Nabz News Review - September 5, 2014

This week in human rights in Iran

Internet Freedom

High Speed Mobile Internet in IranOn August 25, Ayatollah Naser Makarem Shirazi condemned high-speed mobile communication services as “against Sharia and moral and human norms”, after the Iranian government granted 3G and 4G licenses to two mobile operators in Iran. Days later, in an interview with Majlis speaker Ali Larijani, Shirazi qualified his earlier remarks by explaining that this technology is not inherently bad, but that it needs to be filtered. On September 1, President Hassan Rouhani responded with a nationally-broadcast speech in which he encouraged Iranian clerics to accept the Internet sooner than later.

In recent weeks, there has been a rise in hackings of Iranian users’ emails and other online accounts. Nabz-Iran offers an online course on Digital Security as a means to empower users with the knowledge to protect themselves.

Freedom of Religion

On August 25, 436 Sunni youths from across Iran sent an open letter to the Sunni faction of the Majlis regarding the mistreatment of Sunni seminarians by law enforcement in the province of Sistan and Baluchistan.

On September 2, intelligence agents arrested four Christian converts in Isfahan, one day after another Christian convert was taken into custody in the same city.

Women's Rights

On August 31, Iran’s head of police Khalil Helali said that women are not allowed to work in cafes. However, his statement was questioned by legal experts who find no legal basis for barring women from such employment. Shahindokht Molaverdi, vice president for women’s affairs, responded by pointing out that simply stopping Iranian women from working as waitresses without providing alternative employment prospects will ultimately set women back further.

On September 3, Mehdi Mahmoudian was released after five years of imprisonment. Following the controversial presidential election in 2009, Mahmoudian was arrested for his coverage of the mistreatment of detainees in Kahrizak Prison. Hossein Ronaghi Maleki, a blogger who had also been in prison since 2009, was released as well, but it is still unclear whether his release is temporary or final.

Workers' Rights

On September 3, all the miners who had been arrested in Bafgh were released, and a general strike was called off after 16 days. The miners were arrested after protesting the privatization of their mine, leading to a strike by over 5,000 coworkers.

Prisoners' Rights

On August 28, HRANA published a video that was leaked out of Ghezel Hasar Prison in Karaj. The video, ostensibly recorded on a cell phone, shows prisoners protesting over recent mass executions in Ghezel Hasar, with the protesting inmates demanding an end to such executions.

Government Accountability

August 23-29 marked the annual observation of Government Week (or Administration Week) in Iran. Nabz-Iran took this opportunity to reiterate its related courses on government accountability, including how citizens can leverage elections to hold their government to account, and which services they should expect their government to deliver.

On August 22, Iran’s deputy minister of roads and urban affairs revealed that hundreds of thousands of units in the Maskan-e Mehr housing development project lack basic utilities such as water, gas, and electricity. This project was launched by the Mahmoud Ahmadinejad administration to provide housing for low-income Iranians at a time of widespread housing shortages and has involved massive investment of public funds.

On August 31, Masoud Mir Kazemi, minister of petroleum under Ahmadinejad, was summoned to court for his role in the decision to produce gasoline in Iranian petrochemical factories. This practice is considered unsafe by public health standards but was undertaken by the Iranian government in response to international sanctions that limited Iran’s ability to import refined gasoline.