Iranian Tyranny Goes Global
Facing a growing crisis at home and abroad, leadership in Iran is cracking down on the dissident "Green Movement" as Tehran seeks to stem the growing voices of dissent against hard line Islamic rule.
In what could prove to be it's biggest test since it came to power in 1979, the Islamic regime has cracked down hard on internal dissent, and is now extending that crackdown to Iranians living abroad. Following protests over the allegedly rigged elections in June, Iran has been conducting a campaign of harassment and intimidation against Iranians around the world. Not only are high profile dissidents being targeted, but now ordinary people are finding themselves harassed and threatened by the Iran's Revolutionary Guard. The effort by Tehran includes, in part, tracking YouTube, Twitter, and Facebook activities of Iranians, and identifying them when they participate in protests abroad. Most of those interviewed reported very similar descriptions of the harassment techniques used against them.
In late November, Iran's intelligence minister Heydar Moslehi announced the training of "senior Internet lieutenants" to confront Iran's "virtual enemies online." Deputy commander of Iran's armed forces, Gen. Massoud Jazayeri, wrote that "protesters inside and outside Iran have been identified and will be dealt with at the right time."
Today's crisis echoes the events of three decades ago, when Iran's Islamic revolution first bloomed. Then, Iranians around the world pooled energy and money to help oust Iran's Shah. This time, the global community is backing a similar effort, using tools including Facebook and Twitter. YouTube videos provide with instructions for staging civil disobedience.
But now, unlike 30 years ago, Iran's leadership is striking back across national borders.
Dozens of individuals in the U.S. and Europe who criticized Iran on Facebook or Twitter said their relatives back in Iran were questioned or temporarily detained because of their postings.
Interviewees who traveled to Iran in recent months said they were forced by police at Tehran's airport to log in to their Facebook accounts. Several reported having their passports confiscated because of criticism they had posted online.
An Iranian engineer in his 30s who lives in Europe, described having his passport, cellphone and laptop confiscated when he traveled to Tehran. He said he was called in for questioning several times, blindfolded, kicked and physically abused, and asked to hand over his email and Facebook passwords. Interrogators showed him images of himself participating in protests in Europe, he said, and pressed him to identify other people in the images. "I was very scared. My knees were trembling the whole time and I kept thinking, 'How did this happen to me?'" he said recently. "I only went to a few demonstrations, and I don't even live in Iran."
He said he was told he was guilty of charges including attending antiregime protests abroad, participating in online activities on Facebook and Twitter that harmed Iran's national security and leaving comments on opposition Web sites. He said he was given a choice: Face trial in Iran, or sign a document promising to act as an informant in Europe.