for best effect play them all at once

“Update: We are no longer recommending people set up plaintext squid proxies. The Iranian regime appears to be doing deep-packet inspection on all traffic now.”


Iran’s Political Culture Of Righteous Deception


#IranElection #gr88 #CNNFail viaTwitter




Son’s Death Has Iranian Family Asking Why
BY Farnaz Fassihi  /  June 23, 2009

Tehran—The family, clad in black, stood at the curb of the road sobbing. A middle-aged mother slapped her cheeks, letting out piercing wails. The father, a frail man who worked as a doorman at a clinic in central Tehran, wept quietly with his head bowed. Minutes before, an ambulance had arrived from Tehran’s morgue carrying the body of their only son, 19-year-old Kaveh Alipour. On Saturday, amid the most violent clashes between security forces and protesters, Mr. Alipour was shot in the head as he stood at an intersection in downtown Tehran. He was returning from acting class and a week shy of becoming a groom, his family said.

The details of his death remain unclear. He had been alone. Neighbors and relatives think that he got trapped in the crossfire. He wasn’t politically active and hadn’t taken part in the turmoil that has rocked Iran for over a week, they said. “He was a very polite, shy young man,” said Mohamad, a neighbor who has known him since childhood. When Mr. Alipour didn’t return home that night, his parents began to worry. All day, they had heard gunshots ringing in the distance. His father, Yousef, first called his fiancée and friends. No one had heard from him.

At the crack of dawn, his father began searching at police stations, then hospitals and then the morgue. Upon learning of his son’s death, the elder Mr. Alipour was told the family had to pay an equivalent of $3,000 as a “bullet fee”—a fee for the bullet used by security forces—before taking the body back, relatives said.

Mr. Alipour told officials that his entire possessions wouldn’t amount to $3,000, arguing they should waive the fee because he is a veteran of the Iran-Iraq war. According to relatives, morgue officials finally agreed, but demanded that the family do no funeral or burial in Tehran. Kaveh Alipour’s body was quietly transported to the city of Rasht, where there is family.

Everyone in the neighborhood knows the Alipour family. In addition to their slain son, they have two daughters. Shopkeepers and businesses pasted a photocopied picture of Mr. Alipour on their walls and windows. In the picture, the young man is shown wearing a dark suit with gray stripes. His black hair is combed neatly to a side and he has a half-smile. “He was so full of life. He had so many dreams,” said Arsalan, a taxi driver who has known the family for 10 years. “What did he die for?”

“RT @LaraABCNews: from trusted source, eyewitness at protests: the acid attacks were real, dumped on protesters from above.”

Neda Soltan’s family ‘forced out of home’ by Iranian authorities

The Iranian authorities have ordered the family of Neda Agha Soltan out of their Tehran home after shocking images of her death were circulated around the world. Neighbours said that her family no longer lives in the four-floor apartment building on Meshkini Street, in eastern Tehran, having been forced to move since she was killed. The police did not hand the body back to her family, her funeral was cancelled, she was buried without letting her family know and the government banned mourning ceremonies at mosques, the neighbours said. “We just know that they [the family] were forced to leave their flat,” a neighbour said. The Guardian was unable to contact the family directly to confirm if they had been forced to leave.

The government is also accusing protesters of killing Soltan, describing her as a martyr of the Basij militia. Javan, a pro-government newspaper, has gone so far as to blame the recently expelled BBC correspondent, Jon Leyne, of hiring “thugs” to shoot her so he could make a documentary film. Soltan was shot dead on Saturday evening near the scene of clashes between pro-government militias and demonstrators, turning her into a symbol of the Iranian protest movement. Barack Obama spoke of the “searing image” of Soltan’s dying moments at his press conference yesterday.

Amid scenes of grief in the Soltan household with her father and mother screaming, neighbours not only from their building but from others in the area streamed out to protest at her death. But the police moved in quickly to quell any public displays of grief. They arrived as soon as they found out that a friend of Soltan had come to the family flat. In accordance with Persian tradition, the family had put up a mourning announcement and attached a black banner to the building.

But the police took them down, refusing to allow the family to show any signs of mourning. The next day they were ordered to move out. Since then, neighbours have received suspicious calls warning them not to discuss her death with anyone and not to make any protest. A tearful middle-aged woman who was an immediate neighbour said her family had not slept for days because of the oppressive presence of the Basij militia, out in force in the area harassing people since Soltan’s death.

The area in front of Soltan’s house was empty today. There was no sign of black cloths, banners or mourning. Secret police patrolled the street. “We are trembling,” one neighbour said. “We are still afraid. We haven’t had a peaceful time in the last days, let alone her family. Nobody was allowed to console her family, they were alone, they were under arrest and their daughter was just killed. I can’t imagine how painful it was for them. Her friends came to console her family but the police didn’t let them in and forced them to disperse and arrested some of them. Neda’s family were not even given a quite moment to grieve.”

Another man said many would have turned up to show their sympathy had it not been for the police. “In Iran, when someone dies, neighbours visit the family and will not let them stay alone for weeks but Neda’s family was forced to be alone, otherwise the whole of Iran would gather here,” he said. “The government is terrible, they are even accusing pro-Mousavi people of killing Neda and have just written in their websites that Neda is a Basiji (government militia) martyr. That’s ridiculous – if that’s true why don’t they let her family hold any funeral or ceremonies? Since the election, you are not able to trust one word from the government.” A shopkeeper said he had often met Soltan, who used to come to his store. “She was a kind, innocent girl. She treated me well and I appreciated her behaviour. I was surprised when I found out that she was killed by the riot police. I knew she was a student as she mentioned that she was going to university. She always had a nice peaceful smile and now she has been sacrificed for the government’s vote-rigging in the presidential election.”

