Tuesday, December 8, 2009

I.R. Iran Powerless to Stop Revolution by Proxy

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ABC News

Six months on from President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's disputed election victory, reports of gunfire and beatings are still coming out of Tehran almost weekly. In the past 24 hours there have been reports shots have been fired in Tehran, as security forces have yet again clashed with student protesters. In an attempt to prevent the protesters from getting organised, the government has been shutting down communication lines, but it seems to be making little difference. Before Iran's disputed elections this year, publicly criticising the leaders of the country was almost impossible, but there was a chink in the Government's armour that's now being exploited. Despite the deliberate daily intimidation, of police vans and armed guards constantly lurking the streets, the Iranians were already perfecting ways of getting their message out. Now that protests, violent clashes and government crackdowns are regular events, those methods are helping the young Iranians organise protests and fight on the propaganda front. "You can find me on Facebook," a man called Mehdi told me last year. I'd met him in the desert town of Yazd in central Iran and, in the typically hospitable nature of all Persians, he'd helped me translate the Farsi writing on my bus ticket. "I thought those [social networking] sites were banned in Iran?" I said. "Yes, but you can still view it through a proxy site. It means the government cannot see that you are looking at a banned site." I asked him to show me what he meant, so we went to his work and he fired up a computer.

Mehdi showed me a number of different internet sites where you view a site within the site - hiding what you're really looking at. He even confidently typed "Iran's nuclear installation sites" into a search engine within a fake websites and up popped a satellite map of reported nuclear sites. I found out that the young Persians also use these sites to download illegal Farsi rap which is critical of the President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. All over Iran, students are using these proxy websites and servers to send images of the protests to the outside world and keep in touch with one another. Early this morning I spoke to a 21-year-old Tehran University student, Ashraf. Ashraf confirmed the reports that the government has shut down the mobile phone network and blocked access to political sites and satellite television. Satellite TV was already illegal in Iran, but in another daily act of defiance most rooftops have makeshift dishes propped up by bricks. Police occasionally raid homes and apartment blocks, confiscate the dishes and fine the owners, who then go out and put up a new one and keep watching. Ashraf says the government has now found ways of blocking the satellite signals. He says now all the channels, including BBC Persia, the US-sponsored Voice of America, and others including Arabic movie channels, just don't work any more. So the only option is to watch state-controlled media. (Read more...)