Thursday, July 24, 2008

Death Penalty for Iranian Bloggers

A few weeks ago, the Islamic Parliament in Iran approved a draft law which shocked the country and is at the center of current debate.

The draft law is asking for expanded sentencing for those who publish atheistic articles and pornographic materials and facing them to death.

In that draft, journalists, bloggers and intellectuals publishing such articles are considered same like crimes such as rape, sex slave exporters, banditry, prostitution, depravity, and kidnapping.

According to this draft, which was approved for faster review by the majority of Majlis [Iranian members of Parliament], the death sentence could be used against bloggers, journalists, artists, and intellectuals who can be easily falsely accused and convicted by intelligence services or the judiciary branch for publishing "articles against Islam."

Beside China, Iran is the most dangerous country for the bloggers and maintains one of the tightest controls over the Internet. Yet, more than 1.5 million bloggers write daily about their life, publishing about local news or criticizing government and mandatory Islamic rules. Based on Alexa, Iranian internet users are eager to read blogs as a source of news, semi-news, gossips, or entertainment.

Blog providers inside Iran are very sensitive to the content of blogs they host. If they find an anti-Islamic or pornography focused blog, they immediately delete it. If they ignore the blog, the filtering center in the Communication Ministry will delete it. My Persian language blog, like many blogs and websites criticizing the regime, is banned and filtered inside Iran by either the service providers or the government.

This new draft law, which brought waves of criticism against new conservative Majlis, including from major EU and human rights organizations, brings the prospect of harsh suppression of intellectuals and bloggers. The death penalty is an option.

To underscore the point, there are many political prisoners in the notorious jails inside Iran who are there because they have been accused of atheism or have been targeted by fatwas issued by top mullahs including the Supreme Leader Khamenehei. Under Islamic law in Iran, the sentences these people face include beheading, crucifing, whiping, executing and the cutting hands and feet.

Bloggers inside Iran believe the draft law is created to threaten youth and intellectuals, as well as suppressing freedom of speech and expression.

Published in: The Seminal

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