Posts Tagged ‘TELEGRAM’

China to step up cryptocurrency crackdown

January 17, 2018

AFP

© AFP/File | The international value of bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies has plunged amid Asia crackdown fears

BEIJING (AFP) – China is preparing for a new crackdown on cryptocurrency, planning to stamp out remaining trading in the country, according to state media.China will gradually clean up over-the-counter trading platforms, peer-to-peer networks where large exchanges occur and firms registered in the country which allow Chinese to trade overseas, the state-run Securities Journal said Tuesday.

The publication cited an anonymous source close to regulators tackling online finance risks.

The new plan follows China’s crackdown on cryptocurrency trading last year, which saw Beijing shut down bitcoin exchanges and ban all initial coin offerings.

But alternative channels for trading cryptocurrencies have popped up, including on social networks like WeChat, QQ and Telegram.

Those online groups facilitating large-scale peer-to-peer trade appear likely to suffer greater scrutiny in the coming months.

The international value of bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies has plunged in recent days amid fears of a crackdown in Asia and concerns that many currencies’ rapid rise in value last year could reflect an inflating bubble.

At one point on Wednesday, the price of bitcoin on some exchanges had tumbled more than 20 percent, falling below the $10,000 mark that the currency broke through in November of last year.

The market movements come just one month after the most valuable cryptocurrency bitcoin broke through the $20,000 mark in December.

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Iranians Turn to Tech Tools to Evade Internet Censors — Iran’s new offensive against social media is showing signs of backfiring

January 9, 2018

A crackdown aimed at helping stamp out protests could weaken Tehran’s control of information online

People protested in Tehran on Dec. 30.Photo: Reuters

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Iran’s new offensive against social media is showing signs of backfiring.

Authorities in Tehran have ratcheted up their policing of the internet in the past week and a half, part of an attempt to stamp out the most far-reaching protests in Iran since 2009.

But the crackdown is driving millions of Iranians to tech tools that can help them evade censors, according to activists and developers of the tools. Some of the tools were attracting three or four times more unique users a day than they were before the internet crackdown, potentially weakening government efforts to control access to information online.

Here’s what could be next for Iran and what the unrest means for more than 80 million Iranians. Video: Karan Deep Singh / Photo: Getty Images

“By the time they wake up, the government will have lost control of the internet,” said Mehdi Yahyanejad, executive director of NetFreedom Pioneers, a California-based technology nonprofit that largely focuses on Iran and develops educational and freedom of information tools.

An official at Iran’s United Nations mission didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

In recent days, Iran has said it has contained days of public demonstrations against the regime. Protesters used social media to spread the word about, or bear witness to, the protests, as people did during the Green Movement in 2009.

Iran blocked major social-media sites, such as Twitter Inc. and Facebook Inc., in 2009.

This time around, encrypted social-media app Telegram, which is widely used in Iran, became one of the key communication tools among protesters. Iranians have used Telegram to share information about demonstrations and videos of gatherings.

Iran moved to block Telegram in late December. In response, Iranians are flocking to a number of popular so-called circumvention tools. Downloads of such tools surged after the government move, according to data gathered by ASL19, a Toronto-based research and tech lab that helps people in Iran access information.

“When Telegram got blocked, we got a big push,” said Michael Hull, co-founder of Psiphon Inc., a Toronto-based firm that makes one such app. Psiphon said the number of unique users a day in Iran jumped from about 3 million to more than 10 million on Jan. 1 and 2, amid the protests, and remains around 8 million.

“When governments do this stuff, they are our best marketing tool,” he said.

The Psiphon app works in part by redirecting and camouflaging user traffic through cloud-service providers.

Adam Fisk, founder of Lantern, another popular app that had been primarily used in China, announced last week that it would remove all data caps for users in Iran—allowing them to browse banned sites and use banned services without limits. Its global number of mobile users grew fourfold after Telegram was blocked, with almost all the growth from Iran, said Mr. Fisk, whose firm, Brave New Software Project Inc., is based in Los Angeles.

Circumvention tools—some of which have received funding from U.S. government programs dating back as far as the early 2000s—have been increasing in sophistication in recent years. That has set up an arms race with authorities amid government crackdowns by countries including China and Turkey.

Governments are usually reluctant to shut off all domestic access to the internet, but authorities can order internet-service providers to cut off domestic access to some services. They can block or limit access to specific addresses or slow download speeds to impractical rates—essentially making the internet impossible to use.

Circumvention tools use various methods to get around the blocking of specific services. One popular technique is to redirect users’ internet traffic bound for banned addresses via foreign cloud-service providers or content-delivery networks that are used to boost download speeds, making traffic harder to spot.

A regime could still block individual cloud-service providers, but that would end up blocking lots of other traffic from local businesses and residents.

Another technique is to encrypt and camouflage data—making a Telegram message look like an email, for example.

Problems with internet service can still crop up. One Twitter user posted on Dec. 31 that the internet had slowed and Psiphon for a short time was constantly getting disconnected. “My access to domestic websites, however, has not changed at all,” wrote the user, who said they were posting from Tehran.

Still, the new tools are giving users access to Telegram, activists say. And they can also expose users to other blocked apps and websites.

“People are using circumvention tools to access Telegram who might not normally use them,” said Collin Anderson, a Washington, D.C.-based researcher who studies internet infrastructure and human rights. “And that is giving them access to a much wider internet.”

—Asa Fitch contributed to this article.

