12:25 GMT

Cyber Watch

Yesterday, news broke of a serious cyber exploit, with evidence pointing to Iran as the culprit. EFF offers an explanation of what happened. ReadWriteWeb reports it was most likely the now notorious, Iran Cyber Army, behind the attack–the same group that has now managed to hit a wide list of big targets: Twitter, Chinese search engine Baidu, many Iranian opposition web sites and sites sympathetic to the Iranian opposition, and now Comodo (and by extension Google, Yahoo, Microsoft, Skype and Mozilla):

Last Wednesday, Comodo Group, the digital certificate authority and internet security, got hacked. They issued issued nine fraudulent certificates for sites run by Google, Yahoo, Microsoft, Skype and Mozilla. It looks like the hack that got these certificates was run by the same Iranian cyber army that earlier hacked the Voice of America.

In a blog post, Comodo explained that login information for an affiliate was obtained and used to break into the Comodo server and issue the certificates.

12:10 GMT

Revolutionary Guards Watch

Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) have been in existence from the founding of the regime following the 1979 revolution that overthrew the Shah. Over the last decade they have been growing in power, politically, militarily, and economically — as they have been purchasing previously-state-run companies that had been put up for sale in a government privatization initiative. They are involved in Iran’s legal economy and in its extensive black market as well.

Today they felt compelled to talk about their economic activities when IRGC Commander Mohammad-Reza Yazdi spoke about the matter, invoking the Supreme Leader. Basically he is saying that the Supreme Leader approves, so shut up:

Commander Mohammadreza Yazdi, deputy of the Revolutionary Guards’ legal affairs, said the economic activities of the Guards are carried out according to the Supreme Leader’s orders and there are no ambiguities in them.
In an interview with Khabbar-on-line, Yazdi said the Guards’ financial management and investments are the result of a plan of action that was put in place by Ayatollah Khamenei.
Yazdi insisted that the entire organization is completely transparent.

“So far no supervisory board nor even the opposition has requested an inspection of the economic activities of the Revolutionary Guards,” Yazdi maintained. However, he admitted that some “enemies as well as friends” have questioned the Guards’ finances. Since the end of the Iran-Iraq War, the Revolutionary Guards have engaged in a series of economic ventures. While the Guards do not publish reports of their investments, analysts say they are the most powerful economic arm of the country and their investments have now reached well beyond Iran.

In recent years, the Revolutionary Guards have gained wider influence in the legislative and executive branches of the government,. A number of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s cabinet ministers are from the Revolutionary Guards. Some Iranian MPs are also former Guards commanders.

12:00 GMT

Green Movement Watch

A great piece on the state of Iran’s Green Movement: Green Movement Not Dead. Excerpt:

Ever since its foundation, the enemy image of Americans and Zionists has been a raison d’être of the Islamic Republic. Pictures of hate-filled masses, wishing death to the west, swiftly found their way into our TV channels. But are these pictures still representative of Iran in 2011? The influence of the diaspora, a modern internet culture and foreign television, that despite bans now reaches every Iranian home, have resulted in a neutralization of many of the ideological views propagated by the regime.

Paradoxically, the Iranian regime remains in firm oligarchic and theocratic hands, whereas the Iranian society has turned into one of the moste democratically minded in the Middle East. It also shows a generational conflict between the old guard that still holds power and the vast youth that does not get any share in the country’s decision-making.

11:00 GMT

Remembering Mohammad Mokhtari

Today marks the 40th day since Mohammad Mokhtari, a young Iranian and supporter of Iran’s opposition green movement, was killed during 25 Bahman (February 14) protests in Iran — the first massive rally and public showing by the green movement in about a year.

Mohammad Mokhtari

Mokhtari was killed from a gunshot to the head whilst protesting against the regime, after the Iranian opposition became energized again following the uprisings and revolutions in Tunisia and Egypt.

The regime tried to make a show of his death by claiming that he was a supporter of the regime, hijacking his funeral procession, and claiming that he was killed by “Monafeghin,” (meaning Hypocrites) the name the regime gives to the outlawed group called Mojahedin Kharg Organization (MKO). This is a group largely despised in Iran for fighting against Iranian soldiers during the 1980’s Iran/Iraq war, and a convenient scapegoat for the regime when it needs someone to blame for its own dirty work.

