Unblocking of Facebook ‘Under Review’ In Iran

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Yesterday, the Iranian Students’ News Agency (ISNA) reported that Iran’s Communication and Information Technology Minister Mahmoud Vaezi, talking about social-media websites such as Facebook, said, “It has not been planned that these websites will be unblocked, and they will remain in the same condition they were in before.”

Immediately afterward, the public relations office of the Ministry of Communications and Information Technology released a statement which read, “Removing filters for social-media websites such as Facebook is under review by a special committee outside of this ministry,” and Vaezi’s earlier ISNA comments were denied.

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Has Iran’s presidential election begun on Facebook?

Facebook Rezaei

Serat News reports on the various Facebook profile pages of Iranian politicians and “probable electoral candidates.” The Serat editorial states that the country’s electoral laws prohibit premature electioneering and that doing so can be interpreted as an electoral violation. Nonetheless, the article goes on, several individuals have “circumvented” the law by setting up Facebook profiles and fan pages.

Facebook Qalibaf

The article continues that while clerics who plan to compete in the presidential race such as Ali Fallahian and Mostafa Pourmohammadi, have not shown themselves particularly disposed toward “modern advertising,” laymen such as Mohsen Rezaei, Mohammad Reza Bahonar and Mohammad Bagher Qalibaf have an active presence on the social networking site, with multiple accounts bearing their names.

Facebook Jalili

Saeed Jalili, Iran’s chief nuclear negotiator, and Gholam Ali Haddad Adel, a member of the 2+1 presidential electoral coalition and in-law to Iran’s supreme leader, also have a presence on Facebook with pages dedicated to their online promotion. Serat does, however, admit that it is often not entirely clear who is, in fact, responsible for running these profiles and fan pages.

Facebook Haddad Adel

Serat was also sure to mention a page entitled “I hate Mashaei,” attacking President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s controversial ally, Esfandiar Rahim Mashaei.

When speaking of the Reformist candidates, the article claims that their presence is less significant, only mentioning Mohammad Reza Aref and Mostafa Kavakebian. No mention is made of former President Mohammad Khatami, or Interior Minister Abdollah Nuri, who it has also been speculated could attempt to run.

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Basij Commander: Syrian Free Army Is “Psychological Operations”

Deputy for Basij Affairs and Defensive Culture, Commander Masoud Jazayeri, has commented on foreign forces in Syria. According to the Reformist daily Etemaad, stating that “with the existence of the terrorist actions of the enemies of Syria, the conditions in this country are contrary to what is put forward in the media. It is not only not grave, but normal life in the majority of areas of Syria carries on. The government and people in this time of crisis…The reactionaries of the region and the Zionists, capitalizing on political diplomacy and media diplomacy pretend that Bashar al-Assad’s government is over and the different groups and the Free Army [i.e. Free Syria Army] will soon be ruling, when it must be said explicitly that in fact something by the name of the Free Army does not exist in the way that the enemies state; this army is more the creation of psychological operations”. Jazayeri added, “in case Europe imagines that by supporting some groups and terrorist organizations it will be able to obtain its political objectives, it has inflicted a great blow to itself because without doubt this cultivated and engendered terrorism, one day will bring a calamity about for Europe and America”.

In other news

In reaction to the alleged opening of an official Facebook account in the name of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei on the 13th of December, Mehdi Akhavan Behabadi, the Secretary of the Supreme Council for Cyberspace in Iran, has said that membership in Facebook is not a “crime”, but rather “circumventing the filtering system for access to these networks is considered a crime”. However, Akhavan Behabadi insists that he has not seen a statement from the office of the Supreme Leader confirming that the account belongs to the latter, nor has the government taken any decision to stop filtering Facebook.

Hojjat al-Islam Mehdi Mousavi Nejad, the MP for Bushehr has criticized the “negative influence” of Russian women employees at the Bushehr nuclear power plant and has stated that a report will be given to the Majles’ Cultural Commission in this regard. Mousavi Nejad claimed that Russian employees receive a fee for abiding by the Islamic dress code, but that the “principles and standards” [of the latter] were not being properly complied with. Mousavi Nejad even went as far as to call the Russian female employees of Bushehr “corrupting”.

Since Mousavi Nejad’s statement, Deputy Foreign Minister, Hassan Ghashghavi, has rejected the claim that Russian female employees receive a fee for donning the hejab and said it has “absolutely no truth”.

The failure to change the charter of the Social Security Fund and transform it formally into an “organization”, under government purview, as opposed to a body, under the supervision of the Majles, has placed the controversial former judge and Tehran prosecutor, Saeed Mortazavi, in the firing line once again. After the Majles Speaker announced the failure of the government’s plans eight MPs immediately pointed out to the Minister of Labour, that they want the removal of Mortazavi from his current post.

Maverick Principalist MP, Ali Motahhari, has called Mortazavi’s appointment “criminal” if it continues and said that he will decide to pursue the Minister’s impeachment if he does not appoint someone else in Mortazavi’s stead. Motahhari added, “we aren’t bothered with whether the Minister is insignificant and in reality is [acting] under the order of Mr. Ahmadinejad. We say that the removal of Mortazavi is the obligation of the Minister and if he doesn’t have the power for such an act, he must be dismissed”.

Motahhari stated that as a “suspended judge” Mortazavi cannot be legally appointed to a governmental post, and this is not even addressing the numerous allegations which have been made against him following the post-2009 unrest, when he was held responsible for the death of several young Iranians held in Kahrizak detention centre, while Tehran’s Chief Prosecutor.

 

Mehr: “Who manages the Facebook pages of the Supreme Leader?”

Mehr News’ magazine has posted this article asking, “Who manages the Facebook pages of the Supreme Leader?”:

“Speculation regarding the Facebook page with the name Khamenei.ir, in particular, after the introduction of this page in the domestic and foreign media has found broader and more complex dimensions.” The most common guess was ‘the Facebook page of Ayatollah Khamenei was initiated by his office.’ Of course, these same sources at the end of their reports mention this point, as this page has not been officially approved, it is still not clear whether someone or the leader’s office in fact initiated the page or not.

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Is Mashaei’s presidential campaign targeting social-networking sites?

Javan Online says that President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s former chief of staff, Esfandiar Rahim Mashaei, has begun his presidential campaign. Javan Online, which is close to the Revolutionary Guards, has made the claim on the basis of an online Facebook campaign in support of Mashaei called “The Campaign to invite Engineer Mashaei for the presidential election.” This page as well as several others in support of the president’s controversial ally have been taken as proof that the latter’s presidential campaign is under way.

“These pages can point to the patrons of Engineer Esfandiar Rahim Mashaei in the presidential election of 2013, and the school Mashaeism, Mashaists, etc., …”

“Things being heard indicate that the electoral team of Mashaei have the aim of entering the propaganda arena of the 2013 presidential election by concentrating on social networks and for realising this goal they have begun their programme with online social networks like Facebook.”

It neglects to mention the fact that just over 260 people have liked the main page in question thus far.

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