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Iran Feature: The Week in Civil Society --- The Regime's Attack on Publishers (Arseh Sevom)

The latest weekly review of civil society in Iran from our colleagues at the non-government organisation Arseh Sevom:

Publishers vs. the Islamic Republic

The Islamic Republic’s clash with private publishers has reached alarming levels. According to a recent report in Kalemeh, authorities have warned active publishers that they are working “due to the benevolence” of officials and “had they wanted to punish all offending publishers, many more of their publishing houses would have been closed". The closures are reportedly part of an organised attempt by the state to intentionally cause a crisis in this sector and further weaken it.

Some have expressed concern that the publishing guild is insufficiently strong to defend its members from government pressure.

The American author and historian, Barbara W. Tuchman, once said: “Books are humanity in print.” They represent our collective heritage. The Islamic Republic in Iran seeks to control the flow of information and the types of stories told in and about society. The Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, has repeatedly warned against the threat of humanities and social sciences. As a result, programs were terminated last year at universities and course books are still being revised so that they align with state ideology. Many books have fallen into the “forbidden zone".

Mousavi to followers: “Read!”

The Kalemeh opposition website reported that the opposition figure, Mir-Hossein Mousavi, has called on his supporters to turn to reading books and “in a recent meeting with his children recommended the book Conscience against Violence by Stefan Zweig [original title: Ein Gewissen gegen die Gewalt]”.

The book features the battle between the humanist Sebastian Castellio and Orthodox Christian theologian John Calvin.

Behind the Electronic Wall

[See an update on this story in today's Iran Live Coverage.]

In the cyber world, the Minister of Communication and IT, Reza Taghipour, announced this week that the first phase of the ‘the national internet’ will be launched in the Iranian month of Khordad (May-June). Radio Zamaneh reports that Taghipour said: “Our most important priority in the coming year is to launch the national information network the first phase of which we shall launch in the month of Khordad.” Ironically he added: “The internet cannot be trusted.”

For more information about the national internet please read Arseh Sevom’s exclusive interview with cyber activist Walid Al-Saqaf.

“Your Excellency! Kill Me Please.”

An 86-year-old mother of prisoner of conscience, Dr. Ghassem Sho’le Sa’di, has written an open letter to the Islamic Republic Leader, Ali Khamenei, desperately retorting: “Your Majesty! Please either command your men to cut my chest open as they did with Parvaneh Forouhar and send me to the cemetery to join my [other] martyred son, Asghar, or have me imprisoned to join my captive child [Ghassem]. Only that way may light be shed onto my eyes and heart once again.”

The Squeeze

The ever-growing monster of inflation plus the pressure of economic sanctions designed to convince the Islamic Republic’s statesmen to accept constraints on the nuclear program in order to prevent the development of weapons, are making life for people in Iran more difficult. “I cannot save anything,” one professional told Arseh Sevom. “I live alone and own my own home. Imagine what it’s like for families who rent.” Radio Farda reports that — based on the most optimistic estimations — prices are expected to rise a minimum of 35% to 40%.

No Happy New Year for Nasrin Sotoudeh’s Children

The family of prisoner of conscience, Nasrin Sotoudeh, told the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran that she was deprived of furlough despite having two small children who were expecting to see their mother at during Nowrooz holidays. The report reminds readers:

“Nasrin Sotoudeh was arrested on 21 September 2010, and on 8 January 2011, she was sentenced to 11 years in prison, 20 years’ ban on her legal practice, and 20 years ban on foreign travel on charges of "acting against national security", "collusion and propagation against the Islamic Republic", and "membership in the Defenders of Human Rights Center". Her sentence was subsequently upheld in its entirety by an appeals court.”

Obscene and Immoral

The militia forces of the Basij and the para-military vigilantes of Ansar-e-Hezbollah have yet again removed two movies from cinemas in Iran: Gasht-e-Ershad (The Morals Police) and Zendegi-e-Khosoosi (Private Life) were the unfortunate victims of growing official cultural intolerance. The Tehran Bureau blog adds that during Friday prayers the cleric “Ayatollah Ahmad Khatami, a member of the Assembly of Experts, called the pictures "obscene" and "immoral".

Return of the Caspian Tiger, Jurassic Park Style

Last week, there was the news of Iran’s decision to import several Russian tigers to revive the population of the extinct Mazandaran tiger (The Caspian Tiger or Panthera tigris virgate) in Northern Iranian Miankaleh region of Mazandaran province. An Iranian official told reporters that they intend to gradually revive the breed by “injecting the DNA left from fur and bones of the Mazandarani tiger specimen to the Russian tigers.”

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