Write to Sam Schechner at sam.schechner@wsj.com

Iran president says he’s all-in on reform push after unrest — But many dismiss his pronouncements as “too late”

January 8, 2018
 
Eric Randolph | A handout picture provided by the office of Iranian President Hassan Rouhani shows him sitting next to Economy Minister Masoud Karbasian during a meeting on January 8, 2018

TEHRAN (AFP) – 

President Hassan Rouhani went all-in on Monday with a push for greater civil liberties in the wake of the deadly unrest that rocked Iran in recent days.

“The problem we have today is the gap between officials and the young generation,” he told officials, according to the presidency website.

“Our way of thinking is different to their way of thinking. Their view of the world and of life is different to our view. We want our grand-children?s generation to live as we lived, but we can’t impose that on them.”

It was a radical call to arms for change, one that has grown more pressing for the reformist faction as it became, for once, the target of the protests that swept the country for several days over the new year.

Although many of the slogans turned against the Islamic system as a whole, chants of “Death to Rouhani” showed that many had lost faith in his promise of gradual reform.

Since May, his failure to appoint any women to his cabinet or make any progress on freeing political prisoners has left many disillusioned with the moderate president and his reformist allies.

Rouhani was quick to say the unrest called for urgent efforts to improve the government’s transparency and liberalise its conservative-skewed media.

He said internet restrictions, including the block placed on Iran’s most popular social media app Telegram midway through the unrest, should “not be indefinite”.

“Saying that the complaints of the population are limited to economic questions is an insult and will send us down the wrong path,” he said Monday.

The reformist faction has backed this line, with many calling for greater freedom to protest peacefully.

Monday’s reformist papers all focused on the Tehran city council decision to set aside a dedicated place for protests on the model of Hyde Park in London or Jantar Mantar in New Delhi.

But many dismissed the idea as a gimmick.

“What about other cities?” wrote conservative analyst Nasser Imani in the government’s Iran newspaper.

“The main problem is we lack a culture of criticism,” he said, calling for the security forces to “gradually have less fear of people’s rallies”.

– ‘Are demands not clear?’ –

Hardliners, who have repeatedly attacked Rouhani’s austerity policies, say all the talk of civil liberties is a distraction from the “simple problems” of the poor.

“Are the demands not clear? Why must a worker who has not been paid for 10 months go to a certain place to shout for his rights?” demanded the hardline Kayhan newspaper on Monday.

There was an unprecedented intervention from the head of the basij — the volunteer arm of the Revolutionary Guards — who called for “convincingly tangible” efforts to fix the budget in favour of the “young, disadvantaged and vulnerable”.

To Rouhani’s chagrin, the budget he announced in December has become the first victim of the protests, with parliamentarians already ruling out the unpopular hike in fuel and utility prices.

Parliament speaker Ali Larijani described the increases as “absolutely not in the interests of the country”.

He called instead for emergency measures to support the poor and tackle unemployment, which currently stand at 12 percent, and closer to 30 percent for young people.

Rouhani has bristled under the criticism, saying Monday: “The task of parliament is to complete the budget, not to change the nature of its objectives.”

Iran’s limited finances simply could not deal with everything at once, he said: limiting inflation, capping taxes, reducing unemployment and looking after the poor.

“I don’t know a single economist with the wider public interest in mind who denies the need to increase fuel prices,” said reformist Abdollah Ramezanzadeh in a tweet.

Rouhani vowed to mend Iran’s battered economy during his campaign, and said the 2015 nuclear deal he secured from world powers had already relieved the country of crippling sanctions and allowed growth to return.

But with much of the resulting growth coming from oil sales — which produces few jobs — and renewed uncertainty about Iran’s international position since the arrival of US President Donald Trump, his wider policies look imperilled.

by Eric Randolph

Social media messaging battle rages during Protests in Iran

January 8, 2018

BBC News

An Iranian man shows his social media page which doesn't work, in a office, in Tehran, Iran, 2 January 2018An Iranian user tries and fails to access Telegram after the government blocked the messaging app. EPA

Iran has been rocked by a rare wave of protests over economic hardship and lack of civil liberties for the past week, but streets are not the only battleground between the Islamic Republic and its critics.

A cyber battle on several fronts is being fought between the two sides on social media platforms.

In 2009 – the last time Iran saw demonstrations of such scale – social media was dominated by pro-opposition users and reformists who used Facebook, YouTube and Twitter to share images of the Green Movement to the outside world.

Today, messaging apps are used by a significantly higher percentage of the population and the government is better prepared to confront its opponents on digital media.

Many senior hardline politicians and activists use a variety of platforms on a daily basis – despite some being officially blocked – and boast hundreds of thousands of followers sympathetic to their cause.

After the Stuxnet computer worm hit Iran’s nuclear facilities in 2010, the country invested heavily in cyber capabilities and set up a team of trained hackers known as the Iranian Cyber-Army.

Media captionIran protests: Why people have taken to the streets

In the absence of independent news outlets and state TV’s typically one-sided coverage, citizens took to social media to share photos and videos of the demonstrations with the aim of disseminating their message and inviting more local residents to join the crowds.

Telegram – which has an estimated 40 million users in Iran, equivalent to almost half the population – has been the platform of choice for the protestors.

In response, the officials “temporarily” blocked Telegram and Instagram. Facebook, YouTube and Twitter have been banned since 2009.

‘Nothing going on’

But proponents of the Islamic Republic did not leave the social media battleground to the critics this time.

