Posts tagged iran

Iranian Spies Pose as Reporters to Target Lawmakers, Defense Contractors

Via Wired:

Iranian spies appear to be engaged in their most elaborate and persistent effort yet to dupe lawmakers, journalists and defense contractors into revealing email addresses, network logins and other information that could be used to collect intelligence.

A three-year espionage campaign, believed to have originated in Iran, has used an elaborate scheme involving a fabricated news agency, fake social media accounts and bogus journalist identities to trick victims in the United States, Israel and elsewhere, according to iSight Partners, the company that uncovered the campaign.

Using fake accounts on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube and Google+, the attackers have built an elaborate universe of fake personas bolstered by secondary accounts all for the purpose of garnering the trust of their targets, according to a report issued by the company.

“We’ve never seen a cyber espionage campaign from the Iranians as complex, broad reaching and persistent as this one,” says Tiffany Jones, senior vice president of client services at iSight “The dozen or so primary fictitious personas have done a pretty successful job over the last few years in gleaning thousands of connections and ultimately targeting legitimate individuals through their social media networks.”

The spies also created a fake news organization, NewsOnAir.org, owned and operated by a fake media mogul named Joseph Nillson, whom they illustrated using a photo of Alexander McCall Smith, author of The No.1 Ladies’ Detective Agency. The news site is populated with articles ripped off from CNN and the BBC appearing beneath the names of NewsOnAir “reporters.” Once those stories are published, Twitter and other social media accounts associated with the fake identities link to them, making the operation appear legitimate.

So, journalism as spycraft. Targets, according to Wired, included “the U.S. military, Congress and various think tanks, along with journalists, defense contractors in the United States and Israel and members of U.S. and Israeli lobbying groups. They also targeted victims in Saudi, Arabia, Iraq and the United Kingdom.”

Eight Jailed in Iran for Posting "Insults" on Facebook

Via The Guardian:

Eight people, including an Iranian-born British woman, have been jailed in Iranon charges including blasphemy and insulting the country’s supreme leader on Facebook.

The opposition website Kaleme reported that two of the eight… each received 20 years in prison and the remaining six…vbetween seven and 19 years.

They were variously found guilty of blasphemy, propaganda against the ruling system, spreading lies and insulting Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

FJP: There seems to be some push and pull between President Hassan Rouhani and the country’s ruling conservatives. As The Guardian reports:

There is a growing row between President Hassan Rouhani’s administration, which favours internet freedom, and hardliners wary of relaxing online censorship. Last week, Iran’s national TV paraded six young Iranians arrested for performing a version of Pharrell William’s hit song Happy and posting a video of it on the internet. The arrests caused global outrage and prompted Rouhani to react in their support. The performers were soon released, but the video’s director, Sassan Soleimani, remains in jail…

…In recent weeks Rouhani has stepped up his rhetoric in support of internet freedom. “The era of the one-sided pulpit is over,” he said recently at a conference in Tehran, endorsing social networks and asking his communications minister to improve bandwidth in the country.

[Iran] is developing “intelligent software” that aims to manipulate, rather than fully control, citizens’ access to social networks. Instead of blocking Facebook, or Twitter, or even Google, the regime… will allow controlled access to those services. As Iranian police chief Esmail Ahmadi Moghadam put it to Iranian local media, cheerfully: “Smart control of social networks will not only avoid their disadvantages, but will also allow people to benefit from their useful aspects.”…

…[T]he “intelligent software” announcement is itself revealing: It suggests the increasing normalization of censorship — and, more specifically, the increasing normalization of strategic censorship.

This is the highly effective Chinese model put to use by another regime: Block content if you must, but monitor content first of all. Allow your citizens to indict themselves with the freedom — “freedom” — you give them. And that is, as a strategy, very likely the future of repression — one in which access to the web won’t just be the black-and-white matter of blocked vs. not , but rather something more insidious: curtailing Internet freedom by the very illusion of granting it. As Iran’s Moghadam noted, “Smart control of social networks is better than filtering them completely.” What’s scary is that he’s probably right.

Megan Garber, The Atlantic. The Age of Surgical Censorship.