Grave spaces at Behesht-e-Zahra cemetery reportedly set aside for those killed in Tehran clashes

Her fiance, Caspian Makan, told BBC Persian TV about the circumstances of Neda’s death: “She was near the area, a few streets away, from where the main protests were taking place, near the Amir-Abad area. She was with her music teacher, sitting in a car and stuck in traffic. She was feeling very tired and very hot. She got out of the car for just for a few minutes. And that’s when it all happened. That’s when she was shot dead. Eyewitnesses and video footage of the shooting clearly show that probably Basij paramilitaries in civilian clothing deliberately targeted her. Eyewitnesses said they clearly targeted her and she was shot in the chest. She passed away within a few minutes. People tried to take her to the nearest hospital, the Shariati hospital. But it was too late.

We worked so hard to get the authorities to release her body. She was taken to a morgue outside Tehran. The officials from the morgue asked if they could use parts of her corpse for body transplants for medical patients. They didn’t specify what exactly they intended to do. Her family agreed because they wanted to bury her as soon as possible. We buried her in the Behesht-e-Zahra cemetery in southern Tehran. They asked us to bury her in this section where it seemed the authorities had set aside spaces for graves for those killed during the violent clashes in Tehran last week.

On Monday afternoon, we had planned to hold a memorial service at the mosque. But the authorities there and the paramilitary group, the Basij, wouldn’t allow it because they were worried it would attract unwanted attention and they didn’t want anymore trouble. The authorities are aware that everybody in Iran and throughout the whole world knows about her story. So that’s why they didn’t want a memorial service. They were afraid that lots people could turn up at the event. So as things stand now, we are not allowed to hold any gatherings to remember Neda.

“(Late Sunday I watch Neda’s video. I suspect that I recognize Arash Hejazi, but I prefer not to believe in what I am seeing. I send him and email)

Sunday 21 June 2009 | Dear Arash
I need to know where you stand, if things that I am seeing/reading are true. Then I can myself take a position – depending on your advice, of course. love, Paulo

Mon, 22 Jun 2009 | Subject: your country | Dearest Paulo,
I am now in Tehran. The video of Neda’s murder was taken by my friend, and you can recognize me in the video. I was the doctor who tried to save her and failed. She died in my arms. I am writing with tears in my eyes. Please don’t mention my name. I’ll contact you with more details soon. Love, Arash

(At this point, I decide to put the video in my blog. For the rest of the day, I try to contact him. At one point, someone answers his phone as a “CNN journalist”. I start to become worried)

Monday 22 June 2009 | Dear Arash
so far, no news from you. After I published the video in my blog, it seems that it spread worldwide, including posts in NY Times, Guardian, National Review, etc. Therefore, my main concern now is about you. You NEED to answer this email, saying that you are all right
and the name of the person where we spend the New Year’s Eve in 2001 together, just to be sure that it is you really who is answering this email. I don’t buy this CNN person answering your mobile.
If you don’t do that, I may leak your name to the press, in order to protect you – visibility is the only protection at this point. I know this because I am a former prisoner of conscience. If you do that, unless instructed otherwise by you, I will stop the pressure for the moment. My main concern now is you and your family. love, Paulo
P.S. – there are several trusted friends in blind copy here.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009 | Dearest Paulo
I am alright for now. I am not staying at home. I don’t know about CNN. The friend’s name was Frederick. Love Arash

Tuesday, June 23, 2009 | Dearest Paulo
Trying to leave the country tomorrow morning. If I don’t arrive in London at 2 pm., something has happened to me. Till then, wait.
My wife and my son are in (edited). Their phone (edited) Her email (edited) Please wait till tomorrow. If something happens to me, please take care of (name of wife) and (name of son), they are there, alone, and have no one else in the world. Much love, it was an honor having you as a friend. Arash

(At this point, a Brazilian journalist, Luis Antonio Ryff, who traveled to Iran to cover my visit, recognizes Arash in the video, and writes me to double-check. I confirm, but I ask him to keep his name secret until today. Ryff agrees – even knowing that this would be a major scoop for him. I would like to thank him here, for his dignity)

Wednesday 24 June 2009
Arash landed in London”


Primary Target: gerdab.ir hosting protestor images
“Iran’s government is putting pictures of targeted protestors on the web for the Basij to identify and harass, arrest, or worse. These individuals could be jailed, or worse, dead by tomorrow. This website needs to die.”

Activists Launch Hack Attacks on Tehran Regime
“Pro-democracy activists on the web are asking supporters to use relatively simple hacking tools to flood the regime’s propaganda sites with junk traffic. “NOTE to HACKERS – attack www.farhang.gov.ir – pls try to hack all iran gov wesites [sic]. very difficult for us,” Tweets one activist. The impact of these distributed denial of service (DDOS) attacks isn’t clear. But official online outlets like leader.ir, ahmadinejad.ir, and iribnews.ir are currently inaccessible. “There are calls to use an even more sophisticated tool called BWraep, which seems to exhaust the target website out of bandwidth by creating bogus requests for serving images,” notes Open Society Institute fellow Evgeny Morozov. In both Iran and abroad, the cyberstrikes are being praised as a way to hit back against a regime that so blatantly engaged in voter fraud. But some observers warn that the network strikes could backfire — hurting the very protesters they’re meant to assist. Michael Roston is concerned that “it helps to excuse the Iranian regime’s own cyberwarfare.” Text-messaging networks and key opposition websites mysteriously went dark just before the election. Morozov worries that it “gives [the] hard-line government another reason to suspect ‘foreign intervention‘ — albeit via computer networks — into Iranian politics.” Iran has one of the world’s most vibrant social media communities. That’s helping those of us outside Iran follow along as this revolution is being YouTubed, blogged, and Tweeted. But Iran’s network infrastructure there is relatively centralized. Which makes Internet access there inherently unstable. Programmer Robert Synott worries that if outside protesters pour too much DDOS traffic into Iran, carriers there “will simply pull the plug to protect the rest of their network.” For the moment, however, those connections are still live. And activists are using them to mobilize mass protests in Tehran. Opposition leader Mir Hossein Mousavi has just appeared. Tens of thousands of protesters are chanting “‘No fear, No fear, we are with each other.’” Meanwhile, universities are recovering from assaults by pro-regime goons. Students were bloodied. Memory cards and software were swiped by police. Computers were smashed.”