One of the notable tactics used was the creation of dozens of Twitter bots whose job ranged from calling widely shared videos of rallies fake to discouraging potential protesters from joining rallies.

A social bot automatically generates content and followers, mostly to support a wider campaign.

Most of these accounts have unusual profile names and pictures, and were created during the protests.

The accounts have no more than a handful of followers, which happen to be similar bot accounts.

In a seemingly coordinated campaign, a group of bot accounts attempt to play down the scale of unrest and dissuade further protesters from joining ralliesImage copyrightTWITTER
Image captionIn a seemingly co-ordinated campaign, a group of bot accounts attempt to play down the scale of unrest and dissuade further protesters from joining rallies

“I just arrived here, there is nothing going on,” posted one account in response to a video about an alleged protest in Rasht, Gilan province.

“Why are you lying? No-one is here,” said another.

The exact same messages by the same accounts can be seen below many videos shared between 1 and 4 January.

While clearly co-ordinated, there is no evidence that these accounts were created by official authorities or security services.

Presentational grey line

Bot-spotting tips

The Atlantic Council’s Digital Forensic Research Lab (DFRL) offers social-media users tips for spotting a bot:

Frequency: Bots are prolific posters. The more frequently they post, the more caution should be shown. The DFRL classifies 72 posts a day as suspicious, and more than 144 per day as highly suspicious.

Anonymity: Bots often lack any personal information. The accounts often have generic profile pictures and political slogans as “bios”.

Amplification: A bot’s timeline will often consist of re-tweets and verbatim quotes, with few posts containing original wording.

Common content: Networks of bots can be identified if multiple profiles tweet the same content almost simultaneously.

The full list of tips on spotting bots can be found here.

Presentational grey lineImage copyright ALAMY

Hashtag wars

At the same time, hardline users began an initiative to enlarge and highlight the faces of protesters captured in videos and pictures, calling for the intelligence agencies to identify and arrest them. Tasnim news agency, affiliated to the powerful Revolutionary Guards, was among those joining the initiative on Twitter.

The protesters hit back immediately. They set up a Twitter account sharing the alleged names and details of security personnel confronting the demonstrators. In addition, they identified the accounts highlighting individual protesters and repeatedly reported them to Twitter.

The protests in Iran attracted an usually large number of tweets from Saudi Arabia and the rest of the Arab worldImage copyrightTWITTER
Image captionThe protests in Iran attracted an usually large number of tweets from Saudi Arabia and the rest of the Arab world in favour of the demonstrators

The hashtag mostly associated with the recent events in Iran, #nationwide_protests, has been used more than 470,000 times so far.

But an analysis of the hashtag shows a large number of posts in favour of the demonstrations from Saudi Arabia.

Some supporters of the Islamic Republic and conservative agencies have been using their own hashtag, #nationwide_riots.

An analysis of the main hashtag of the protests shows a large number of tweets from Saudi ArabiaImage copyrightSPREDFAST
Image captionAn analysis of the main hashtag of the protests shows a large number of tweets originating from Iran’s regional rival Saudi Arabia

Sunni Saudi Arabia and Shia Iran are regional rivals and have been involved in proxy wars in the Middle East, notably in Syria and Yemen.

An Arabic hashtag, #happening_now_in_Iran, has been used more than 66,000 times since the first day of the protests.

By BBC UGC and Social News Team

http://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-42566083

Unrest in Iran dies down

January 4, 2018

AFP

© Atta Kenare, AFP | File photo of head of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard General Mohammad Ali Jafar.

Text by FRANCE 24 

Latest update : 2018-01-04

Iran’s Revolutionary Guards chief announced the “end of the sedition” Wednesday as tens of thousands rallied in a show of strength for the country’s Islamic rulers after days of deadly unrest.

But even as state television aired footage shot from helicopters of the support for Iran’s clerically overseen government, videos emerged showing the anti-government unrest that has swept major cities has also spread to the countryside in the nation of 80 million people. It was unclear however when the videos were taken.

Protests over economic problems broke out in Iran’s second city Mashhad last week and quickly spread across the country. At least 21 people have been killed in the unrest and some five hundred have been arrested by authorities.

Revolutionary Guard chief General Mohammad Ali Jafari said the Guards intervened “in a limited way” against fewer than 15,000 demonstrators nationwide and that many had been taken into custody.

“A large number of the troublemakers at the centre of the sedition, who received training from counter-revolutionaries… have been arrested and there will be firm action against them,” he said.

His declaration came after major rallies by regime supporters.

Chants of “Leader, we are ready” were heard as images showed thousands marching in the cities of Qom, Ahvaz, Kermanshah and elsewhere.

The demonstrators waved Iranian flags and pictures of supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, as well as placards saying “death to seditionists”.

Though the anti-regime demonstrations began as protests against a faltering economy, they soon turned against the regime as a whole, presenting the biggest test for the authorities since mass demonstrations in 2009 sparked by disputed elections resulted in bloodshed.

While many Iranians denounce the violence that has accompanied some demonstrations, they echo the protesters’ frustration over the weak economy and official corruption.

US exerts pressure

A White House official, who asked for anonymity, said Wednesday the administration would look for “actionable information” to try to begin imposing sanctions on those responsible for any crackdown.

US President Donald Trump insisted Iranians were trying to “take back” their government, extending a drumbeat of encouragement for the protests.

“You will see great support from the United States at the appropriate time!” he tweeted, without offering any specifics.