Mokhtari’s family held a ceremony to mark the 40th day since he was killed. The website, Persian2English has translated an interview of Mohammad Mokhtari’s father that was done by Fereshteh Ghazi. Excerpt:

Fereshteh Ghazi (FG): Mr. Mokhtari, was your son a protester?

Ismaeil Mokhtari: Mohammad, like the other youth, was open minded. He was in his last year in university for mining engineering. In the polarized disputes of our society, he was supporting the Greens. He supported the Greens and wore the green wristband that he never took off for over a year and a half. But, on February 14th, he took the wristband off and tied it to the house doorknob and left. Today, the wristband remains tied [in the same spot].

[Mohammad] was raised in a religious household. He prayed and fasted, and on holy nights, he travelled to Tehran to be with us. Sometimes, I would ask him to break his fast since he did not eat the meal at dawn, but he would say no.

I have to make it clear that there are two types of religious people, one who became religious after the Revolution and the other before the Revolution. Our family was religious before the Revolution. I have four sons and a daughter. I did the best I could for them so they could receive [post-secondary/post-graduate] education. I told them that I will take care of the costs, even if I was forced to sell the house.

Mohammad had written in his last Facebook status: “Oh God, please give me the honor to die on my feet, for I am tired of living seated and humiliated.”

During [the last lunch before his death], he told his sister that it would be his last lunch. He never took his wristband off during the year and a half [after the 2009 Iranian Presidential election]. I told him to be careful and to not let [political beliefs] make trouble for him. He replied that he would roll up his sleeve to show his green wristband [to anyone who confronted him]. But on February 14th he took his wristband off and tied it to the doorknob and left. When I put all the pieces together, I think that perhaps he was inspired. When I arrived home that day and realized that Mohammad had gone to the protest, I was very worried. But, I never thought that [he would be killed].

Human Rights Watch

Yesterday, The United Nations Human Rights Council appointed an Special Rapporteur on Human Rights in Iran:

HRC: led by the U.S. and Sweden, the Human Rights Council voted this morning to create a Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Iran, which U.S. Ambassador Donahoe called a “seminal moment”. This person will independently investigate and report on abuses in Iran, and make recommendations on how they can be addressed. This is the first time since its creation in 2006 that the HRC has voted to create a new country procedure. The resolution passed 22-7 with 14 abstentions.

This is significant primarily because of its symbolic meaning — the acknowledgement by the international body of the seriously dire human rights situation in Iran — and because it is a form of pressure towards which the regime is very sensitive about. The regime loves to portray itself as a [sic] champion of human rights to the region and the world (even as it violently crushes the slightest dissent internally). The appointment of a special investigator on Iran’s human rights situation also boosts Iran’s opposition and provides a morale boost for the thousands of political prisoners held by the regime.

Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty talks to the last person who held the position, who discusses the ‘Psychological’ Effect Of Investigations.

The regime has reacted as can be expected:

Iran says the resolution recently passed by UN Human Rights Council calling for closer scrutiny of the state of human rights in the country “has no legal validity and is completely disqualified.”

Alaeddin Boroujerdi, the head of Iran’s National Security and Foreign Policy Commission, told Mehr News Agency: “The Islamic Republic should not accept the suggested rapporteur in this resolution to report on the state of human right in our country.”

“It is not the first time we see such positions against the Islamic Rebublic regarding human rights issues,” Boroujerdi added. “They result from Islamic Republic’s complete independence and the failure of the oppressive political system that dominates the world today.”

Yesterday, the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva narrowly approved a U.S.- and Swedish-backed proposal to appoint a special rapporteur for the Islamic Republic. The proposal was approved 22-7 with 14 abstentions and 4 members not participating.

The Council expressed concern over the “oppression of dissidents” and the surge in executions in Iran. But Boroujerdi insisted that the state of human rights in Iran is quite good given the country’s particular characteristics: “[A]nd the freedoms that are enjoyed in our country and the security in such an open condition is highly favourable.”