[open letter by Isaac Levy, security researcher, IT professional, Defcon panelist, cyberwarfare analyst – we believe this information is correct, but we are not in Iran; please check for yourself]
“People in Iran please tell every person you know: EVERYONE use SSL proxy servers starting tomorrow on all internet traffic, or please stop using proxies! In spite of everyone’s best intentions, when used in limited numbers as they are right now, it’s likely that internet proxies are simply automating an opposition arrest list (or death list) for the regime. Please understand that Iran’s network-control is state of the art, and Iranian security can inspect ALL traffic easily in an automated fashion, through its centralized choke point. It’s likely that anyone using a proxy is quickly spotted and tracked. Proxies are an effective way to get information out, but the use of proxies will not be safe unless EVERY SINGLE PERSON in Iran uses one. EVERYONE.

SSL/TLS (https) can be about 4 to 5 times the packet size in transmission, which makes the bandwidth throttling of the Iranian Security forces more difficult (the Iranian internet is painfully, selectively, slow since it was shut down). If everyone were to use it, for all communications, then all traffic would look the same, and dissidents could not be so easily singled out. This is sometimes called ‘faking the weather.’ We must recommend either EVERYONE uses SSL proxies, in order to protect each other, or NO ONE does. IT/Networking professionals will recognize the tactics in commonplace IPS or IDS systems. Iran is clearly using payload inspection and filtering systems- both for blocking, and collecting information. This is done easily, since (without SSL) none of the material being sent is encrypted. Security professionals will understand that scaling firewalls to a national size is a solved problem. Cisco’s Netflow is used in network gear throughout the world to record network traffic, and common new style ‘deep packet inspection’ network products are capable of extremely efficient real-time network processing and data collection.

The longer you wait the more proxy users will be arrested. Tell your grandmothers, tell everyone you know: find a safe SSL proxy, learn to use it, and only use SSL/TLS proxies from now on. They are not difficult to use. If everyone does this, Iran will have an unfiltered internet; to block it the Iranian government would be forced to turn off their WHOLE internet connection (again). Also remember, anonymous proxies can be hijacked: SSL provides validation that you’re talking to the right person.

In Summation: Without maximum use in Iran of these SSL/TLS proxy technologies, in spite of best intentions, and with incredible efficiency, the outside internet community is most likely helping to automate an Iranian dissident death/arrest list. I can not overstate this. Everyone in Iran please start using ssl proxies immediately. today. now.

Once more, put simply?
On the outside, https proxies (SSL/TLS) for encryption and server validation* are absolutely necessary. Please set them up. (* validation to defend against Iran Security Forces performing man-in-the-middle attacks) On the inside, EVERY Iranian citizen must use SSL web proxies. If both of these things are not done, the best intentions of the internet community will only help automate death lists for citizens using the internet to protest the faked election, and document the violence and repression that has followed. If both of these things (inside and outside the country) ARE done, Iranians regain cheap and fast internal unblocked internet communications, as well as a very robust communications line to the outside world. Again, EVERYONE has to do it. Both sides. Iranian grandmothers must understand that they all must learn to do this, to protect Iranian opposition protesters. It is easy and you only have to do it once.

Inside Iran, look for things like this:
Outside of Iran, Tech Specs, 2 parts:
1 )SSL Capable proxy servers:
Apache 2.x (enable mod_ssl, mod_proxy)
Apache 1.x, (enable mod_ssl, mod_proxy)
2) Cheap, valid SSL certificates:
(Critical to avoid Iran Security mitm attacks!)

Isaac Levy
email : isaac [at] diversaform [dot] com

[NOTE : it should be understood that the obvious reason the internet was not simply turned off is that Iran’s entire financial sector needs it to conduct business, and many use tools like SSL.]

“any circumvention system, open proxy or not, requires an element of trust in the intermediary you’re using to get around the block. turning on SSL would be added comfort, i guess — if, as the author says, everyone else did as well, but it would also slow things down even more (that’s his point, i guess: then IRI would have to monitor less to keep traffic flowing at an acceptable speed). and anyway, there is some security in obscurity: there is a large and evolving population of open proxies, and many people of all stripes use them; open proxies have been commonly used since filtering was first deployed, years ago). to imagine that doing so without SSL will lead to one’s arrest would mean ascribing to The State a technologically perfect and comprehensive surveillance. while the Net certainly aids in data collection and monitoring that wasn’t previously possible, as we know, no system is without its cracks. it would probably be good if people outside of iran were reminded that the government of iran isn’t somehow omnipotent just because it has authoritarian elements.”

The More People Use It, The Stronger It Gets
“Tor is well known and respected as the best most efficient most anonymous proxy service. The Onion Routing makes the user almost completely untraceable.”

from Moxie Marlinspike:

“I’m not following the tech situation in Iran very closely, but it seems like activists within Iran who are trying to share information and coordinate actions should be using TOR rather than just SSL proxies. TOR can probably provide the most robust defense against attempts at censoring information, allowing Iranians to use social networking tools, as well as providing (at least) network-level anonymity.

The problems with SSL proxies are:
1) There are reports that port 443 is blocked. You could run an SSL proxy on another port, but most are on 443 right now. TOR bridges, however, are available on a wide range of ports.
2) Every time a list of SSL proxies is published, the government can just blacklist them all. While the government could ban direct access to the entire TOR directory, TOR bridges make it difficult for them to restrict TOR traffic outright.
3) Simple SSL proxies are more vulnerable to any number of attacks. For instance, it’s often not possible to determine who’s running the proxy (the government or not?), and while this is also true for any individual TOR node, no individual TOR node simultaneously knows both the client’s identity as well as the site they’re visiting. TOR is also more resilient to timing attacks and other MITM attacks on SSL traffic.”

