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Tuesday
Sep062011

The Latest from Iran (6 September): Water Fights, Soggy Papers

See also The Latest from Iran (5 September): It's the Economy, Stupid


1938 GMT: This video purportedly shows merchants protesting at the Tehran Bazaar strike yesterday:

1710 GMT: Terror Watch. Iranian officials say they have arrested five Al Qa'eda members in Kerman Province. Two of the suspects are non-Iranian.

1705 GMT: Today's Get-Tough Moment. Minister of Intelligence Heydar Moslehi has said that his Ministry "vows to curb enemy moves" for next March's Parliamentary elections.

1335 GMT: Picture of Day. A T-shirt with messages and signatures of detainees in Evin Prison:

1330 GMT: Press Watch. Reporters Without Borders, noting yesterday's ban on two reformist publications, has called on Iranian officials to end repression and free detained journalists and bloggers.

1325 GMT: Foreign Affairs (Cyprus-Syria Front). A curious story out of Cyprus, where President Demetris Christofias told an inquiry into the explosion of munitions seized from a Cypriot-flagged container ship, bound for Syria, that Damascus threatened Cypriot officials after the cargo was confiscated.

The munitions on board the Monchegorsk were held at a naval base in Cyprus for two years before they exploded in July, killing 12 people and crippling the island’s main power station.

Christofias said he had been under pressure from from “countries that play a decisive role on the international scene” to seize the cargo --- “The US Ambassador even used the name of Barack Obama” --- but Syria had asked for the ship to be allowed to sail to its destination. Damascus It threatened that refusal “would hurt Cyprus’s relations with Syria and the Arab world”. When he decided to hold the cargo, "negative reactions continued, mainly on the part of Syria, and later by Iran".

1315 GMT: Reformist Watch. Prominent reformist Ali Shakouri-Rad appears to have taken another step back from involvement in next March's Parliamentary campaign: "If (former President Mohammad) Khatami's conditions are not fulfilled, participation in elections is not reasonable."

1305 GMT: The Wall Street Journal posts an overview article, "Iran Cracks Down On Dissent", mentioning a number of events covered by EA in the last week, including the water fights, the Lake Urmia protests, and pressure on some political prisoners even as others were released on amnesty on last week.

The information --- including the story that a recently-released political prisoner had committed suicide --- is useful. The attempted interpretation, "Analysts say that Iran is tightening its grip on power mostly because of events in Syria", should be treated with caution, however --- while the regime may be unsettled by Syrian developments, the repression is primarily driven by concerns over internal issues.

1300 GMT: Strike Watch. Khabar Online reports that the strike amongst cloth vendors at Tehran Bazaar, now in a second month over Government tax policies, has now spread to gold merchants.

1235 GMT: Political Prisoner Watch. Amidst a continuing crackdown and clashes, a number of Gonabadi Dervishes have been detained.

The arrests follow a reported attack on the dervishes, who are a sect of Sufi Islam, in the city of Kavar in southern Iran by plainclothes men and Basij militia (see Sunday's LiveBlog). Radio Farda wrote that Sufi shops were set on fire and their houses were attacked by a group of hardliners chanting “Death to American dervishes".

A website has posted the names and pictures of 11 of the detainees.

Rah-e Sabz posts more detail in an interview with a spokesman for the dervishes.

1235 GMT: The House Arrests. Thirty-three political prisoners have written an open letter urging the release from strict house arrest of opposition figures Mir Hossein Mousavi, Zahra Rahnavard, and Mehdi and Fatemeh Karroubi.

1230 GMT: Water Fight Update. In case you are still wondering why the water fights among young people are an imminent threat to Iranian security, Iran Prosecutor General Gholam-Hossein Mohseni Ejei explains in his Monday press conference: "This is not simply a game with water. This is a campaign which is being orchestrated from abroad....Some of those arrested have admitted that they were deceived, with some saying they had responded to calls by anti-revolutionary [groups]."

1140 GMT: CyberWatch. Al Jazeera English follows up on the story of a cyber-attacker, possibly linked to the Iranian regime, using "rogue" security certificates to spy on computer users.

On Monday, the Dutch government said an enquiry showed the attack was greater than first thought. The certificates may have been taken from securities firm DigiNotar in June, not July. The effect went far beyond Google --- 531 fake certificates for some 344 domains includied sites operated by Yahoo, Facebook, Microsoft, Skype, AOL, Mozilla, TorProject, and WordPress, as well as spy agencies such as the CIA, Israel's Mossad, and Britain's MI6.

The external review by Fox-IT, a Dutch company, found that one fake certificate for Google was used 300,000 times between its activation on 4 August and its revocation on August 29. Almost all usage came from Iran. Fox-IT concluded, "The list of domains and the fact that 99 per cent of the users are in Iran suggest that the objective of the hackers is to intercept private communications in Iran."

The hack of DigiNotar closely resembles one in March of the US security certificate issuer Comodo Inc., which was also attributed to an Iranian hacker. The Fox-IT report said that the hackers erased some evidence of their break-in but purposefully left behind at least one message in one script: "My signature as always, Janam Fadaye Rabhar," which means "I will sacrifice my soul for my leader" in Persian.

For earlier analysis, see the two-part series by Arseh Sevom in a separate EA entry.

0634 GMT: Women rights activist Fereshteh Shirazi was arrested in Amol, on the Caspian Sea, after her daughter was arrested for the now-infamous "water fights." Her daughter has still not been released.

For the uninitiated, the "water fights" or "water games" are squirt-gun fights that have been banned (and, thus, have been catching on). Because, in Iran, this is what a criminal looks like:

0620 GMT: Yesterday we reported:

Press Watch. Iranian authorities have shut down two publications which carried articles critical of President Ahmadinejad's policies.

Shahrvand-e Emrouz, a weekly reformist news magazine, has been shut down and the daily Rouzegar has been banned for two months. Both publications have had their licenses revoked in the past and subsequently reopened under their current names.

A source said that Sharvand-e Emrouz had been punished because of cover photographs of the President which could be seen as criticism.

Nikahang Kowsar follows up with a cartoon cartoon, in Rooz Online, linking the incident to former President Mohammad Khatami's declared requirements --- including restoration of freedom of political action and freeing of political prisoners --- for participation in next March's Parliamentary elections. Kowsar's Khatami says, "Apparently they took my conditions seriously."

Note to readers, the hard-at-work-while-supposedly-on-vacation Scott Lucas made many updates last night, so if you missed them, tune in.

See also The Latest from Iran (5 September): It's the Economy, Stupid

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