Sorry I’ve been AFK on the blog front lately. I know it looks quiet, but that certainly doesn’t reflect what’s going on behind the scenes. So, here’s a quick recap of what’s happened, what’s going on, and what’s to come.
Also, I’d like to take a moment to thank everyone who has made this project possible. From the Twitter support, to the incredibly supportive donations, to private organizations volunteering, people donating their time in real life to help this come together — I’m just amazed at the willingness of people to come together to make this project a success <3
Weeks before Haystack was even announced, we were feverishly working out the technical details, trying to layout what the network would look like, and procuring the first servers we would test our anonymous, anti-censorship tool for Iran with.
A few days after it was announced, we realized that the tech side wasn’t the hardest part. As the Iranian government cracked down on citizens and stepped up Internet filtering, the new challenge would be distribution. We needed to get people together — and fast — to figure out how both parts of the Haystack network would roll out. So we reached out for the first time to the Internet & Twitter to make sure this could happen — and support Haystack you did! Less than a week later we had our first successful test of Haystack from inside of Iran.
The dialogue that came out of our meet-up propelled Haystack beyond my wildest expectations. Since then, we’ve been putting the parts of the plan that came out of that dialogue in place.
On the Haystack front we’ve been building out capacity, testing the network, improving on the Haystack protocol, and meeting with specialists to review our strategy and network security principles. On the organizational front, there’s a non-profit being formed! This will serve to provide the necessary support and legal structure around Haystack. In the future we hope to support human rights and free speech with technology throughout the world. While very exciting, this adds lawyers, banks, accountants, and a whole bunch of other things into the mix. And a huge thanks to everyone donating their time, energy, and hard earned money to make this possible.
Then there’s the PayPal fiasco…
On Monday, I got a notice from PayPal saying that my account was under review and they needed some clarification for what it was for. Great, that’s fine! So I faxed over a letter stating what I was working on, and pointing them to relevant media about Haystack and my past work in the Iran election technology circle.
Somehow they decided that meant I wanted to have my account changed to non-profit status and asked for proof. I call them up and, after getting transfered four times, am told that there’s a problem with the account being in compliance of these laws that pertain to non-profit, tax exempt organizations. Wha? We never represented to paypal or any donors that we were already non-profit. I explain what I’m doing and the service rep tells me I have 14 days to provide documentation to prove the 501(c)(3) status of a non-profit that does not yet exist. We’ve been moving so quickly to get everything done, but changing how quickly the government grants non-profit status is one thing that is totally our of our hands.
So much has happened and yet so little time has gone by.
In the upcoming weeks as we continue to test the platform, we’ll also be gearing up for the launch of Haystack 1.0 and introducing our non-profit more formally, so stay tuned. If you’re going to the rallies in San Francisco or Los Angeles (and possible NYC!), swing by the Haystack booth and say hi!
1. Thousands of people gathered at Iran’s Beheshte Zahra Cemetery, along with other smaller cemeteries, to mourn the people who have died in the protests. The numbers were hard to confirm, but various sources claimed somewhere between 10,000 – 15,000. Large numbers of Basijis were reported to have been stationed in and around Beheshte Zahra Cemetery, but no clashes were reported. Shopkeepers in Tabriz have reportedly stopped their strikes because of government intimidation and threats made by the Basijis.
2. Mousavi’s Facebook page asked for protesters to form a human chain this Sunday – we could not confirm this through other sources. Meanwhile, about 120 women from the group “Mourning Mothers” gathered at Laleh Park again today and lit candles in memory of the fallen protesters. They have planned mass gatherings in Laleh, Andisheh and Mellat parks for July 4. Relatives of detainees yet again gathered in front of Evin Prison today and asked for the release of their loved ones.
3. Hard-line Parliament members today again called on the Judiciary to prosecute Mousavi for allegedly breaking the law by calling for protests and for instigating violence. The call had been made in the past as well and several state-run newspapers have also made similar demands in the past few days. Unconfirmed reports from Qom and Khorasan indicate that more and more clerics are considering denouncing the government’s actions; declaring the protests as legitimate.
4. Samareh Hashemi, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s campaign manager, told PressTV today that the SMS outage and cell phone service restrictions were put in place to “ensure security” during and after the election. He added that Mousavi wasn’t really an opposition leader because “his views closely match those of the governments.” Furthermore, he claimed that the candidates KNOW that the election was as impartial as any before, and that no voting fraud had taken place.
5. More international pressure is being mounted on Iran’s Government. There will be an EU meeting next week where it is reported that member nations will consider pulling their ambassadors from Iran. Russia’s foreign ministry announced today that Russia opposed international sanctions against Iran and that the election and its aftermath were Iran’s internal issues that needed to be dealt with by Iranians, MosNews reported. A former Justice Minister of Canada, Irwin Cotler, has asked the international community to ban Ahmadinejad from entering their countries, Deutsche-Welle reported.
6. Al-Arabiya’s website has stated that an Egyptian lawyer belonging to the Muslim Brotherhood, Mamdouh Ismail has filed a complaint in Egypt’s Prosecutor General’s Office. He has asked them to ban Ahmadinejad from entering Egypt next month to attend a diplomatic meeting. He has accused Ahmadinejad of winning the election erroneously and for insulting two of Prophet Mohammed’s companions.
