Sunday, February 13, 2011

Protests in Iran

According to the Wall Street Journal Iran is to permanently shut down Gmail in wake of upcoming protests. The report says:
"Iran’s telecommunications agency announced what it described as a permanent suspension of Google Inc.’s email services, saying instead that a national email service for Iranian citizens would soon be rolled out. It wasn’t clear late Wednesday what effect the order had on Google’s email services in Iran.”
It is a drastic step and is likely to stir up further protests. Ahmadinejad (Iran’s president) declared Friday that Egypt's uprising shows a new Middle East is emerging that will doom Israel and break free of American "interference," as Tehran was clamping down on their own opposition movement.

Iran tried to portray the uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt as a replay of its 1979 Islamic Revolution -- whose anniversary was marked Friday by Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's speech and state-organized rallies that included chants of support for Egypt's anti-government protests.

Iranian opposition groups have called for marches on Monday to express solidarity with Egypt's demonstrators. Displaying the huge difference between the way protests against the government are handled by Tehran as opposed to what happened in Cairo, Iranian officials have warned of crackdowns if protesters return to the streets.

"For all of its empty talk about Egypt, the government of Iran should allow the Iranian people the same universal right to peacefully assemble, demonstrate and communicate in Tehran that the people are exercising in Cairo," White House national security spokesman Tommy Vietor said. "Governments must respect the rights of their people and be responsive to their aspirations."

In a further display of hypocrisy, Ahmadinejad, speaking just hours before Mubarak resigned and transferred control of the country to the armed forces, urged Egyptian protesters to persevere. "It's your right to be free. It's your right to exercise your will and sovereignty ... and choose the type of government and the rulers," he said.

Last week, Egypt's foreign minister, Ahmed Aboul Gheit, told reporters that Iranian officials should listen to the calls for reform from within their own country rather than "distracting the Iranian people's attention by hiding behind what is happening in Egypt."

"Iran's critical moment has not come yet, but we will watch that moment with great anticipation and interest," he told the AP in Cairo.

Iran is applying increased pressure to keep opposition groups from seizing the moment with rallies linked to the Egyptian crisis.

The Associated Press is already reporting that Security forces have arrested several opposition activists, including aides to Iran's opposition leaders. Authorities also placed Mahdi Karroubi, one of Iran's opposition leaders, under house arrest, posting security officers at his door in response to his calls for an Iranian opposition rally in support of the demonstrations in Egypt. Karroubi's website,, said security officials informed him that the restrictions would remain in place until after Feb. 14.

The AP reported that Iranian State Prosecutor Gholam Hossein Mohseni Ejehi rejected an appeal for marches by Karroubi and fellow opposition leader Mir-Hossein Mousavi, who was declared the runner-up in June 2009 elections that critics say were rigged to give Ahmadinejad victory.

Hossein Hamedani, a senior commander of Iran's powerful Revolutionary Guard, said any attempt by the opposition to rally supporters on Feb. 14 would be crushed.
Mousavi aide Saleh Noghrehkar and Sadroddin Beheshti, son of another Mousavi aide, Ali Reza Beheshti, were among those arrested, according to opposition website The website said another opposition activist, Fariba Ebtehaj, a close aide to former reformist Vice President Masoumeh Ebtekar, has also been arrested.

In London, the British Broadcasting Corp. said the signal for its Persian service was being jammed beginning late Thursday from a source in Iran. The BBC said it believes the action was an attempt to block its extensive coverage of the Egyptian protests.

Cyber War and Revolution

In a very interesting cyber war wrinkle that occurred in Egyypt during the protests, it looks as if hanging-on-by-his-fingernails Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak ordered the Vodaphone to send out text messages urging people to come out and support his forces. An Egyptian company, Mobinil, also said the government ordered it to send messages.

The messages sent by Vodaphone and its Egyptian friend apparently told subscribers: “Massive demonstration to start at noon this Wednesday from Mustafa Mahmoud Square, in support of President Mubarak.”

Here is Vodaphone’s statement:
“Under the emergency powers provisions of the Telecoms Act, the Egyptian authorities can instruct the mobile networks of Mobinil, Etisalat and Vodafone to send messages to the people of Egypt. They have used this since the start of the protests. These messages are not scripted by any of the mobile network operators and we do not have the ability to respond to the authorities on their content.
Vodafone Group has protested to the authorities that the current situation regarding these messages is unacceptable. We have made clear that all messages should be transparent and clearly attributable to the originator.”

While these messages may not have turned the tide in the battle between the various sides, it certainly helped increase turnout by those predisposed to help Mubarak stay in power.

This appears to be part of a much wider trend as we see governments using emergency powers or special authorities governing the Internet and cell phones to influence events such as elections, riots, sensitive anniversaries. Governments are increasingly shutting down Internet or cell services or selectively curtailing them. According to Ron Deibert, director of Canada’s Citizen Lab. Speaking at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, hee called it “just in time blocking.”

“That’s becoming de riguer for authoritarian governments around the world,” he said, referring to Egypt’s decision to shut down Internet access. One interesting tidbit– not all Internet access was killed, he said. One Internet Service Provider “was still alive last week, providing 5 star hotels, Coca Cola and a few other companies with Internet access while the rest of Egypt was unable to check news webs sites and Facebook.

China has blocked Internet access to the entire Uighur region for long periods of time. Kyrgystan hired a Ukrainian hacker to launch denial of service attacks against human rights groups and the opposition. Thailand shut things down three days before an election, Deibert said. Burma closed the Internet before its sham November elections.

How effective are the efforts by governments to control Internet access? It’s hard to tell, but in the Egyptian case Deibert thinks it may have backfired. “I think it had the opposite effect. It drove the people of Egypt out into the streets,” he said.

I think it might be important to note that President Obama’s Administration has been making a lot of noise lately about increasing the Administrations control over the internet here in the United States. -That is a course of action which, in my humble opinion, is wrong headed and dangerous to personal freedom. Any attempt to control access to the internet through legislation or regulation must be vigorously opposed.


Personal Note: 
I would like to wish a very Happy Anniversary 
to Darryl and Lynn 
-a very special couple!
-and may they enjoy many more happy anniversaries!

Live Long and Prosper....

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