Sunday, July 06, 2008

Iran Ponders the Death Penalty for "Apostate" Blogging

Iran's Supreme Leader, Grand Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, and its president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, have spent the last three years engaged in a "Second Islamic Cultural Revolution" designed to save their unpopular autocratic regime by fostering Islamist ideology and curbing the growth of "un-Islamic" thought and expression. In early June, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty noted that Khamenei used the 19th anniversary of the death of Ayatollah Khomeini to warn against the evils of Western cultural influences:

Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has warned that the nation's "enemies" seek to weaken the country's youth by spreading immorality, prostitution, and drug addiction, as young people themselves express their frustration at hard-line social restrictions.

"Combating organized plots that push Iranian youth toward carnal desires, drugs, or sexuality is a prime duty of the Iranian people and especially the young," said Khamenei, who has the final say on all matters in the Islamic republic.



RFE/RL confirms the growing unhappiness of many Iranian young people with the regime's intensified social controls:

Mohammad, a young Tehran resident, told RFE/RL that even websites which have nothing to do with politics and Islamic values have been blocked by authorities.

"It's really ridiculous how websites are filtered here," Mohammad said. "Don't think that the authorities have only filtered sex-related sites. No, rules and laws do not apply here. News, music, and photos are all filtered. Until last week, I used to download music from some sites, but now they are blocked, too. They were Iranian music sites."

So-called morality police are stationed in every crowded place in Tehran, and they stop young women who violate a dress code by wearing tight overcoats or skimpy headscarves. Young men are not allowed to wear ties or to get a "funky" hairstyle



Over the last several months, the Iranian autocracy has intensified its efforts against these "organized plots":

-In late April, a top Iranian official warned of the dangers posed by that evil symbol of Western sinfulness: the Barbie doll. Around the same time, Agence France Presse reported that Iran's culture minister warned Iranian authors to censor themselves if they wanted to be published:

"This is what we ask publishers and writers, you are aware of the vetting code, so censor pages which are likely to create a dispute," conservative minister Mohammad Hossein Safar Harandi told a news conference.

He said publications should be in line with the system's "religious, moral and national" sensitivities and warned writers against graphic descriptions of relationships or sex.



-In May, the regime intensified its filtering of web sites. The Iranian authorities are also reported to rely on the slowness of home Internet connections to curb online expressions of dissent

-In mid-June, the regime launched its annual summer crackdown on "immodest" women's clothing.


Not content with such measures, radical Islamists in Iran's parliament now want to apply sterner methods for purging society of unbelief. The First Islamic Cultural Revolution culminated in 1989's Rushdie Affair, which saw the "right" to murder apostates extended throughout the globe. Now, the proponents of the second such revolution hope to extend the death penalty to cover apostasy in cyberspace. Global Voices Online has the details:

On Wednesday, Iranian members of parliament voted to discuss a draft bill that seeks to “toughen punishment for disturbing mental security in society.” The text of the bill would add, “establishing websites and weblogs promoting corruption, prostitution and apostasy,” to the list of crimes punishable by death.

In recent years, some Iranian bloggers have been sent to jail and many have had their sites filtered. If the Iranian parliament approves this draft bill, bloggers fear they could be legally executed as criminals. No one has defined what it means to “disturb mental security in society”.


(Emphasis added-DD)


Reporters Sans Frontieres calls the measure "horrifying". There is nothing I can add to that description.