Arrests, Casualties, Releases
7. Seven people were arrested in Qazvin today in connection with the protests. The head of Participation Front in Hormozgan Province, Mr. Ramezanpour, was also arrested. The government-owned media now claims that 20 people have died in the post-election protests. Real numbers are hard to obtain, but the number is reportedly much higher than what the Iranian media has reported. On a positive note, Iranian journalists Maryam Ameri and Omid Mohaddes were released from prison today in Tehran.
8. Saeed Hajjarian – a prominent politician and backer of Mousavi – is being said to be in deteriorating health. Hajjarian has diabetes – a very serious condition that requires daily care. Amnesty International today once again called upon the government to release Hajjarian. On Wednesday, Newsweek asked Iran for the immediate release of their reporter, Maziar Bahari, who was arrested on June 21, 2009. Newsweek rejected accusations by the Iranian media that Bahari had a hand in the post-election violence. Bahari has since been denied access to a lawyer.
9. Media reports of six protesters, reportedly hung in Evin Prison, were denied by the government. Iranian Student’s News Agency reported via their website that the aforementioned individuals were accused of killing their spouses and other people. They made neither implications nor correlations with the “prisoners” and the post-election arrests.
10. Interpol today denied that the witness to Neda Agha-Soltan’s death is wanted by the Interpol. They also denied receiving any requests from the Iranian government for his arrest. Iranian media and government have claimed that the witness, Arash Hejazi, was wanted by the Interpol. Unconfirmed reports suggest that the Iranian government’s intelligence agencies as well as the Ministry of Islamic Guidance are compiling a list of Iranian journalists which will be barred from traveling abroad.
11. Reports of torture at Evin and other Iranian prisons are continuing to mount. Some sources claim that detainees are being beaten every night and others are being water-boarded with hot water in order to coerce confessions from them.
12. Yet another Ayatollah has joined the cause of the protesters. Ayatollah Bayat-Zanjani today said that the demand for justice and protesting for one’s rights was legal. He also denounced the suppression of protesters and called the act illegitimate. He asked Mousavi to stand for justice and help people obtain their rights. Zanjani joins Ayatollahs Taheri, Ghaffari and Montazeri in supporting the cause of the protesters. Karoubi again announced today that he would not recognize the current government and would continue to stand by the people in their quest for their rights – even if it took the rest of his life.
13. It has been reported that Rafsanjani, who is one of the Imams that lead Friday Prayers in Tehran’s largest mosque, has declined to lead prayers there again. Last week, his spot was first filled by Khamenei, but Khamenei pulled out at the last minute leaving Ahmad Khatami to lead the prayers. Rafsanjani is not planning to attend this Friday’s Prayers either.
14. Parlemaan News website has been blocked by the government. The website was one of the only remaining sources of impartial news for the Iranian people. The government closed it after it posted several of Mousavi’s statements and Khatami’s criticism of the government. Parlemaan News – parlemaan means parliament in Persian – is the official news website of the Imam’s Way faction of MP’s in the Iranian Parliament. They had been warned last week by security forces and the Judiciary to restrict criticism of the government.
15. The BBC reported today that the Kingdom of Jordan had banned Iran’s state-run Al-Alam and Press TV stations from broadcasting in Jordan and revoked their operating permits. Al-Alam broadcasts news in Arabic and Press TV is the main English language news channel of Iran. The latter today showed footage of what they called ‘thugs attacking Basiji Headquarters in Tehran’ – but the footage only showed several protesters chanting in front of the headquarters at an unspecified date. The recording didn’t show any of the ‘thugs’ actually using any of Molotov cocktails they were holding.
16. Even though SMS was back in Tehran yesterday, reports indicate that it has been cut-off once again. Sources indicated that they had asked twitter users from Tehran to NOT text each other using the service because it could be a ploy by the government to find dissidents. There are reports that Iran’s main telecom companies were trained in China in “how to weed out dissidents using their data posted on the net,” as well as monitoring and other techniques.
17. Although yesterday’s news of four un-opened ballot boxes found in Shiraz couldn’t be verified, reliable sources indicate that the Governor of Fars Province, where Shiraz is located, announced today that the boxes were from past elections. He added that they will be stored as National Documents. Mohammad Reza Nasab-Abdollahi, the journalist that broke the news, has been reportedly intimidated by the government and is being pressured to recant his report and deny the previous claim.
18. Chants of Allah o Akbar again echoed across Iran. Reports have suggested that dozens of people – in some cases the residents of entire apartment buildings – have been arrested by Basijis for chanting on their rooftops at night. Residents in Northern Tehran have also been warned that they should either stop chanting or risk losing their satellite antennas. Satellite antennas are illegal in the country, but widely owned by the public.
These are the important happenings that I can positively confirm from Monday, June 29 in Iran.
