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Ctrl+Alt+Delete: Iran's Response to the Internet

The editorial demonized dissent as foreign. Ominously, it named individuals and websites that it alleged were collaborators with the Spider House.270 Among those implicated were Rafizadeh (identified as “Shahram R.”), Mirebrahimi (identified as “Roozbeh M.”), Ghafoori Azar (identified as “Babak Gh.”), Derayati (identified as “Mehdi D.”), and Mazrui (identified as “Hanif M.”), all of whom had already been arrested. All except Ghafoori Azar remained in custody. It also identified Omid Memarian (identified as “Omid M.”) who was arrested soon thereafter.271

Authorities arrived at Omid Memarian’s office on October 10, 2004. A recipient of the Golden Pen at the National Press Festival in Iran in 2001, Memarian was a well-known journalist who had begun blogging in 2002. In his final entry before his arrest, he condemned the arrest of Sina Motalebi’s father and concluded that such tactics showed that the conservative elements in the government were worried about the influence of bloggers.272

His arrest was similar to those of Shahram Rafizadeh and Roozbeh Mirebrahimi. He was arrested following a raid on his home during which his computer and writings were confiscated.273 After more than a week, Memarian’s family was unable to find out where he was imprisoned. His lawyer, Nemat Ahmadi, attempted unsuccessfully to contact him at the airport prosecutor’s office. He also objected to the lack of a warrant for Memarian’s arrest and asked that his case be transferred out of the airport court.274 In response, he was simply told that Memarian’s location would be announced soon.275

On October 18, Javad Gholam Tamimi, an editor for the reformist paper Mardum Salari, was arrested after being summoned by the airport branch of the prosecutor’s office.276 A little over a week later on October 28, Fereshteh Ghazi, a cyber-journalist, was summoned by telephone to the same prosecutor’s office. Ghazi had gained notoriety by writing about women’s issues and had helped save the life of Asfaneh Norouzi, a woman sentenced to death for killing her would-be rapist.277 On October 27, she complied with the summons and visited Branch 9, where she was taken into custody. Forty days later, she was released after posting 500 million rials (US$57,000) in bail. Upon her release, she was taken directly to the hospital due to the effects of a twenty-three day hunger strike and a broken nose.278 She was able to hire a lawyer only after her release.279

Although lumped with the other arrests at the time, some question whether Ghazi’s arrest and imprisonment were due to her blogging activities, and believe that she was targeted because she had exposed the ineptitude of the Judiciary and contributed to the reformist publication Emrooz. Though she had worked with many of the other cyber-journalists and more avid bloggers, she herself had only sporadically posted on her blog.280 Regardless of the reasons for her arrest, after her recuperation, blogging became an important part of her expression:

[P]rison taught me that you have to write in newspapers, in blogs and on websites, on walls and anywhere you can. I remember the time when [state controlled television] had banned the songs of Hossein Zaman. He said: ‘Let them ban my songs. I will sing them in the streets and alleyways.’281

[270]Id. Included were 13 individuals (named in full) living outside of Iran, 13 individuals (first name, last initial) living in Iran and collaborating with various sites and newspapers, and 7 individuals (first name, last initial) who had posts in the government, including Mohammad Ali Abtahi. Id.
[271]Shariatmadari, supra note 266. Rooydad was a website linked to the major reformist party, Islamic Iran Participation Front. Mazrui and Derayati’s fathers were top members of the party and actively negotiated for the release of the website’s staff members. See Mazrui letter supra note 252.
[272]Posting of Omid Memarian to omidmemarian, available at http://omidmemarian.blogspot.com/2004_09_01_omidmemarian_archive.html (Sep. 17, 2004) (last visited Apr. 27, 2009).
[273]Press Release, Human Rights Watch, Iran: Journalist Detained in Internet Crackdown (Oct. 13, 2004), available at http://www.hrw.org/en/news/2004/10/13/iran-journalist-detained-internet-crackdown (last visited Apr. 25, 2009).
[274]Mahal-i Nigahdariyih Omid Memarian Farda bih Vakil-i Viy I’lam Mishavad [Omid Memarian’s Place of Detention Will be Revealed to His Lawyer Tomorrow] ISNA, 26/7/1383 [Oct. 17, 2004], available at http://isna.ir/ISNA/NewsView.aspx?ID =News-444694 (last visited Apr. 25, 2009).
[276]Press Release, Reporters Without Borders, Himayat-i Ruznethayih Mu’tabar-i Jahani az Vibnigaran-i Zindani dar Iran [Respected Web Dailies Around the World Support Imprisoned Bloggers in Iran] (29/7/1383) [Oct. 20, 2004], available at http://www.rsf-persan.org/article11656.html (last visited Apr. 27, 2009).
[277]ALAVI, supra note 82, at 337-338.
[278]Posting of Mohammad Ali Abtahi to Vibnivisht Sayt-i Shakhsiyih Mohammad Ali Abtahi [Webnevesht, the Personal Weblog of Mohammad Ali Abtahi], available at http://webneveshteha.com/weblog/?id=-1723924679 (Jan. 12, 2005) (last visited Apr. 25, 2009). Unlike many of the male detainees, Ghazi was sent to Evin Prison, though even there she was subject to violence. See Fereshteh Ghazi: Chira Hamihyyih Raftarhayih Qiyri Qanuni ra dar Shikastigiyih Biniyih Man Khulasih Kardihand? [Fereshteh Ghazi: Why Have They Summed Up All Their Illegal Activities By Referring Solely to My Broken Nose?], ISNA, 16/11/1383 [Feb. 4, 2005], available at http://isna.ir/ISNA/NewsView.aspx?ID=News-490239 (last visited Apr. 25, 2009).
[279]Akhbar-i Kutah-i Huquqi: Sayfzadeh, Vikalat-i Fereshteh Ghazi ra Qabul Kard [Short Legal News: Seifzadeh Has Accepted to Represent Fereshteh Ghazi], ISNA, 21/9/1383 [Dec. 11, 2004], available at http://isna.ir/Isna/NewsView.aspx?ID=News-466687 (last visited Apr. 27, 2009).
[280]Interview with Roozbeh Mirebrahimi, supra note 75.
[281]ALAVI, supra note 82, at 339 (citing from the blog of Fereshteh Ghazi at www.fereshteh.blogfa.com).

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Free Speech, Right to Protest, Cyber Journalism, Torture, Inhuman and Degrading Treatment, Punishment, Due Process, Right to an Attorney, Free Association, Political Freedom, Equality Before the Law, Discrimination