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Friday
Feb012013

Iran Feature: The Week in Civil Society --- Monkey in Space, Journalists in Prison (Arseh Sevom)

Arseh Sevom, the NGO promoting civil society and human rights in Iran, offers its latest review of developments inside the country:

Everything has its place in Iran --- such as monkeys in space and journalists in prison.

And, oh what a prison! After detainees complain of their conditions, MPs visit Evin, calling it a “hotel.". Stoning makes a comeback — at least in print. The surveillance of Iran’s public spaces is revealed when Cafe Prague closes its doors in protest.


Iranian Journalists Under Arrest

Beginning 27 January, Iranian authorities arrested a number of journalists accused of cooperation with foreign-based, Persian-language media organisations.

Tehran Bureau reports that many reformist journalists fear they may be next, as some newspapers arranged a protest against the crackdown. Shargh published a blank column on its cover page in objection to the arrest of one of its staff members, Pouria Alami, and explained that his articles "will not be printed until further notice". Bahar also criticised the detention of its journalists and those from other publications.

Radio Zamaneh reports that Iranian authorities blocked the news websites Tabnak and Baztab Emrouz along with the historical website Tarikh Irani (Iranian History).

The Mezrab blog has a good overview of the situation:

The Minister of Culture and Guidance (translated from double-speak, that means Ministry of Censorship) has declared they are not arrested for journalistic work but for working for foreign anti-revolutionary media that spread, which means they are, if convicted, traitors and will receive harsh punishment.

Guardian Council Brings Stoning Back

The new Islamic Penal Law, approved by Parliament’s Judicial Commission, tried to implicitly exclude stoning, long a controversial punishment.

However, as Justice for Iran explained at the time, while the new bill did not endorse stoning, it gave judges free reign to cite religious interpretations which allowed them to continue its use.

Now Iran Emrouz reports that the Guardian Council has demanded explicit recognition of stoning.

Evin Prison or “Hotel” Evin?

On 22 January, four members of Parliament’s National Security Commission visited Evin Prison in Tehran. BBC News reported that one of them, Safar Naimi, said afterwards: “From now on, I will call it Hotel Evin, rather than Evin Prison.”

In recent months, many prisoners who were arrested after the post-election protests of 2009 have complained about their conditions, and the MPs' report was followed by serious criticisms. Iran Green Voice reports that Fakhrosaadat Mohtashamipour, the wife of imprisoned senior reformist Mostafa Tajzadeh, asked members of the Commission to either report honestly or remain silent on the issue. She suggested that they go live in Evin Prison if they consider it as a hotel.

Coffee Shops under the Ever-Watchful Eye

Coffee shops have a unique position in Iranian society, especially among youth, and they have been intellectual hangouts for many people.

Tehran Bureau reports that Iran’s morality police have recently expanded their political surveillance by ordering coffee shop owners to install cameras on their premises and turn over the recordings on demand.

Some coffee shops accepted the terms. However, some others, however, showed more courage. Café Prague, one of the most popular coffee shops in Tehran, closed down last week after its owners refused to install a video system. The owners posted on their Facebook page:

As much as it pains us and as much as we will miss our friends and all of you who stood by our side in the past four years, we take comfort in knowing that we at least didn’t let Big Brother’s glass eyes scan and record our every step, minute and memory from dawn till dusk.

A photo collection of the last day of Café Prague has been posted.

Space Monkey: New Ambitions

Fars News reported that Iran has successfully sent a monkey into space, aboard the satellite Pishgam (Pioneer).

The satellite traveled 75 miles above the earth. Officials said that the Iranian-built space capsule returned intact, and the monkey was still alive and safe after its sub-orbital experience.

In the past, there have been criticisms about the mistreatment of animals in space during the competition between the US and Soviet Union. As The Guardian reports, the animals rights group PETA said it was appalled by the photographs, "Iran is repeating the wasteful and cruel mistakes that marked the darkest days of the space race.”

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