Iranian Protests Becoming Crowd-Sourced Cyber War
BY Kit Eaton / Jun 17, 2009

“The really interesting thing about these attacks are not that they’re going on–DDoS attacks after elections apparently isn’t a new phenomenon–but how they’re being carried out. Rather than using simple code, with automated viral botnets and the like, these efforts are largely being driven by hand. There are a number of simple scripts going around that can be downloaded and which continually re-load the target Web sites in a browser window. It’s a simpler system, being coordinated by word of mouth, Twitter and other means, but it appears to be effective–all the target sites are offline, or have bandwidth issues.

And the subtlety that this is a crowd-sourced form of cyber war, or cyber revolution, rather than an anonymous automated network of infected PCs, shouldn’t go unnoticed. The new technological infrastructure is giving people a way to protest and act in ways that wouldn’t have been possible before. While the morality of DDoS attacks remains a grey area, it’s nevertheless a fascinating V for Vendetta-style effect in action.”


Web Attacks Expand in Iran’s Cyber Battle (Updated)
BY Noah Shachtman / June 16, 2009

More and more of Iran’s pro-government websites are under assault, as opposition forces launch web attacks on the Tehran regime’s online propaganda arms. What started out as an attempt to overload a small set of official sites has now expanded, network security consultant Dancho Danchev notes. News outlets like Raja News are being attacked, too. The semi-official Fars News site is currently unavailable. “We turned our collective power and outrage into a serious weapon that we could use at our will, without ever having to feel the consequences. We practiced distributed, citizen-based warfare,” writes Matthew Burton, a former U.S. intelligence analyst who joined in the online assaults, thanks to a “push-button tool that would, upon your click, immediately start bombarding 10 Web sites with requests.” But the tactic of launching these distributed denial of service, or DDOS, attacks remains hugely controversial. The author of one-web based tool, “Page Rebooter,” used by opposition supporters to send massive amounts of traffic to Iranian government sites, temporarily shut the service down, citing his discomfort with using the tool “to attack other websites.” Then, a few hours later, he turned on the service again, after his employers agreed to cover the costs of the additional traffic. WhereIsMyVote.info is opening up 16 Page Reboot windows simultaneously, to flood an array of government pages at once.

Other online supporters of the so-called “Green Revolution” worry about the ethics of a democracy-promotion movement inhibitting their foes’ free speech. A third group is concerned that the DDOS strikes could eat up the limited amount of bandwidth available inside Iran — bandwidth being used by the opposition to spread its message by Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube. “Quit with the DDOS attacks — they’re just slowing down Iranian traffic and making it more difficult for the protesters to Tweet,” says one online activist.

But Burton — who helped bring Web 2.0 tools to the American spy community — isn’t so sure. “Giving a citizenry the ability to turn the tables on its own government is, I think, what governance is all about. The public’s ability to strike back is something that every government should be reminded of from time to time.” Yet he admits to feeling “conflicted.” about participating in the strikes, he suddenly stopped. “I don’t know why, but it just felt…creepy. I was frightened by how easy it was to sow chaos from afar, safe and sound in my apartment, where I would never have to experience–or even know–the results of my actions.”

The Proxy Fight for Iranian Democracy
BY James Cowie / June 22, 2009

If you put 65 million people in a locked room, they’re going to find all the exits pretty quickly, and maybe make a few of their own. In the case of Iran’s crippled-but-still-connected Internet, that means finding a continuous supply of proxy servers that allow continued access to unfiltered international web content like Twitter, Gmail, and the BBC. A proxy server is a simple bit of software that you run on your computer. It effectively lets you share your computer with anonymous strangers as a “repeater” for content that they aren’t allowed to fetch themselves. For example, an Iranian web browser might be manually configured to use your computer (identified by an IP address and a port number) as a Web proxy. When your anonymous friend reads twitter.com, or posts a tweet, the request goes via your computer, instead of to Twitter’s web server directly. Except for a little delay, and the fact that your friend gets to see what the uncensored Internet looks like from New York or London or São Paolo instead of Tabriz or Qom, surfing through a proxy is pretty much like surfing without one. As you might imagine, open web proxies are valuable commodities in places where it’s forbidden, possibly dangerous, to surf the Internet. Iran’s opposition movement has been vigorously trading lists of open proxies over the past week. And as you might further imagine, the Iranian government censors have worked overtime to identify these proxies and add them to the daily blacklists.

As an experiment, we geolocated a list of about 2,000 web proxies (unique IP addresses and port numbers) that were shared on Twitter and other web sites over the course of the last week, to see if we could discern patterns in the places that are hosting them. Most of these are no longer reachable from inside Iran, of course, precisely because they were made public. The USA and Western Europe were well-represented, but so were China, India, Russia, Romania, Bulgaria, Vietnam, … 87 countries in all, a pretty impressive breadth of representation, considering the relatively small size of this sample. (You can also see about a dozen Iranian IP addresses represented in the set. Not surprisingly, all but one of these belong to networks originated by DCI, the government-run service provider who operates the modern-day Internet equivalent of the Alamūt Castle.)

In a geographic visualization of the proxies, drawn in Google Earth, each of the colored arcs represents a single open web proxy; they are “fountaining” out of a cable landing or Internet traffic exchange point that makes approximate sense for their Iranian Internet routing. For example, all of the web proxies in Europe are drawn from the Marseilles termination of the Sea-Me-We-4 cable. The web proxies in Turkey are drawn in light blue, radiating from Ankara, where the Iran-Turkey gas pipeline passes through on its way from Bazargan. Those unusual Iranian proxies emerge from Tehran, and so forth. If we rotate the globe, you can see how the countries of Asia are doing their part to keep the bits flowing in Iran. India, China, South Korea, Taiwan, Vietnam, and Japan are all visible sources of web proxy activity.