Iran’s UN Ambassador Gholamali Khoshroo said in a letter that the US government “has stepped up its acts of intervention in a grotesque way” in Iran’s internal affairs and accused Washington of violating international law and the principles of the UN charter.

AFP journalists reported a heavy police presence still on the streets of central Tehran, along with a large number of Revolutionary Guards.

It remains difficult for journalists to piece together what’s happening beyond the capital, especially as the government has blocked both the photo-sharing app Instagram and the messaging app Telegram, which protesters have used to organize their demonstrations and share footage.

Telecoms Minister Mohammad-Javad Azari Jahromi said Telegram would only be unblocked if it removed “terrorist” content.

The political establishment has closed ranks against the unrest, with Khamenei on Tuesday saying the regime’s enemies were “always looking for an opportunity and any crevice to infiltrate”.

Even reformists in Iran, who backed the 2009 protests, have condemned the violence and the support the demonstrations have received from the United States.

But they also urged the authorities to address economic grievances.

“Officials must acknowledge the deplorable situation of the country as the first step to hearing the protesters,” tweeted Mohammad Taghi Karroubi, whose father Mehdi Karroubi has been under house arrest for almost seven years for helping lead the 2009 demonstrations.

‘Some freedom in Iran’

Many Iranians appear to have been turned off by the violence, which has contrasted with the largely peaceful marches in 2009.

Rouhani came to power in 2013 promising to mend the economy and ease social tensions, but high living costs and unemployment have left many feeling that progress is too slow.

Rural areas, hit by years of drought and under-investment, are particularly hard-hit.

On the streets of the capital, there is widespread sympathy with the economic grievances driving the unrest, particularly an unemployment rate as high as 30 percent for young people.

“People have reached a stage where they can no longer tolerate this pressure from the authorities,” said Soraya Saadaat, a 54-year-old jobless woman.

But some Tehranis said claims from the US that they were desperate for freedom were overblown.

“We do have some freedom in Iran,” Hamid Rahimi, a 33-year-old bank employee told AFP.

“If the people of Iran have something to say, it’s about economic problems. They want to see their demands, what they voted for, fulfilled.”

Mojtaba Mousavi, a Tehran-based political analyst, said Iranians do not generally support violence, no matter how unhappy they are with their government.

“There are certainly Iranians who aren’t happy with certain policies, frustrated people who would like to protest against their economic situation, but history shows none of these people support violence and subversion,” he said.

In 2009, authorities ruthlessly put down protests against the re-election of hardliner Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. At least 36 people were killed, according to an official toll, while the opposition says 72 died.

(FRANCE 24 with AFP, AP)

What Israeli Intel Really Thinks About the Iran Protests

January 3, 2018

Tens of thousands of Iranians breached barriers of fear and have taken to the streets, but the regime hasn’t yet responded in full force

Amos Harel Jan 03, 2018 12:15 PM
Haaretz

An attack on Iran police station in Qahdarijan, Iran, Tuesday, Jan. 2, 2018

An attack on Iran police station in Qahdarijan, Iran, Tuesday, Jan. 2, 2018 /AP

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read more: https://www.haaretz.com/middle-east-news/iran/.premium-1.832701

Six days into the wave of protests that is shaking Iran, Israeli and Western intelligence services are still hesitant to provide an answer to the main question that is keeping their political masters busy: Do these new circumstances present a window of opportunity for the first time since the failed Green Revolution in 2009 to bring down the Iranian regime?

The information coming out of Iran is still too fragmented to provide a clear picture. The government is disrupting access to the messaging app Telegram, which protestors used at the beginning to coordinate their moves. At the same time, internet traffic in Iran has been lagging, even though those opposed to the Islamic regime have managed to find ways to bypass this problem to a certain extent.

But as time goes by, a few aspects of the protests are becoming clearer according to Israeli and Western intelligence services’ analyses.

Tens of thousands of people have participated in the demonstrations. The numbers are still nowhere near the hundreds of thousands who took part in the Green Revolution protests, but those demonstrations were concentrated in Tehran and led by students and the middle class. This time, the protests began mostly with the lower classes and have spread throughout almost all of Iran to many distant towns that the regime now finds difficult to control. It seems that for a significant group of people, the barrier of fear has been breached – something that did not happen in the past and prevented similar action since the brutal repression of the protests nearly nine years ago.

The high cost of living may have been the original motivation for people to take to the streets, but it is far from the only one. The anger against rising prices has added to the accumulating despair of young people who are educated yet unemployed. In the background is a long-time bitterness for a large part of the Iranian public over the Islamic regime’s strict enforcement of religious laws. The most remarkable visual emblem of the protests so far – and their escalation will certainly bear other symbols – is the video clip in which a young woman removes her head covering in the middle of a demonstration and waves it in the air.

The Iranian government’s efforts to set in motion and finance the export of the Islamic revolution to other countries has created great anger among the public. In a few cases, protestors were filmed burning pictures of General Qasem Soleimani, the commander of the Al-Quds force of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards who has been lauded as a national hero after the defeat of the Islamic State and the successes of the Assad regime in the civil war in Syria. Raising the prices of eggs and gas at a time when Iran is providing billions of dollars in aid to Syrian President Bashar Assad, Hezbollah, Shi’ite militias in Iraq and the Houthi rebels in Yemen has been the focus of the protesters’ anger.

