Hassan Rouhani, the presidential election candidate, has been made inaccessible. The website of the coalition of [reformist candidate] Mohammad Reza Aref and Rouhani, the Internet edition of Mardomsalari newspaper, the IBNA News Internet site, and the web site of the “Government of Spring”, as well as the personal weblog and Internet site of Ghoalm Ali Raja’i, an adviser to Hashemi Rafsanjani, have also been blocked [by the government]. Moreover, an order to block access to the Mehr News Agency website was issued, but the was revoked following a direct order issued by the Prosecutor.
6. The use of Gmail service became almost impossible for its subscribers inside the country for a while. In the meantime, Hamrah-e Avval Company [one of the major mobile phone providers in Iran] embarked on filtering out some of the words contained in material sent out to the public by the election campaign HQ of Hassan Rouhani has attempt to filter some words out of the messages communicated by Hassan Rouhani's election campaign HQ.
7. The printed supplement of Iran daily newspaper has been banned by the Tehran Prosecutor.
8. The chairman of the Iran Cinema Owners Association has announced the bankruptcy of around 95 per cent of all cinema halls in the country.
C) Other Instances of Human Rights Abuse
1. Majid has been executed in the Raja'i Shahr prison of the city of Karaj. Javan newspaper said he had been convicted of the crime of premeditated murder. Also, Mansur and Morteza have been sentenced to death in the city of Baharestan. Media organs affiliated to the Iranian Government announced that they were found guilty of [sexually] abusing and murdering children. Finally, Javad and Sa'id have been sentenced to death in the city of Varamin. Media sources linked with the Iranian state said they had been convicted of abducting and sexually assaulting women.
2. According to the official booklet for selecting subjects of study before sitting the entry examinations for master degree places at universities, the admission of female students has been suspended in seven major subjects at the Industrial University of Esfahan.
3. Police officers and the Iranian Football Federation officials prevented women from entering the Azadi Stadium [Tehran’s main sports ground] to participate in ceremonies celebrating the qualification of the national football team for the next World Cup. The Islamic Republic of Iran is opposed to women’s presence in sports stadium alongside men.
Section 2: Social and Economic Rights
1. The economic conditions in the country are still reported to be unfavourable. According to the latest information released by the Iran Statistics Centre, in Iran today, around 1,700,000 children are forced to work instead of getting an education. In the meantime, according to an announcement by the Iran Statistics Centre, the rate of inflation in the month of Ordibehesht [21 April to 21 May 2013] increased to 31 per cent and the overall index grew by more than 1 per cent, reaching 156.7 per cents.
2. Automakers have a total debt of 800 billion Tumans to the foundry factories.
3. The Budget Law has deprived around 700,000 construction workers from having insurance rights. This is while the President of the House of Industry and Mine in Iran has said that more than 40 per cent of the country's manufacturing activities have come to a halt.
4. The payment of salaries of the some workers at the Farsit Factory in the town of Dorud has been delayed for a period of around 6 months.
5. Some towns in West Azarbayjan, Ardabil and Khuzestan provinces are facing shortage of bread.
6. The wife of Reza Shahabi, a member of the direction board of the trade union of workers at the Vahed Company [Tehran public bus company] workers - who is currently serving his prison sentence of 6 years in Evin Prison – has been summoned to the Intelligence Ministry for interrogation.
Section 3: Cultural Heritage and Environment
Reports concerning cultural heritage and environment in the month of Khordad also serve to indicate the presence of unfavourable conditions in these areas.
1. The head of the Department for Water and Sewage Hygiene at the Ministry of Health has announced that the problem of irrigation of a number of farms with sewage water still exists.
2. Since the start of the current “water year” in Mehr 1391 [month between 21 September and 21 October 2012] until the present time, the volume of water in the reservoirs of dams in Tehran has fallen by around 26 per cent compared with the corresponding period in the previous year.
3. Activities by illegal excavators and smugglers of antique items and artefacts have been on the increase during the first few months of the current [Iranian] year [which began on 21 March 2013].
4. Some of the historical old houses in the city of Yazd have been destroyed.
5. Some 400 hectares of oak forests in Ilam Province are on the verge of destruction.
6. According to a statement by the spokesman for the Agriculture Committee in the Islamic Majlis, minute dust particles [caused by dust storms mainly in Iraq] have penetrated some 22 provinces of Iran. This has caused damage to such an extent that around 50 to 100 per cent of the Zagros forests in Ilam Province have gone dry. Furthermore, according to a member of the environment fraction in the Islamic Consultative Majlis, the incidents of throat cancer have increased among the people of provinces which are grappling with the problem of air pollution by dust particles. In addition, dust particles caused by the drought-hit Zayandeh Rud river [in Esfahan] have been reported to be toxic.
The need to respect the freedom of expression and ensure the free flow of information is one of the duties of governments. I would therefore like to draw the attention of the Islamic Republic’s authorities to this point, and I hope Mr. Hassan Rouhani, as the country’s elected president, is going to put a stop to such unlawful actions by the state officials.
Human Rights Defendant and 2003 Nobel Laureate
Note: For further information regarding the above reports, please refer to the following news websites: Iranian Students News Agency (ISNA), Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA), Iranian Labour News Agency (ILNA), Fars news agency, Mehr news agency, Young Journalists Club news agency, CDHR website, JARAS, Committee of Human Rights Reporters, Nedaye Azadi, Baztab, HRANA, Ghanoon, Kaleme, Mohebbat News, Sunni Online, International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran, Majzooban-e Noor, Melli Mazhabi, Nedaye Sabze Azadi, Radio Zamaneh, Radio Farda and BBC.