I’d like to be able to say that these maps are a measure of the strength of the democratic impulse and volunteer spirit in all the countries of the world. But that might be a stretch. You see, looked at another way, an open proxy is a security hole, something you might find in a machine that’s been compromised, or at the very least, badly administered. Security purists think of them as the “unlocked gun cabinet” of the Internet — a resource for anyone who wants to abuse a website, commit fraud, cover their tracks. Some of the proxies in this dataset are undoubtedly fresh, created by people who want to keep the Internet alive for the Iranian people. But many of these proxies have probably been around for months or years, mapped out by those that map out such things. We did see a few organizers try to explain the concept of an ACL (Access Control List) to all the new proud parents of open proxies. If you are diligent, it is possible to restrict the anonymous users of your new proxy to just the Iranians, or even just the Iranian non-government networks, if you have a good enough list of the IP address blocks (network prefixes) in question. But I expect that the complexity of configuring anything tighter than an “open access” proxy is going to prove too high a barrier to entry for most people who might volunteer to run one.

For one thing, we know how hard this is. Renesys has pretty good lists of per-country networks and their transit patterns, based on our analysis of the global routing tables, and trust me, they take some work to maintain. And even given good maps of Iran’s address space to work from, ACLs are notoriously hard to test, if you don’t have Iranian friends who can try your server from inside the protest zone and report back to you with problems. Most people aren’t going to bother, and that’s probably okay. Freedom is messy. There’ll be time for security later. Perhaps the strangest thing of all, given how diverse and active and vocal the proxy server farmers have been, is that by and large, it isn’t working. The rate with which new proxies are being created has slumped over the last few days. It’s getting harder and harder to propagate new proxies to the people who need them, as the government consolidates its hold on the filtering mechanisms. Any new proxy addresses that are posted to Twitter, or emailed, will be blocked very quickly.

People we talk to inside Iran say that almost no proxies are usable any more. Freegate, a Chinese anti-censorship application that makes use of networks of open proxies, has proven popular in Iran. But this week, it, too, has been experiencing problems. Many popular applications, like Yahoo! Messenger, have stopped working. The authorities are said to be using power interruptions as a cyberweapon, causing brief outages during rallies that cause computers to reboot, just as people are trying to upload images and video. The net result, as Arbor’s excellent analysis shows, has been a drastic reduction in inbound traffic on filtered ports since the election.

If there’s a lesson here for the rest of the world, perhaps it’s this: Install a few proxy instances on machines you control. Learn how to lock them down properly. Swap them with your friends overseas who live in places where the Internet is fragile. Set up your tunnels and test them. And don’t wait until the tanks are in the streets to figure this out, because by that point, you may have already lost the proxy war.

Silicon Valley should step up, help Iranians
BY Cyrus Farivar / June 30, 2009

“Until Iran’s election and ensuing political crisis, many Silicon Valley companies had ignored Persian-language services almost entirely. It’s easy to understand why. First, there’s an American embargo against Iran, which forbids American companies from doing business with that country. Second, there is a perception that the Iranian community (particularly outside of Los Angeles) is not that large or significant. Third, most Iranians in the United States are well-educated, upper-class people who speak English very well.

So ignoring Iran has been convenient – there has seemingly been no real business motivation for tech companies to make their products useful for Iranians both inside and outside Iran. This thinking is despite the fact that there are more Persian speakers worldwide than Korean speakers. That’s about 100 million people, including the 75 million Iranians (including the diaspora) plus neighboring Tajikistan and Afghanistan. Sure, Korea is a much more wired society than Iran, but that also means there is that much more opportunity for Iranian online applications and software to take off in the marketplace.

So instead of superficial support, like Twitter users changing their avatars to green to support Iran’s reformist movement, Silicon Valley minds and money should pool resources as a way to help Iranians get around this information blockade by providing easier-to-use proxies, anonymizers and maybe even unfiltered Internet access through hardware.

Long-range Wi-Fi, 3G, satellite or other wireless communications devices from Iran’s neighboring countries or even the Persian Gulf could be used to get faster and better information in and out of Iran. One Arizona company, Space Data, even advertises the capability to use helium-filled balloons to provide Internet and mobile phone access. Much of Iran could theoretically be covered with one or two such balloons. All of that may sound crazy, but not helping Iranian reformers at their darkest hour would be crazier.”


“With all the turmoil and internet censorship in Iran making it difficult to get an accurate picture of what’s going, security researchers have found a way to locate gaps in Iran’s filtering by analyzing traffic exiting Iran. The short version is that SSH, torrents and Flash are high priorities for blocking, while game protocols like WoW and Xbox traffic are being ignored, even though they also allow communication. Hopefully, this data will help people think of new ways to bypass filtering and speak freely, even though average Iranians have worse things to worry about than internet censorship, now that the reformists have been declared anti-Islamic by the Supreme Leader. Given the circumstances, that declaration has been called ‘basically a death sentence’ for those who continue protesting.”

Reader CaroKann sends in a related story at the Washington Post about an analysis of the vote totals in the Iranian election (similar to, but different from the one we discussed earlier) in which the authors say the election results have a one in two-hundred chance of being legitimate.

Iranian Traffic Engineering
BY Craig Labovitz / June 17th, 2009

The outcome of the Iranian elections now hangs in the balance and perhaps, also on the availability of the Internet (or at least Twitter and Facebook according to the US State Department). Based on significant Internet engineering changes over the last week, the Iranian government seems to agree… While other countries (e.g. Burma in 2007) completely unplugged the country during political unrest, Iran has taken a decidedly different tact.