Meantime, Iran has cut off access to most Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) that its citizens use to get around government filters.

In announcing the move, Ramezanali Sobhani-Fard, head of parliament’s information and communications technology committee, told the Mehr news agency, “Within the last few days illegal VPN ports in the country have been blocked. Only legal and registered VPNs can from now on be used,” according to Reuters.

Iran is reportedly in the process of creating a “Halal” Internet, or a countrywide intranet, that is closed off from the rest of the Web.

The decadence and corruption associated with [Rightel’s] use outweighs its benefits. It will cause new deviances in our society, which is unfortunately already plagued with deviances.

Grand Ayatollah Makarem-Shirazi in a fatwa against Rightel, a 3G mobile operator that’s bringing video calls to Iran. AL Monitor, Fatwa Issued Against 3G Internet Operator in Iran.

FJP: A second Ayatollah says the video calls “jeopardize the public chastity”.

A petition signed by some residents in the city of Qom says that services like Rightel are a part of “enemy culture” and “facilitate access to sin and decadence”.

Iran Arrests Journalists for “Cooperating” with Foreign Media

Via the Washington Post:

Iran has arrested 14 journalists for alleged cooperation with foreign-based Persian-language media organizations, several chief editors of Iranian outlets said Monday.

The arrests signal a major escalation in a press crackdown that reflects Iran’s zero tolerance for those who work with dissident media or outlets considered hostile to the regime.

Via the New York Times:

None of the arrests were reported by the raided organizations themselves. Some Iranian journalists said the omissions appeared to reflect fears of further antagonizing the Revolutionary Guards and affiliated security forces whose loyalties lie with the supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

The Mehr news agency said the arrested journalists had been accused of “collaborating with some of the Persian-language foreign media” — apparently an allusion to the Persian services of both the BBC and the Voice of America. The Fars news agency, without citing any sources, said the suspects had tried to contact the foreign media and had sought training on photography and filming with cellphone cameras. “Moreover, they wanted to learn how to assemble the pieces and send them to the BBC,” Fars said.

Via the Committee to Protect Journalists:

CPJ ranks Iran as the world’s second-worst jailer of journalists, with 45 behind bars in 2012, according to its prison census conducted on December 1.

As the Washington Post notes: “Since 2000, Iran’s judiciary has shut down more than 120 pro-reform newspapers and jailed dozens of editors and writers on vague charges of insulting authorities.”

Fake Blogs and Social Media Accounts Smear Exiled Iranian Journalists

Via The Guardian:

Iran has been conducting a smear campaign designed to intimidate Iranian journalists living in exile, including apparent death threats. Cyber-activists linked to the Islamic republic have fabricated news, duplicated Facebook accounts and spread false allegations of sexual misconduct by exiled journalists, while harassment of family members back in Iran has been stepped up by security officials.

Staff at the BBC’s Persian service in London are among dozens of Iranian journalists who have been subjected to what appears to be an operation sponsored by the authorities and aimed at discrediting reporters in the eyes of the public in Iran…

…In recent weeks, the pro-regime activists have set up a number of fake Facebook accounts and blogs, purporting to belong to BBC journalists or their Iranian colleagues. Web users who want to access the real BBCPersian.com, might accidentally visit its counterfeit at persianbbc.ir. The fake site mirrors the BBC’s site in design and fonts but has completely different content...

…Nafiseh Kouhnavard, a presenter on BBC Persian’s talkshow Your Turn, is one of the victims. In a fake Facebook account that carries her name and picture, she supposedly confesses to a culture of extramarital relationships among journalists working for the BBC’s Persian service. The fake comments attributed to Kouhnavard were reproduced extensively in Iran.

"You wrote about my relationships with my colleagues," she is falsely quoted by a national newspaper in Iran as saying. "Swinging … is not only limited to me, in fact it is common and normal here.

First carried in Vatan-e-Emrooz daily, the fake material has since been republished by state-affiliated news organisations. The fabricated contents are usually chosen carefully to target the most sensitive issues in Iran, especially among conservatives wary of western lifestyles.

The Guardian, Iran creates fake blogs in smear campaign against journalists in exile.