As of Tuesday evening, the Iranian regime still has not used its full force to put down the protests. It appears that like the foreign intelligence agencies, the Iranian authorities had not predicted the timing of the breakout of public fury. Even though the regime responded violently in a number of cities, and about 20 people have been reported killed so far, it is far from the aggressive means used to quell the 2009 protests. It looks as if the regime is still in the containment stage and has yet to loosen the reins on its offensive forces.

This is also due to Iranian foreign policy: The supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and his circle are still very worried about U.S. President Donald Trump’s threats to cancel the nuclear deal. To repulse Trump, the Iranians need the Europeans. The European Union may have remained silent so far in response to the killing of protesters – which is morally grating – but using more force could well lead to new complaints about human rights violations and complicate Iran’s situation vis-a-vis the Europeans.

The sanctions are still important. The ones imposed by the United States at the beginning of this decade hurt the Iranian economy and forced the leadership in Tehran to agree to the nuclear deal, which delayed the Iranian nuclear program. The accumulated damage from the sanctions can still be felt, and it is impeding the rebound capabilities of the Iranian economy.

For now, Trump has expressed his support for the protestors in an almost incidental manner in his tweets, between his fights with the media and his efforts to take credit – for instance, for commercial aviation safety since he took office. But a reconsideration of the sanctions because of Iran’s support for terrorism, its ballistic missile program and human rights violations could provide a real tailwind for the protesters.

There is even a bonus as far as Trump is concerned: This is exactly what the Obama administration did not do in 2009, when it watched somewhat apathetically from a distance as the Green Revolution collapsed. And for now, Israel is still not in the picture.

Amos Harel
read more: https://www.haaretz.com/middle-east-news/iran/.premium-1.832701

Update From Iran —

January 2, 2018

The Associated Press and Haaretz

A semi-official news agency in Iran is reporting that 450 people have been arrested over three days in Tehran. “200 people were arrested on Saturday, 150 people on Sunday and around 100 people on Monday,” Ali Asghar Naserbakht, deputy governor of Tehran province, was quoted as saying by semi-official ILNA news agency on Tuesday.
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The protests began Thursday in Mashhad over Iran’s weak economy and a jump in food prices and have expanded to several cities, with some protesters chanting against the government and the supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. Hundreds of people have been arrested.

Iranian state television aired footage of a ransacked private bank, broken windows, overturned cars and a firetruck that appeared to have been set ablaze. It said 10 people were killed by security forces during clashes Sunday night.

“Some armed protesters tried to take over some police stations and military bases but faced serious resistance from security forces,” state TV said.

In a later report, state TV said killed six people were killed in the western town of Tuyserkan, 295 kilometers (185 miles) southwest of Tehran, and three in the town of Shahinshahr, 315 kilometers (195 miles) south of Tehran. It did not say where the 10th person was killed.

Earlier Monday, the semi-official ILNA news agency quoted Hedayatollah Khademi, a representative for the town of Izeh, as saying two people died there Sunday night. He said the cause of death wasn’t immediately known, though authorities later described one of the deaths as the result of a personal dispute.

Late Monday, Iran’s semi-official Mehr news agency said an assailant using a hunting rifle killed a policeman and wounded three other officers during a demonstration in the central city of Najafabad, about 320 kilometers (200 miles) south of Tehran. The slaying marked the first security force member to be killed in the unrest.

Two protesters also were killed during clashes late Saturday in Doroud, some 325 kilometers (200 miles) southwest of Tehran in Lorestan province, authorities have said.

On Sunday, Iran blocked access to Instagram and the popular messaging app Telegram used by activists to organize.

President Hassan Rohani acknowledged the public’s anger over the Islamic Republic’s flagging economy, though he and others warned that the government wouldn’t hesitate to crack down on those it considers lawbreakers.

That was echoed Monday by judiciary chief Ayatollah Sadegh Larijani, who urged authorities to confront rioters, state TV reported.

“I demand all prosecutors across the country to get involved and the approach should be strong,” he said.

Rouhani also stressed Monday that Iran “has seen many similar events and passed them easily.”

Donald Trump

U.S. President Donald Trump, who has been tweeting in support of the protesters, continued into the New Year, describing Iran as “failing at every level despite the terrible deal made with them by the Obama Administration.”

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“The great Iranian people have been repressed for many years,” he wrote. “They are hungry for food & for freedom. Along with human rights, the wealth of Iran is being looted. TIME FOR CHANGE!”

While some have shared Trump’s tweets, many in Iran distrust him because he has refused to re-certify the nuclear deal and his travel bans have blocked Iranians from getting U.S. visas.

Benjamin Netanyahu

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, calling the protesters “brave” and “heroic,” said in a video posted to YouTube on Monday that the protesters sought freedom, justice and “the basic liberties that have been denied to them for decades.”

He criticized the Iranian regime’s response to the protests and also chided European governments for watching “in silence” as the protests turn violent.

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read more: https://www.haaretz.com/middle-east-news/iran/1.832537

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BBC News

Tuesday, January 2, 2017 — 11:00 am (London)

Nine more people have been killed overnight as clashes between protesters and security forces continue in Iran for a sixth day, state media report.

The latest violence, in the central Isfahan region, brought the number of reported deaths to at least 22.

Six protesters died in what was described as an apparent attempt to seize guns from a police station.

Elsewhere, a boy aged 11 and a man were reported killed in clashes along with a member of the Revolutionary Guards.

The protests in cities across Iran are the largest since the disputed 2009 presidential election.

They began last Thursday in the city of Mashhad, initially against price rises and corruption, but have since spread amid wider anti-government sentiment.