Before going further, I should note that we have no direct insight into Iranian political machinations nor telecommunications policy. But the 100 ISPs participating in the Internet Observatory provide some interesting hints on how the Iranian government may hope to control Internet access. The state owned Data communication Company of Iran (or DCI) acts as the gateway for all Internet traffic entering or leaving the country. Historically, Iranian Internet access has enjoyed some level of freedom despite government filtering and monitoring of web sites.

In normal times, DCI carries roughly 5 Gbps of traffic (with a reported capacity of 12 Gbps) through 6 upstream regional and global Internet providers. For the region, this represents an average level of Internet infrastructure (for purposes of perspective, a mid size ISP in Michigan carries roughly the same level of traffic).

Then the Iranian Internet stopped. One the day after the elections on June 13th at 1:30pm GMT (9:30am EDT and 6:00pm Tehran / IRDT), Iran dropped off the Internet. All six regional and global providers connecting Iran to the rest of the world saw a near complete loss of traffic. The below graph shows Iranian Internet traffic through Iran’s six upstream providers.

{Note: All data comes from analysis of Internet Observatory anonymous ASPath traffic statistics from which we infer upstream ISP traffic. Also a few caveats — Iranian traffic is such a small part of global Internet traffic levels that the Observatory data is fairly noisy. We used a number of standard statistical approaches to normalize the sampled dataset.}

As noted earlier, Iran normally sees around 5 Gbps of traffic with typical diurnal and weekly curves (though Iran sees dips both on Iranian weekend of Thurs / Friday as well as during western Sat / Sun weekends). From the view of the Observatory, most Internet traffic to Iran goes through Reliance (formerly Flag) Telecom, the major Asia Pacific region underseas cable operator. Singtel, a major pan-Asian provider and Türk Telekom also provide significant transit.

Initially, DCI severed most of the major transit connections into Iran. Within a few hours, a trickle of traffic returned across TeliaSonera, Reliance and SignTel — all well under 1 Gbps.

The below graph shows a zoomed in view of the outage and earlier graph.

As of 6:30am GMT June 16, traffic levels returned to roughly 70% of normal with Reliance traffic climbing by more than a Gigabit. So what is happening to Iranian traffic? I can only speculate. But DCI’s Internet changes suggest piecemeal migration of traffic flows. Typically off the shelf / inexpensive Internet proxy and filtering appliances can support 1 Gbps or lower. If DCI needed to support higher throughput (say, all Iranian Internet traffic), then redirecting subsets of traffic as the filtering infrastructure comes online would make sense.

Unlike Burma, Iran has significant commercial and technological relationships with the rest of the world. In other words, the government cannot turn off the Internet without impacting business and perhaps generating further social unrest. In all, this represents a delicate balance for the Iranian government and a test case for the Internet to impact democratic change. Events are still unfolding in Iran, but some reports are saying the Internet has already won.


Could Iran Shut Down Twitter?
BY Jonathan Zittrain / June 15th, 2009

Iran has been able to impose a finely grained Internet filtering regime, not having to deal with the sheer volume of traffic that, say, China has. It’s able to treat its Internet-using public the way a school can filter what its kids see on their PCs. All Internet traffic is routed through a server farm that applies the filtering. (The government used to run U.S. company Secure Computing’s (since acquired by McAfee) SmartFilter software. Secure Computing denied selling the software to Iran; see Wikipedia’s summary. Today Iran runs its own home-grown filtering software.)

So it’d be trivial for the Iranian government to block access to Twitter as it could to any particular Web site, and it could even block access to some Twitter users’ feeds there while leaving others open, by simply configuring its filters to allow some Twitter urls through while filtering others. But Twitter isn’t just any particular Web site. It’s an atom designed to be built into other molecules. More than most, Twitter allows multiple paths in and out for data. Its open APIs make it trivially easy for any other Web service provider to insert a stream of tweets in or to capture what comes out. Thus Twitterfall can provide a waterfall of tweets — all viewable by going there instead of to Twitter. Anyone using at Twitterfall can tweet from there as well. You can hook up your Facebook status in either direction, so that when you tweet it automatically updates your Facebook status — or the other way around.

The very fact that Twitter itself is half-baked, coupled with its designers’ willingness to let anyone build on top of it to finish baking it (I suppose it helps not to have any apparent business model that relies on drawing people to the actual Twitter Web site), is what makes it so powerful. There’s no easy signature for a tweet-in-progress if its shorn of a direct connection to the servers at twitter.com. And with so many ways to get those tweets there and back without the user needing twitter.com, it’s far more naturally censorship resistant than most other Web sites. Less really is more. Publius points out that Iran could simply cut off all Internet access, or at least all access for most people there. Maybe it’ll come to that.

“Have you ever come across a web site that you could not access and wondered,”Am I the only one?” Herdict Web aggregates reports of inaccessible sites, allowing users to compare data to see if inaccessibility is a shared problem. By crowdsourcing data from around the world, we can document accessibility for any web site, anywhere.”

Iran Pro-Regime Voices Multiply Online
BY Christopher Rhoads and Geoffrey A. Fowler / July 3, 2009

Supporters of Iran’s regime are taking a cue from the opposition’s strategy: They’re mounting an online offensive. Thousands of Iranians used social-networking sites and blogs after Iran’s election last month to criticize the government and spread news of its violent clashes with protesters. But over the past week, a growing number of Iranian users of Twitter — the online service that allows users to send short messages — have been “tweeting” in favor of the regime, according to Internet security experts and others studying the development.

Some messages throw cold water on planned protests. “Staying at home tomorrow to avoid angering my elected govt,” one user with the name Eyeran wrote. Others make threats. A user with the name Vagheeiat (Persian for “realities”) said in an online message to an apparent opposition supporter: “The Basij [volunteer militia] protects the honor of the people and is the killer of you, liars and puppets of the U.S.” Ariel Silverstone, an Internet security expert in Atlanta, says the number of pro-government messages on Twitter in the past few days has increased to about 100 every six hours from just one every 12 hours or so earlier in the post-election period.

