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Iran News Digest- May 27, 2014

Zuckerberg Summoned 

A judge from southern Iran made international headlines with the bold but ultimately ineffectual move of ordering Facebook CEO and American citizen Mark Zuckerberg to appear before an Iranian court. An official explained that the command sought to make Zuckerberg answer to charges that the internet applications he owns have led to privacy violations in Iran. The judge also raised the possibility of payment for damages, and ordered the banning of those applications that are not already blocked nationwide. 

The order cannot really be enforced, since there is no extradition treaty between the United States and Iran, and since the US likely would not extradite one of its own citizens anyway, particularly when no crime has been committed. But the order gained the world’s attention, which may, after all, have been its main intention. By referring to Zuckerberg as a “Zionist,” the announcement of the order demonstrates the hardline attitudes that are so prevalent in Iran.

Together with IRGC statements about Iranian military preparedness and various officials’ defiance of the interim nuclear agreement with the international community, the order is one of several examples of those officials’ efforts to remain confrontational towards the West. 

Twitter Campaign Hijacked 

Another example of Iranian confrontation came via the Supreme Leader’s Twitter account.

Following the killing of several people in California by a mentally ill college student upset by his lack of romantic success, American feminist activists used the Twitter hashtag #YesAllWomen to criticize poor treatment of women in much of American society. 

Khamenei dramatically violated the intentions behind the hashtag by using it to gain an unwitting audience for his attacks on Western ways of life: “1 of west’s problems which gnaws at foundations of western civilization is promoting sexual sins which ruins families. 02/20/96 #YesAllWomen,” he tweeted.

Women’s Past Suffering and Future Worries

The June 27 gathering will be attended by Iranian men and women who are currently living in exile in a wide variety of nations. The vast majority of them experienced the repression, corruption, and barely livable social life of Iran first-hand before escaping to freer lands. In a Salon.com article published late Monday, an author identified as “Bibinaz P.” tells her personal story of returning to Iran as a teenage girl and experiencing routine groping and harassment in a theocratic country that treats women as second-class citizens.

This poor treatment includes attempts to control virtually every aspect of women’s lives, as is suggested by recent stories including the legal threats directed against the actress Leila Hatami for kissing the president of the Cannes Film Festival, and also against the three young women who were seen dancing with three young men in a viral YouTube video described as “obscene” by religious authorities.

Another example comes in the form of Ayatollah Khamenei’s 14-point decree that is aimed at increasing the birth rate in Iran. Reuters reports that the change in policy is expected to result in women being denied access to birth control, a fact that may also expose them to sexually transmitted infections.

Khamenei’s explanation of his decree includes reference to “undesirable aspects of Western lifestyles,” which a high birth rate will supposedly help to counteract.

Imprisoned Briton

 The Guardian newspaper reports on the fact that eight women have been sentenced to prison terms in Iran on charges of using Facebook to commit blasphemy and insult the Supreme Leader. The sentences span between seven years and twenty years, and one of the two recipients of the longest sentence, Roya Saberinejad Nobakht, is reportedly a 47-year-old British national who was born in Iran but lived in Stockport, UK prior to her arrest last October. The British government is investigating the case and working to contact Iranian authorities.

Embezzlement Fallout

In light of comments made Tuesday by the Attorney General of Iran, it may be the case that people seeking to intercede with the Iranian government would be more likely to succeed if they offered bribes. Attorney General Gholam-Hossein Mohseni Ejhei stated that the Toman financial fraud case, in which dozens of people have been convicted and four sentenced to death, drew participation from high-ranking members of all three branches of government.

This and other acts of embezzlement took place under the Ahmadinejad presidency, but the attorney general’s announcement exposes corruption that is almost certainly still in place at every level of government, since not all of the recipients of embezzled funds have been ousted, or even named. 

Additionally, the prosecution of the case may actually involve new elements of corruption, since it was reported yesterday that the lawyer for Mahafarid Amir Khosravi, one of the defendants in the Toman case, said that his client was executed without advance notice, and his numerous assets placed at the disposal of the prosecutor’s office.

Behind Three Wars 

The Financial Times on Tuesday featured a very thorough assessment of the situations in Iraq, Syria, and Lebanon, which the author claims are “merging into a single sectarian war.” He explains that the Shiite governments of those three nations are increasingly allied with one another while backed by Iran and at war with Sunni rebellions.

 

“The governments are also taking varied levels of direction from Ayatollah Ali Khamenei's regime in Iran,” the author claims, adding that the Iranian Shiite government is behind an anti-Western bloc that arose in opposition to moderate Sunni governments at the time of the Iranian Revolution. This order is now being challenged in a series of conflicts that span the region.

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