Roger writing the LAWmag

Blogging To Death In The Name of Almighty God

Persia .... err, I mean Iran has been known as an Islamic Republic since 1979.

Republic?

Yeah. Right. And I'm an NHL-caliber hockey goalie.

Iran is a theocracy so with apologies to all those international law catalogues that list Iran as a republic, we beg to differ.

China, Korea and Iran have all, notably, controlled Internet usage, and not just for child porn or other activities that even, say, Canada controls in the name of public safety.

Highest on Iran's Sharia law crime prevention list: the horrible crimes of blasphemy and political dissent!

In keeping with a justice system which shows the same age as that of the Koran to which it is humbled, a September 2008 article in The New Statesmen suggests that Iran has over a hundred minors presently on death row, and 30,000 political prisoners. On October 17, 2008, the government announced it would commute death sentences for minors to life in prison.

In the meantime, according to Human Rights Watch:

"Since January 2005, Iran has been responsible for 26 of the 32 known executions of juvenile offenders worldwide."

As blogs exploded on the Internet, they did so in Iran as well.

AhmadinejadUnder the cloud of theocracy and the suffocating nature of Sharia law, it was only a matter of time before the government of Mahmud Ahmadinejad (pictured) clamped down.

Authorities block blogs and website that publish legal commentary that dissents from the government. Blogs which used the words "women" and "gender" are blocked.

It is not bluff. Several bloggers languish in jail such as Mojtaba Lotfi. Reporters sans frontieres (RSF) reports that on October 8, 2008, the Iranian was arrested for publishing the sermon of a rogue Ayatollah.

According to RSF:

"Websites and blogs are the main outlets used by the opposition to get its ideas across, as it is banned from publishing its views in the governmental newspapers. As well as a human rights outrage, Mojtaba’s arrest in an unacceptable method of intimidating the blogosphere.

"The day after Lotfi’s arrest, intelligence ministry officials searched his home in the holy city of Qom, in the centre of the country, on the orders of a special court for the clergy, confiscating his computer’s hard drive and various personal documents."

Iran has a population of 65-million of which just under half have access to the Internet. Ninety-eight per cent of the population of Iran is Muslim and strictly adhere to Sharia Law. Iran has not accepted the jurisdiction of the International Court of Justice.

The supreme religious leader of Iran is the Ayatollah Ali Hoseini-Khamenei.Typical for a theocracy, Hoseini-Khamenei has a life-appointment.

A president is appointed to represent the state internationally, and run the government internally (Ahmadinejad) but Hoseini-Khamenei makes the most important appointments, especially to a Council of Guardians which must approve all proposed legislation to make sure it is faithful to the religion of Islam.

If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em: even while he oppresses those who dare disagree, Ahmadinejad has started his own blog with entries that glow in religious fervour:

"In the Name of Almighty God, the All-Knowing, the Most Lovingly Compassionate...

"O, Almighty God, bestow upon humanity the perfect human being promised to all by You, and make us among his followers".

He writes of the Iranian government:

"The ultimate goal is to achieve God's approval and ‎satisfaction in the way of serving His servants, implementing justice and expanding ‎spirituality.

"The governmental framework and the job description of the rulers is derived from the ‎Islamic holy sources and texts, which are which are the best guidelines for good ‎governance and honest service."

Go to jail for Blogging CardJust past the Eastern border of Iran, 24-year old Afghan blogger Perwiz Kambakhsh also commiserates behind bars.

According to a report published by Inter Press:

"Afghan authorities claimed that Kambakhsh downloaded material from the Internet that spoke to women's roles in Muslim societies and was distributing them on his college campus. Kambakhsh strongly denies the charges, stating that he made such confessions due to severe torture.

"On Jan. 20 (2008), Kambakhsh was condemned to death - behind closed doors and without a defence lawyer - by a court in the northern city of Mazar-e-Sharif. The sentence was later commuted (but) Kambakhsh would still have to spend 20 years in prison."

When 60-year old Syrian, Habib Saleh dared to write on the Internet about governmental reform, democracy and freedom of opinion, he was promptly arrested and accused of inciting civil war.

There he remains waiting trial even while the 1973 Constitution of Syria boldly asserts, at §25 "freedom is a sacred right" and, at §38:"every citizen has the right to freely and openly express his views in words, in writing, and through all other means of expression".

Syria, according to the London-based dissident Syrian Human Rights Commttee, uses cruel and unusual punishment, to say the least, in its investigations. It publishes this account of Hiba Dabbagh:

"Right from the first minutes of my arrest, ... officers ... used swear words against me. ... I was beaten with bamboo rods on my feet, face and all over my body. I received electric shocks which made me go into a coma. During the period of interrogation with me, I saw other ladies who were beaten and made nude and hung by the feet in the ceiling. Some of the arrested ladies were sexually assaulted. In other cases, the tongue of one of the arrested ladies was cut with scissors. Another one was injured in the ear and her nose was broken."

But even Syria and Iran cannot stamp out the incessant electronic beacons of freedom, especially those which vrooms in off a speedramp bearing the call letters HTTP.

Real people get arrested, tortured or jailed for exercising rights we take for granted. As we blog away from the comfort of our 68-degree law offices, with the smell of a hot dinner roasting in the oven, content in the wrappings of a free and democratic society, others, albeit with Arabic keyboards, risk their lives commenting on the law, with progress as elusive as Biblical verse.

While we wait for "the perfect human being" to come forward in Iran, we thank the Almighty God, the All-Knowing, the Most Lovingly Compassionate for each and every one of the 6,000 miles between us and Tehran.

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Posted in Church Law, Human Rights, Internet & Intellectual Property, International Law
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