Hundreds of people have been arrested.

President Hassan Rouhani said protests were an “opportunity, not a threat”, but vowed to crack down on “lawbreakers”.

The US has stepped up support for the protesters’ “bold resistance”.

Where is the latest violence happening?

State TV reported that six rioters were killed during an attack on a police station in the town of Qahderijan in the central province of Isfahan. It said clashes were sparked by rioters who had tried to steal guns from the police station.

Another one of the dead is said to have been a member of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard, killed in nearby Kahrizsang.

State TV also said an 11-year-old boy and a 20-year-old man were killed in the town of Khomeinishahr.

Earlier, state media reported shots had been fired at police in Najafabad, near Isfahan, killing one officer and wounding three.

graphic showing many cities where there have been protests

Where will the protests lead?

By BBC Middle East editor Jeremy Bowen

The demonstrations started last week in Mashhad, Iran’s second biggest city, and since then have spread.

To begin with they were about the economy, unemployment and inflation. Some protesters have asked why Iran is spending a lot of money on regional conflicts when people are suffering at home.

But quickly demonstrations moved on to politics, criticising leading figures in the Islamic Republic and some even calling for a return to the monarchy that was overthrown by revolution in 1979.

This is not a new revolution, but the protests are the biggest in Iran since the disputed presidential election in 2009. This time, though, it seems to be a movement without national leaders.

President Rouhani has tried to play it all down. Reformists and conservatives have been blaming each other and foreigners. But the protests show how discontented Iranians are with their lives, increasing poverty, and repression by the regime.

http://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-42539445

Related:

Iran protesters rally again despite warning of crackdown

January 1, 2018

 

A handout photo provided by the office of Iranian President Hassan Rouhani on December 31, 2017 shows Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani attending a cabinet meeting in the capital Tehran. (AFP)

LONDON: Anti-government protesters demonstrated in Iran on Sunday in defiance of a warning by authorities of a crackdown, extending for a fourth day one of the most audacious challenges to the clerical leadership since pro-reform unrest in 2009.

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Giving his first public reaction to the protests, President Hassan Rouhani appealed for calm, saying Iranians had the right to protest and criticize the authorities.
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But he warned, according to official media: “The government will show no tolerance for those who damage public properties, violate public order and create unrest in the society.”
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Tens of thousands of people have protested across the country since Thursday against the Islamic Republic’s government and clerical elite.
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Police in the center of Tehran fired water cannons to try to disperse demonstrators, according to pictures on social media.
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Demonstrations turned violent in Shahin Shahr in central Iran. Videos showed protesters attacking the police, turning over a car and setting it on fire. Reuters could not immediately verify the authenticity of the footage.
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There were also reports of demonstrations in the western cities of Sanandaj and Kermanshah as well as Chabahar in the southeast and Ilam and Izeh in the southwest.
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Demonstrators initially vented their anger over economic hardships and alleged corruption, but the protests took on a rare political dimension, with a growing number of people calling on Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei to step down.
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Iranian security forces appear to have shown restraint to avoid an escalation of the crisis. Two people have been killed and hundreds arrested.
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The protests were the biggest since unrest in 2009 that followed the disputed re-election of then-President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
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Videos showed people in central Tehran chanting: “Down with the dictator!” in an apparent reference to Khamenei.
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Protesters in Khorramabad in western Iran shouted: “Khamenei, shame on you, leave the country alone!“
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The government said it would temporarily restrict access to the Telegram messaging app and Instagram, owned by Facebook Inc. , state television said. There were also reports that mobile access to the Internet was being blocked in some areas.
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“Iran, the Number One State of Sponsored Terror with numerous violations of Human Rights occurring on an hourly basis, has now closed down the Internet so that peaceful demonstrators cannot communicate.
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Not good!” US President Donald Trump tweeted on Sunday.
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The White House said in a statement later on Sunday that the Iranian people’s “voices deserve to be heard.”
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“We encourage all parties to protect this fundamental right to peaceful expression and to avoid any actions that contribute to censorship,” the statement said.