1. There was a human chain planned for today. The plan had been to form it between Tajrish Square and the Railway; however, the route was guarded heavily by Basijis, plainclothesmen and security forces. Nonetheless, people at gathered Mellat Park, Valiasr Field, Vanak and Valiasr Avenue and were trying to form a human chain. The police tried to disperse the crowd and stop the human chain from being formed. There were reports of clashes as well which cannot be fully confirmed. Reports of police smashing people’s windows for honking their horns and slashing their tires with knives.
2. Cell phone services were cut off around Valiasr as well as other parts of Tehran. The Basiji had Daneshjo Park under their control and helicopters were flying all over the place, especially over Valiasr. Today was one of the few times when the government cut off phone lines in order to disrupt communications between protesters and hinder their coordination of the event. During the event, several people were arrested as well. Most of Tehran was crawling with Basijis carrying sticks, some on motorcycles sporting camouflage vests. Protesters and some other people were wearing green wristbands in support of Moussavi.
3. Larijani, the speaker of the parliament today said that CNN had given money and cell phones to protesters to portray a wrong image of Iran. He added that the unrest was not an important event and it will be easily overcome and that it was just another experience for the Islamic Republic.
4. Two former Ministers of Interior have asked the Ministry of Interior to form an independent commission to investigate the problems related to the election. They have asked for the release of all the detained protesters as well and for the Iranian media to let protesters’ demands be heard. They have also requested and investigation into the deaths of protesters and other crimes committed during the protests and ask that people should be compensated for their losses.
5. Bijan Khajehpour a renowned Iranian political economist was detained at the airport in Tehran on Saturday upon arrival from the UK. Sources were unsure about his whereabouts but assumed he was in Evin prison. Dr. Mehdi Khazali, the son of Grand Ayatollah Khazali, who unlike his father is a critic of the government and Ahmadinejad, was also arrested. The Iranian media also announced the arrest of some people who were posing as Basijis. Yesterday’s arrest of Homa Roosta has now been confirmed to not be true.
6. Human rights groups claim that so far over 2,000 people are still in detention. Reports have surfaced that there is no more space left for women in Tehran’s official prisons. Human rights’ activists report on unsanitary and inappropriate conditions for imprisoned women protesters in Iran’s overcrowded jails. At least 60 of imprisoned women are in the public wards and have only been given a blanket and are forced to sleep in corridors.
7. Today, Amnesty International expressed concern about the political leaders who have been arrested and claimed that they faced torture in detention. This is while a member of the National Security Council announced today that they were not going to release any of the political prisoners any time soon.
8. Members of the National Security Council met with Khatami today. A special commission has been ordered to be formed by the Judiciary to take up the cases of the people arrested in the recent unrests. Ahmadinejad has reportedly asked the Judiciary to investigate the murder of Neda Agha-Sultan. In a letter, Ahmadinejad asked the head of the Judiciary for answers in the death and called the killing ‘suspicious’.
9. State TV says Iran’s top legislative body has confirmed Ahmadinejad victory in the disputed June 12th Presidential election after a partial recount. The Guardian Council’s leader, Jannati said that the GC deemed the complaints and irregularities irrelevant and thereby can confirm the results. Clashes were reported in Tehran after people took to the streets protesting the Guardian Council’s ruling. (This cannot be fully confirmed). People also started shouting ‘Death to Dictator’ on their roofs, after GC confirmed the victory of Ahmadinejad.
10. Since official results of Ahmadinejad’s win, only 11 countries congratulated Ahmadinejad on his ‘victory’. These countries are Tajikistan, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Turkey, the People’s Republic of China, Oman, Russia, Qatar and Venezuela.
11. The office of the Islamic Association of Sistan and Baluchestan University was set on fire by anonymous people today. The office is a hotbed of reform student activity.
12. Mohseni, Iranian Minister of Information, said today that he had met with Mousavi and had told him that the path he had taken had no end. He added that he told Mousavi that his insistence on annulling the election would achieve nothing but create more problems for him and his followers.
13. Five out of nine British Embassy staffers arrested earlier in the wee were released today. The rest are currently being held at an undisclosed location and include senior staff members. The government issued a statement saying that the detained staffers had connections with the unrest in Iran. . The EU threatened a mass pullout of its ambassadors from Iran if the staffers were not released.
14. The spokesperson for the Foreign Affairs Ministry of Iran has stated that they don’t want to close any embassies. He added that the arrest of the local staff of some embassies was not breaking international conventions. He added the remaining four staffers will be dealt with according to the law.
15. Keyhan, a newspaper close to Khamenei, slammed Mousavi today and called him a criminal. Also in a TV confession, another of Mousavi’s staffers was forced to say that the Iranian election protests were preplanned. Press TV announced today that reports of Iranian soccer players being punished for wearing green bands during their game with South Korea are false, after FIFA inquired about their reported lifetime ban which was placed by the Iranian Football Federation.
*Today, the source that had claimed of reports of persiankiwi’s arrest has tweeted that she talked to persiankiwi and pk is still free. Pk told the source that they simply don’t have access to resources for tweeting at this point. **Also a HEARTY thanks to Amandapanda for spending her precious time and energy on debriefing me to help compartmentalize the work.