Polling Iranians and Syrian rebels
We more or less understand which candidate is favored in which state, and we know that Europe, to speak very generally, likes Obama, even if its with less enthusiasm this time. But the opinions of other, more worrisome regions are not always considered. Let’s take a look.
In the Universities of Iran, politics professors see little difference between the candidates, but quotes taken from Tehran’s street life strikingly resemble those of, umm, the East Village.
From WaPo:

Unlike the Iranian establishment, ordinary citizens say they see major differences between the two candidates. Among many, the belief seems to be that Iran could be attacked by the United States or Israel if Romney becomes president, while they see a greater possibility for a peaceful solution if Obama is re-elected.
“Most of my colleagues and I believe that Obama is better because he is moderate and wants peace, while the Republicans talk about war, which frightens us,” said Marjan, a 43-year-old high school teacher.

In Syria, where rebels struggle to fight a seemingly unending civil war, one rebel leader has voiced his support for Mitt Romney.
From the Guardian’s Middle East Live blog:

A senior rebel commander in Syria says he is backing Mitt Romney in today’s US presidential election because he is the candidate mostly likely to provide weapons to the rebels.

Interested elsewhere? See this Guardian article.
Photo: During a break from fighting, Syrian rebels dance in a house in Aleppo. Zain Karam/Reuters. See other incredible photos from the Syrian war here, posted today.

Polling Iranians and Syrian rebels

We more or less understand which candidate is favored in which state, and we know that Europe, to speak very generally, likes Obama, even if its with less enthusiasm this time. But the opinions of other, more worrisome regions are not always considered. Let’s take a look.

In the Universities of Iran, politics professors see little difference between the candidates, but quotes taken from Tehran’s street life strikingly resemble those of, umm, the East Village.

From WaPo:

Unlike the Iranian establishment, ordinary citizens say they see major differences between the two candidates. Among many, the belief seems to be that Iran could be attacked by the United States or Israel if Romney becomes president, while they see a greater possibility for a peaceful solution if Obama is re-elected.

“Most of my colleagues and I believe that Obama is better because he is moderate and wants peace, while the Republicans talk about war, which frightens us,” said Marjan, a 43-year-old high school teacher.

In Syria, where rebels struggle to fight a seemingly unending civil war, one rebel leader has voiced his support for Mitt Romney.

From the Guardian’s Middle East Live blog:

A senior rebel commander in Syria says he is backing Mitt Romney in today’s US presidential election because he is the candidate mostly likely to provide weapons to the rebels.

Interested elsewhere? See this Guardian article.

Photo: During a break from fighting, Syrian rebels dance in a house in Aleppo. Zain Karam/Reuters. See other incredible photos from the Syrian war here, posted today.

Surfing Iran

Four-time Irish national surfing champion Easkey Britton recently traveled to Chabahar, Iran on the Gulf of Oman near the Pakistan border. Evidently, the swell there picks up during monsoon season in India.

Easkey writes about both the waves and how the trip challenged and changed her media-fed perception of Iran for SurfGirl Magazine. A PDF version is available here.

Video by Marion Poizeau

Meanwhile, In Iran

Two journalists begin their prison sentences.

Via the Committee to Protect Journalists:

Authorities summoned Shiva Nazar Ahari, a blogger and founding member of the Committee of Human Rights Reporters (CHRR), on Saturday to begin serving her prison sentence in the women’s ward of Tehran’s Evin Prison, according to CHRR. In 2010, Nazar Ahari was sentenced to six years in prison on charges of moharebeh, or “waging war against God,” “propagating against the regime,” and “acting against national security” for reporting on political gatherings, according to the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran. In January 2011, an appeals court reduced her sentence to four years in prison and 74 lashes, news reports said…

…In the other case, Zhila Bani Yaghoub, a former editor of the banned reformist daily Sarmayeh, began serving a one-year prison term on September 2 in Evin Prison’s women’s ward, according to news reports. She was sentenced in 2010 to a year in prison on anti-state charges and banned from practicing journalism for 30 years, news reports said.

