Sunday, February 14, 2010

Iran's Dictators take fight to opposition online

From The Sunday Times February 14, 2010:

Iran’s clerical rulers, who succeeded in suppressing widespread demonstrations last week by blanketing Tehran with security, are escalating a cyberwar to combat the increasingly powerful role of the internet in mobilising their opponents.

....A group calling itself the Iran Cyber Army has claimed responsibility for hacking into ....opposition [web] sites. This is the outfit that brought down Twitter for several hours last December when huge antigovernment protests were shaking the regime.

In a controlled society with extreme censorship, where satellite television channels have already been blocked, opposition supporters have grown adept at harnessing new media such as Twitter, YouTube and Facebook to communicate and spread images of demonstrations and unrest.

... Some 30m Iranians are believed to have access to the internet. A few months ago it was about 20m. The increase shows the hunger for information.

[This blog, JIW, also has Irnian readers ...and we welcome them with open arms - SL]

...The opposition suspects [that the Iran Cyber Army] is a subsidiary of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard, the force that has played the key role in suppressing dissent.

...With so many opposition figures jailed, all independent newspapers closed and many journalists arrested, the internet is fulfilling the role of newspapers.

Iran is holding 62 journalists in prison; three more were arrested last week. It has hanged two men in public for alleged anti-government activities and sentenced nine more to death. The crackdown has left the opposition in permanent fear of arrest....

...The opposition had hoped that last Thursday, the 31st anniversary of the Islamic revolution, would be the high point in a struggle that has been going on since last summer in protest at President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s fraudulent election. ...
Iranian experts believe the government’s ability to stop the protests on Thursday has meant that both Ali Khamenei, the country’s supreme leader, and the system of clerical authority in force since the 1979 revolution are safe. [BUT ONLT TEMPORARILY b"h - SL]

“After Thursday the supreme leader has got enough people to commit themselves that the system stands and he stands atop of it,” said Professor Scott Lucas of the University of Birmingham. “We are not going to see a move to change the system of ultimate clerical authority now.” Ahmadinejad’s position was much less secure, he added.

Having issued one of his most damning statements only a few days earlier, MirHossein Mousavi, the de facto leader of the opposition movement, remains under threat. There are rumours that his wife was assaulted during the protests and a number of his close advisers are languishing in jail...
...Admiral Michael Mullen, chairman of the US joint chiefs of staff, will arrive in Israel today amid renewed speculation that the Israelis may be preparing for a strike on Iran.

Mullen is expected to urge Israel to hold off from attacking Iran and to give the new round of sanctions a fair chance. It could be imposed around the end of March, western diplomats said.

Iran, meanwhile, is braced for further protests. The next target for the opposition will be mid-March, a time of great public celebration.

Once more Mousavi and Karroubi will be encouraging their supporters to take to the streets. Once more, cyberwarfare will be part of the struggle. “I’m optimistic. I’ve lived in Iran all my life and I’ve never seen this much courage from the Iranian people,” Amir Abbas Fakhravar, an exiled Iranian dissident, said in an online interview given to FrontPage Magazine.

“This is their last chance for freedom and they don’t want to give it up.”
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