It is impossible to determine whether the comments come from members of Iran’s government or simply supporters. Attempts to reach such users of Twitter weren’t successful. But Internet experts see clues in certain patterns of use. In the case of Vagheeiat, the user biography on Twitter says the person who sent the message is a member of a unit of the Revolutionary Guard, which oversees the Basij. The user’s profile links to the Web site of the Revolutionary Guard unit. Vagheeiat used Twitter on only one day, last Thursday.

On Twitter, users can receive the messages of others by choosing to “follow” them, or joining in conversations on a certain topic. Many of the Iranian users sending pro-government missives opened accounts only a few days ago, and have few, if any, followers — nor are they following anyone else, Mr. Silverstone said. Also pointing to an orchestrated effort, some pro-regime messages are simultaneously blasted from different online accounts at regular intervals. Among them: “Mousavi the Instigator is in custody,” referring to opposition leader Mir Hossein Mousavi. Twitter Inc.’s co-founder Biz Stone declined to comment.

The government “has made a concrete effort to fight the opposition online,” Mr. Silverstone says. “Over the past few days this has really increased.” While some of the tactics are new — particularly the use of Twitter — the regime and its supporters aren’t new to the Internet. President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has had his own blogs, in English and Persian, since the summer of 2006, and posted four messages before the recent election. Earlier this year, the Revolutionary Guard put out a call online for 10,000 bloggers to spread its views.

In one instance, the regime has sought to tap into the power of the Internet to help identify and round up individuals for arrest. A Web site called Gerdab, which means “vortex” in Persian, shows nearly two dozen candid photos of individuals with their faces circled in red. The site, which says it is owned by the organized-crime-fighting unit of the Revolutionary Guard, states that these people were behind the post-election chaos, and seeks information about them. There are spaces for visitors to the site to enter names, addresses, phone numbers and other information about the people who are marked. The site says that so far two of the people pictured had been identified and arrested.

The technique — which is commonly called crowd-sourcing and relies on the shared knowledge of numbers of people — is typically used for things like working out the bugs in new software or rating restaurants. “It would not be the first time that a photo has led to trouble or imprisonment in a conflict. However, this is a new development in officially sanctioned stalking and persecution by crowd-sourcing information online,” an Iranian blogger in Brussels wrote under the pen name Hamid Tehrani. He is the Iran editor of Web site Global Voices Online, but declined to provide his real name.

The online protest movement appears to be losing steam. After the election, fan pages for Mr. Mousavi on the social-networking site Facebook were signing up several thousand new users a day. The number of supporters listed by the most popular Facebook fan page for Mr. Mousavi, which swelled from about 2,500 a few weeks before the election to more than 100,000, hasn’t grown much since last week. Sassan, a Californian in his 30s who declined to give his last name, says his cousin in Iran stopped using Facebook after his friends were shown pictures of their Facebook pages and copies of their emails while jailed after a protest.

Other observers say the action online is mirroring what is happening on the street. “There is a little less activity because there is a little less to take a picture of,” says Jonathan Zittrain, a co-founder of Harvard University’s Berkman Center for Internet & Society. Richard Stiennon, the founder of Internet security firm IT-Harvest, notes the number of messages on Twitter relating to the Iranian unrest has plummeted in recent days — giving way to last week’s news of the death of pop star Michael Jackson.

A Deeper Look at The Iranian Firewall
BY Craig Labovitz

In the previous blog post about the Iranian firewall, we explored macro level Iranian traffic engineering changes (showing that Iran cut all communication after the election and then slowly added back Internet connectivity over the course of several days). Like many other news reports and bloggers, we also speculated on Iran’s intent — how was the government manipulating Internet traffic and why?

Thanks to the cooperation of several ISPs in the region and Internet Observatory data, we can now do a bit better than speculate — we have pieced together a rough picture of what the Iranian government’s Internet firewall appears to be doing. The data shows that DCI, the Iranian state run telecommunications agency, has selectively blocked or rate-limited targeted Internet applications (either by payload inspection or ports).

I’ll step through several of these applications. On average, Internet traffic is dominated by web pages (roughly 40-50% of all Internet traffic). And the vast majority of this web traffic (unless you happen to be Google or Facebook) goes into ISPs and the millions of associated end users (as opposed to traffic going out of a country or ISP). Iran is no exception.

The below graph shows web traffic (TCP port 80) into Iran over the days before and immediately after the election. Though the graph clearly shows a brief post-election outage followed by a decrease in web traffic, the Iranian web traffic was comparatively unaffected by Iran filter changes. Based on reports of Iran’s pre-existing Internet filtering capabilities, I’d speculate DCI did not require significant additional web filtering infrastructure.

In contrast, the next graph shows streaming video traffic (Adobe Flash) going into and out of Iran. Note the significant increase of video traffic immediately preceding the election (presumably reflecting high levels of Iranian interest in outside news sources). All video traffic immediately stops on the Saturday following the election (June 13th at 6:00pm Tehran / IRDT) and unlike the web, never returns to pre-election levels.

The next graph on Iranian applications filters shows email into and out of the country. Again note the run up in email traffic immediately preceding the election (especially outbound mails). And then? The data suggests DCI began blocking some outgoing email even before the election completed. Following the election, email returned at reduced levels (again, presumably because DCI had filtering infrastructure in place).

Finally, a look at the top applications now blocked by the DCI firewall(s). The chart shows average percentage decrease in application traffic in the days before and after the election. As discussed earlier, the Iranian firewalls appear to be selectively impacting application traffic. I’ll note that ssh (a secure communication protocol) tops the list followed by video streaming and file sharing.