Bani Yaghoub was arrested in June 2009 with her husband, Bahman Ahmadi Amouee, who is also a journalist, news reports said. Amouee, who is serving a five-year sentence, was transferred out of Evin Prison and sent to Rajaee Shahr Prison earlier this year, according to news reports.

Meanwhile, Reporters Without Borders reports that the country is disrupting Internet access in major cities in the lead up to the Islamic Revolution’s 31st anniversary, and Google Mail, specifically, has been blocked.

Also, Gizmodo reports that with the Iranian currency tanking, SMS messages that use words like “dollar” are being blocked.

Yes, Iran’s Supreme Leader is Now on Instagram
No, he’s not using clever filters.
Yes, you can follow him.
No, user comments on his photos aren’t measured and civil.
Yes, Iran plans to create its own Internet and block off the rest of the world.
Image: Screenshot of Grand Ayatollah Ali Khamenei’s Instagram account.
H/T: The Atlantic.

Yes, Iran’s Supreme Leader is Now on Instagram

No, he’s not using clever filters.

Yes, you can follow him.

No, user comments on his photos aren’t measured and civil.

Yes, Iran plans to create its own Internet and block off the rest of the world.

Image: Screenshot of Grand Ayatollah Ali Khamenei’s Instagram account.

H/T: The Atlantic.

Iranian Cartoonist Draws Politician, Sentenced to 25 Lashes

Via the Guardian:

An Iranian cartoonist has been sentenced to 25 lashes for a caricature of a local MP, the semi-official Ilna news agency has reported.

Ahmad Lotfi Ashtiani, MP for Arak, took offence to a cartoon published in Nameye Amir, a city newspaper in Arak.

The cartoonist, Mahmoud Shokraye, depicted Ashtiani in a football stadium, dressed as a footballer, with a congratulatory letter in one hand and his foot resting on the ball.

Iranian politicians, including Ashtiani, have been recently criticised for interferring in the country’s sports…

…Shokraye was subsequently sued by the MP for having insulted him. A court in Markazi province, of which Arak is the capital, sentenced the cartoonist to 25 lashes – an unprecedented punishment for an Iranian cartoonist.

Iran's Halal Internet Coming Soon?

If you’re a government that believes the Internet “promotes crime, disunity, unhealthy moral content, and atheism” there seem to be two options: unplug or roll your own.

Reports are appearing that indicate Iran’s going with the latter and will launch of a countrywide intranet to save the masses from online evils.

Via the International Business Times:

Millions of Internet users in Iran will be permanently denied access to the World Wide Web and cut off from popular social networking sites and email services, as the government has announced its plans to establish a national Intranet within five months.

In a statement released Thursday, Reza Taghipour, the Iranian minister for Information and Communications Technology, announced the setting up of a national Intranet and the effective blockage of services like Google, Gmail, Google Plus, Yahoo and Hotmail, in line with Iran’s plan for a “clean Internet.”

The government is set to roll out the first phase of the project in May, following which Google, Hotmail and Yahoo services will be blocked and replaced with government Intranet services like Iran Mail and Iran Search Engine. At this stage, however, the World Wide Web, apart from the aforementioned sites, will still be accessible.

In a follow-up, the IBT reports that Iran’s Ministry of Communications and Information Technology denies they’ll block Iranians’ access to the wider Web and blames information about it on Western propaganda.

The idea of an Iranian Internet isn’t new. Last year, Al Jazeera among others reported that the effort was in the works, with Technology Review writing:

It would be unlikely, but not technically impossible, for Iran to step up its censorship and filtering regime to create this “halal Internet.” After all, most Cubans, for example, are priced out of the actual Internet and steered towards the Cuban equivalent, which is restricted to an internal e-mail network, and a handful of pro-government sites. In a similar vein, the Chinese Internet is limited largely only to websites that the government doesn’t view as threatening.