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BREAKING TABOO

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An Iranian reached by telephone, who asked not to be named, said there was a heavy presence of police and security forces in the heart of the capital.
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“I saw a few young men being arrested and put into police van. They don’t let anyone assemble,” he said.
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A video showed a protester being arrested by police while a crowd shouted: “Police, go and arrest the thieves!” in the northwestern city of Khoy.
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In the western town of Takestan, demonstrators set ablaze a Shiite Muslim seminary and the offices of the local Friday prayers leader, state broadcaster IRIB’s website said. Police dispersed protesters, arresting some, ILNA news agency said.
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Demonstrators also shouted: “Reza Shah, bless your soul.” Such calls are evidence of a deep level of anger and break a taboo. The king ruled Iran from 1925 to 1941 and his Pahlavi dynasty was overthrown in a revolution in 1979 by Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, the Islamic Republic’s first leader.
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High prices, alleged corruption and mismanagement are fueling the anger. Youth unemployment reached 28.8 percent this year.
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Economic indexes have improved under Rouhani’s government and the economy is no longer in dire straits. But growth has been too slow for an overwhelmingly youthful population, far more interested in jobs and change than in the Islamist idealism and anti-Shah republicanism of the 1979 revolution.
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The demonstrations are particularly troublesome for Rouhani’s government because he was elected on a promise to guarantee rights to freedom of expression and assembly.
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His main achievement is a deal in 2015 with world powers that curbed Iran’s nuclear program in return for a lifting of most international sanctions. But it has yet to bring the economic benefits the government promised.
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Ali Asghar Naserbakht, deputy governor of Tehran province, was quoted as saying by ILNA that 200 protesters had been arrested on Saturday.
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’CARRIED AWAY BY EMOTIONS’
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Tehran prosecutor Abbas Jafari Dolatabadi said some of those arrested had confessed “they were carried away by emotions and set fire to mosques and public buildings,” adding they would face severe punishment.
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“After giving thousands of martyrs for the Revolution, the nation will not return to dark era of Pahlavi rule,” he said.
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Police and Revolutionary Guards have in the past crushed unrest violently. The new protests could worry authorities more because they seem spontaneous and lack a clear leader.
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Yet analysts say Iran’s leaders believe they can count on support from many of the generation that took part as youths in the 1979 revolution because of their ideological commitment and the economic gains they have made under the government.
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In apparent response to the protests, the government backed down on plans to raise fuel prices, promised to increase cash handouts to the poor and create more jobs in coming years.
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“We predict that at least 830,000 jobs will be created in the new year,” government spokesman Mohammad Baqer Nobakht said on state television on Saturday night. He gave no details. About 3.2 million Iranians are jobless.
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Protesters also expressed anger over costly interventions in Syria and Iraq, where Iran is engaged in a proxy war for influence against regional rival Saudi Arabia.
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“Big protests in Iran,” Trump said in a tweet earlier on Sunday. “The people are finally getting wise as to how their money and wealth is being stolen and squandered on terrorism.”
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Rouhani said the US president had no right to sympathize with Iranians since he “called the Iranian nation terrorists a few months ago.”

Protests in Iran fanned by exiled journalist, messaging app

December 31, 2017

The Telegram app closed a channel run by Roohallah Zam after Iranian authorities complained that it was inciting violence, just hours before the government shut down the app entirely on Sunday. (AP)
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DUBAI: As protests over Iran’s faltering economy rapidly spread across the country, a channel on a mobile messaging app run by an exiled journalist helped fan the passions of some of those who took to the street.
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The Telegram app closed a channel run by Roohallah Zam after Iranian authorities complained that it was inciting violence, just hours before the government shut down the app entirely on Sunday. Zam, who denies the allegations, meanwhile launched new channels to spread messages about upcoming protests and share videos from demonstrations.
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What happens next could influence the future course of the largest protests Iran has seen since 2009.
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It’s hard to overstate the power of Telegram in Iran. Of its 80 million people, an estimated 40 million use the free app created by Russian national Pavel Durov. Its clients share videos and photos, subscribing to groups where everyone from politicians to poets broadcast to fellow users.
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While authorities ban social media websites like Facebook and Twitter and censor others, Telegram users can say nearly anything. In the last presidential election, the app played a big role in motivating turnout and spreading political screeds.
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Telegram touts itself as being highly encrypted and allows users to set their messages to “self-destruct” after a certain period, making it a favorite among activists and others concerned about their privacy. That too has made it a worry of Iranian authorities.
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Zam has used the app to share news and information published by his AmadNews website. Posts included times and locations for protests, as well as videos of demonstrators shouting inflammatory chants, including those targeting Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and President Hassan Rouhani.
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Officials have meanwhile targeted Telegram in recent remarks, with prosecutors going as far as filing criminal charges against Durov.
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On Saturday, Iran’s Telecommunications Minister Mohammed Javad Azari Jahromi wrote to Durov on Twitter, complaining AmadNews was “encouraging hateful conduct, use (of) Molotov cocktails, armed uprising and social unrest.”
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Durov responded by saying Telegram suspended the account.
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“A Telegram channel (Amadnews) started to instruct their subscribers to use Molotov cocktails against police and got suspended due to our ‘no calls for violence’ rule. Be careful — there are lines one shouldn’t cross.” Durov tweeted.
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Zam, who has said he fled Iran after being falsely accused of working with foreign intelligence services, denied inciting violence on Telegram.
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Telegram’s decision drew criticism from free Internet advocates and Iranians. Edward Snowden, the former National Security Agency contractor who exposed US government surveillance programs in 2013, said Telegram should instead be working on how to make the service accessible after a potential government ban.
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“Telegram will face increasing pressure over time to collaborate with the Iranian government’s demands for this or that,” Snowden wrote on Twitter.
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He added: “You can’t keep an independent, destabilizing service from being blocked in authoritarian regimes, you can only delay it.”
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Those words proved prophetic Sunday, as Durov himself wrote on Twitter that Iran blocked the app “for the majority of Iranians after our public refusal to shut down … peacefully protesting channels.” Iranian state television later quoted an anonymous official as saying the app would be temporarily limited as a safety measure.
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It also marks a setback for Zam, the son of cleric Mohammad Ali Zam, who once served in a government policy position in the early 1980s. The cleric wrote a letter published by Iranian media in July in which he said he wouldn’t support his son over AmadNews’ reporting and messages on its Telegram channel.
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“I found that you crossed the red line,” the cleric wrote, referring to comments the channel circulated about Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
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“Our red line is the supreme leader, but you passed the red line.”
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Zam did not respond to a request for comment on Sunday from The Associated Press, though he published a video late on Saturday on the channel being blocked.
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“Unfortunately the Amadnews was blocked,” Zam said in a message to his followers. A new channel “will continue its work as hard as before and with the help of God, we will become millions again.”
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At least 1.7 million people have viewed the first message on the new channel, according to Telegram. It called for protests on Sunday at sites across Iran before the government ordered the app shut down.