Ninjas, News and Politics
Iran has suspended Reuters’ accreditation in the country over a story the news agency ran on Iranian women practicing the art of ninjutsu. 
At issue is wording in the Reuters report that called the women “ninja assassins” with the perceived implication that they’re training to protect the country from Western infidels.
In a statement, Reuters writes:

The story’s headline, “Thousands of female Ninjas train as Iran’s assassins”, was corrected to read “Three thousand women Ninjas train in Iran”.
Iran’s Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance subsequently contacted the Reuters Tehran bureau chief about the video and its publication, as a result of which Reuters’ 11 personnel were told to hand back their press cards.
"We acknowledge this error occurred and regard it as a very serious matter. It was promptly corrected the same day it came to our attention," said editor-in-chief Stephen J. Adler.

Meantime, some of the women are suing Reuters for misrepresenting them.
"Reuters has introduced us as assassins to the whole world," says one. ”The truth must come to light and everyone should know that we are only a group of athletes. We are supervised by the Ministry of Sports and the federation of martial arts.”
Background via The Atlantic.
Image: A Ninjutsu practitioner performs a split as members of various Ninjutsu schools showcase their skills to the media in a gym at Karaj, near Tehran. By Caren Firouz, via Reuters.

Ninjas, News and Politics

Iran has suspended Reuters’ accreditation in the country over a story the news agency ran on Iranian women practicing the art of ninjutsu. 

At issue is wording in the Reuters report that called the women “ninja assassins” with the perceived implication that they’re training to protect the country from Western infidels.

In a statement, Reuters writes:

The story’s headline, “Thousands of female Ninjas train as Iran’s assassins”, was corrected to read “Three thousand women Ninjas train in Iran”.

Iran’s Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance subsequently contacted the Reuters Tehran bureau chief about the video and its publication, as a result of which Reuters’ 11 personnel were told to hand back their press cards.

"We acknowledge this error occurred and regard it as a very serious matter. It was promptly corrected the same day it came to our attention," said editor-in-chief Stephen J. Adler.

Meantime, some of the women are suing Reuters for misrepresenting them.

"Reuters has introduced us as assassins to the whole world," says one. ”The truth must come to light and everyone should know that we are only a group of athletes. We are supervised by the Ministry of Sports and the federation of martial arts.”

Background via The Atlantic.

Image: A Ninjutsu practitioner performs a split as members of various Ninjutsu schools showcase their skills to the media in a gym at Karaj, near Tehran. By Caren Firouz, via Reuters.

Shirin Neshat, Women of Allah
Via the Metropolitan Museum of Art:

This photograph forms part of Neshat’s Women of Allah series, created between 1993 and 1997 after the artist’s first trip to Iran after the Revolution. The aesthetic of these black-and-white photographs, in which women (the artist and others) appear in veils (chadors), often bearing firearms, mimics newspaper clippings she gathered that depicted the involvement of women in the Iran-Iraq War. Neshat used these images to comment on the violence of the 1979 Iranian Revolution, after which she was barred from entering the country, and later on post-Revolution society in Iran. Historically, the role of women in Iran is fraught with repression and restriction. Thus, feminist poetry was an important source of inspiration for Neshat’s series of photographs. The verses handwritten on the photographs reinforce Neshat’s feminist beliefs (she often quotes the poet Furugh Farrukhzad) and also engage with images of violence.

Image: Via Tradition and Modernity in flux: Visual Binaries in Contemporary Iranian Photography.

Shirin Neshat, Women of Allah

Via the Metropolitan Museum of Art:

This photograph forms part of Neshat’s Women of Allah series, created between 1993 and 1997 after the artist’s first trip to Iran after the Revolution. The aesthetic of these black-and-white photographs, in which women (the artist and others) appear in veils (chadors), often bearing firearms, mimics newspaper clippings she gathered that depicted the involvement of women in the Iran-Iraq War. Neshat used these images to comment on the violence of the 1979 Iranian Revolution, after which she was barred from entering the country, and later on post-Revolution society in Iran. Historically, the role of women in Iran is fraught with repression and restriction. Thus, feminist poetry was an important source of inspiration for Neshat’s series of photographs. The verses handwritten on the photographs reinforce Neshat’s feminist beliefs (she often quotes the poet Furugh Farrukhzad) and also engage with images of violence.

Image: Via Tradition and Modernity in flux: Visual Binaries in Contemporary Iranian Photography.