Iran protests: ‘Iron fist’ threatened if unrest continues

December 31, 2017

BBC News

 

Video from the town of Dorud shows a crowd carrying what appears to be a wounded man

Iran’s Revolutionary Guards have warned anti-government protesters they will face the nation’s “iron fist” if political unrest continues.

Three days of demonstrations over falling living standards have become the biggest show of dissent since huge pro-reform rallies in 2009.

A Revolutionary Guards commander said the protests had degenerated into people chanting political slogans and burning public property.

Two protesters died of gunshot wounds.

The authorities in Dorud in western Iran said security forces did not open fire on demonstrators, and blamed the deaths instead on Sunni Muslim extremists and foreign powers.

Correspondents say the reference to foreign intelligence agencies was intended to mean Saudi Arabia.

Iran has imposed “temporary” restrictions on social networks Telegram and Instagram.

The decision was taken “to maintain tranquility and security of society”, a source told state news agency IRIB.

Telegram CEO Pavel Durov tweeted that the action was taken after his company refused to shut down channels on the messaging app used to organise peaceful protests.

Protesters in the cities of Khoramabad, Zanjan and Ahvaz called for the removal or death of Iran’s Supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps is a powerful force with ties to the country’s supreme leader, and is dedicated to preserving the country’s Islamic system.

Brigadier-General Esmail Kowsari told the ISNA news agency: “If people came into the streets over high prices, they should not have chanted those slogans and burned public property and cars.”

Iranian students protest at Tehran University
Students were involved in a number of clashes. EPA photo

Iran’s interior minister has also warned the public that protesters will be held accountable.

“Those who damage public property, disrupt order and break the law must be responsible for their behaviour and pay the price,” Abdolreza Rahmani-Fazli said.

“The spreading of violence, fear and terror will definitely be confronted.”

Where will the protests lead?

Analysis by Kasra Naji, BBC Persian

There is widespread and seething discontent in Iran where repression is pervasive and economic hardship is getting worse – one BBC Persian investigation has found that on average Iranians have become 15% poorer in the past 10 years.

Protests have remained confined to relatively small pockets of mostly young male demonstrators who are demanding the overthrow of the clerical regime.

Protests have spread to even small towns throughout the country and have a potential to grow in size.

But there is no obvious leadership. Opposition figures have long been silenced or sent into exile.

Even in exile, there is no one opposition figure that commands a large following. Some protesters have been calling for the return of the monarchy and the former shah’s son, Reza Pahlavi, who lives in exile in the United States, has issued a statement supporting the demonstrations. But there are signs that he is as much in the dark about where these protests are going as anyone else.

BBC Persian, which broadcasts on TV, on radio and online from London, is banned in Iran – where staff and their families routinely face harassment and questioning from the authorities.

What has been happening?

Protests began in the north-eastern city of Mashhad on Thursday and spread to other major cities on Friday.

A small demonstration in Tehran grew to several thousand people on Saturday, and students clashed with police. The protests also became violent in several other towns.

Among the recent events across Iran:

  • In Abhar, demonstrators set fire to large banners bearing the picture of the supreme leader
  • In Arak, protesters reportedly set fire to the local headquarters of the pro-government Basij militia
  • In Mashhad, protesters burned police motorcycles in a confrontation caught on video
  • The CEO of popular mobile messaging app Telegram said an Iranian account had been suspended for calling for attacks on police
  • There are numerous reports of people losing internet access on their mobile phones
  • Street protests have been reported in a number of other towns and cities, including Kermanshah, Shahrekord, Bandar Abbas, Izeh, Zanjan, Karaj, Tonekabon and Khorramabad
graphic showing many cities where there have been protests

There is also anger at Iran’s interventions abroad. In Mashhad, some chanted “not Gaza, not Lebanon, my life for Iran”, a reference to what protesters say is the administration’s focus on foreign rather than domestic issues.

Iran is a key provider of military support to the government of Bashar al-Assad in Syria. It is also accused of providing arms to Houthi rebels fighting a Saudi-led coalition in Yemen, which it denies, and is an ally of Lebanon’s powerful Shia movement Hezbollah.

What has been the response, at home and abroad?

The Iranian authorities are blaming anti-revolutionaries and agents of foreign powers for the outbreak.

Nighttime photo shows fires in a Tehran street
There were fires in Tehran as protests continued. Reuters

Also on Saturday, thousands of pro-government demonstrators turned out for pre-arranged rallies to mark the eighth anniversary of the suppression of the 2009 street protests.

The US has led international support for the protesters.

President Donald Trump tweeted: “Oppressive regimes cannot endure forever, and the day will come when the Iranian people will face a choice. The world is watching!”

Iran’s foreign ministry called earlier comments from Mr Trump and other US officials “opportunistic and deceitful”.

Who are the Revolutionary Guards?

Iran’s Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) was set up shortly after the 1979 Iranian revolution to defend the country’s Islamic system.

It has since become a major force in the political, economic and military life of the country, with its own ground forces, navy and air force. It controls a volunteer militia of tens of thousands of people – the Basij Resistance Force.

The IRGC sometimes works alongside police, and it was announced in December that it would do this again.

Its stature says it will co-operate with law enforcement forces “when necessary” but there has been some controversy over its scope when dealing with civilians.

http://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-42525889