While the rapidly evolving Iranian firewall has blocked web, video and most forms of interactive communication, not all Internet applications appear impacted. Interestingly, game protocols like xbox and World of Warcraft show little evidence of government manipulation.

Perhaps games provide a possible source of covert channels (e.g. “Bring your elves to the castle on the island of Azeroth and we’ll plan the next Ahmadinejad protest rally?”)

Why Twitter Doesn’t Mean the End of Iranian Censorship
BY Hal Roberts / June 16, 2009

Amid post-election protests in Iran, the government has apparently increased its filtering of sites, such as Twitter and Facebook, that host potentially offensive (to the government) content–and even reportedly turned off for a short period the Internet connection to the rest of the world. A question simple to ask–but difficult to answer–is whether Iranians are successfully bypassing the filtering through proxies or other filtering circumvention tools.

Academic research has established for years that the government of Iran closely filters its Internet connections, blocking sites that it does not like (mostly pornographic ones, but political and religious sites as well). The government of Iran can do this easily because virtually all traffic flows through a single government-controlled ISP. (In fact, Iran for years used McAfee SmartFilter, a product of a U.S. company, to perform this filtering, but it uses its own homegrown filtering tools now.)

Some users combat this filtering by employing proxies, routing their traffic through a machine outside of Iran so that the Iran filter sees only traffic to that proxy, effectively exchanging Iran’s control of the network for the proxy’s control of its network. Iran responds by blocking these proxies as it finds them, and these proxy users respond by continually looking for new, unblocked proxies or by using tools like UltraSurf that do the work of filtering out government interference themselves.

Data about proxy use is naturally hard to find (the point is to hide the users’ usage), but our best data indicate that interest in using proxies has increased substantially over the past year and has doubled in the past week. But such use is confined to a small portion of Iranian Internet users; it’s in the low single percentage points. Google searches for “proxy,” for instance, remain orders of magnitude less popular than searches for “election.” Likewise, a steady flow of information about the protests has come out of Twitter, but the number of Iranian users actually Twittering seems to be a tiny portion of Iranians. As far as we can tell, the Iranian government has done a pretty good job of blocking its citizens’ Web requests to sites that it does not want them to see, including during the current crisis.

But new technologies make the battle over filtering harder to judge. Even though the government has reportedly blocked Twitter.com, a defining attribute of Twitter is that it is an open system in that it allows a wide diversity of external tools and sites to read from and write to its service through its programming interface. Jonathan Zittrain and John Palfrey point out that as content is divorced from delivery through such open systems, blocking, for example, Twitter-as-a-network-system much harder than simply blocking Twitter the site, since there are dozens of tools and sites that directly read and write the Twitter data stream.

And as with other recent global crises, the widespread use of distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks has made it possible to filter a site by flooding it with so much data that it can no longer respond to legitimate users, rendering proxies useless for those sites. The tools to launch DDoS attacks, including simple Twitter campaigns to overload a list of sites, have become easily available, so both pro-government and protest actors have directed these attacks at each other’s sites.

But the technical issue of whether a given site returns a response for a given set of people captures only one small part of the larger problem of determining who controls the flows of information on the Internet and through media and social networks in general. A fuller approach to the problem is to think about those flows of information and how they are being filtered, by social and political as well as technical means. We should ask, for example, whether the information from the core group of proxy/Twitter users is filtering out to the wider Iranian and global communities, how it is flowing to and through those communities, and what effect the information is having as it filters out. The answers to those questions are impossible to determine in real time from the outside, given the chaos and confusion of the situation. As with the protests, time and perspective will tell.

{As a Fellow at the Berkman Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University, Hal Roberts performs primary research into global Internet filtering.}


WSJ: Nokia, Siemens Help Iran Spy on Internet Users
BY Kim Zetter E / June 22, 2009

According to a somewhat confusing Wall Street Journal story, Iran has adopted NSA-like techniques and installed equipment on its national telecommunication network last year that allows it to spy on the online activities and correspondence — including the content of e-mail and VoIP phone calls — of its internet users. Nokia Siemens Networks, a joint venture between Germany’s Siemens and Finland’s Nokia, installed the monitoring equipment late last year in Iran’s government-controlled telecom network, Telecommunication Infrastructure Co., but authorities only recently engaged its full capabilities in response to recent protests that have broken out in the country over its presidential election.

The equipment allows the state to conduct deep-packet inspection, which sifts through data as it flows through a network searching for keywords in the content of e-mail and voice transmissions. According to the Journal, Iran seems to be doing this for the entire country from a single choke point. “Seems,” because although the Journal states that Nokia Siemens installed the equipment and that signs indicate the country is conducting deep-packet inspection, the paper also says “it couldn’t be determined whether the equipment from Nokia Siemens Networks is used specifically for deep packet inspection.”

Although the Journal has published questionable “spying” stories in the past, we’re willing to go with them on this one. It’s previously been reported that Iran was blocking access to some web sites for people inside the country as protesters took to the streets and the internet to dispute the results of the country’s recent presidential election. But sources told the Journal that the government’s activities have gone beyond censorship to massive spying. They say the deep-packet inspection, which deconstructs data in transit then reconstructs it, could be responsible for network activity in Iran having recently slowed to less than a tenth of its regular speed. The slowdown could be caused by the inspection at a single point, rather than at numerous network points, as China reportedly does it. A brochure promoting the equipment sold to Iran says the technology allows for “the monitoring and interception of all types of voice and data communication on all networks.”

A spokesman for Nokia Siemens Networks defended the sale of the equipment to Iran suggesting that the company provided the technology with the idea that it would be used for “lawful intercept,” such as combating terrorism, child pornography, drug trafficking and other criminal activity. Equipment installed for law enforcement purposes, however, can easily be used for spying as well. “If you sell networks, you also, intrinsically, sell the capability to intercept any communication that runs over them,” the spokesman told the Journal. He added that the company “does have a choice about whether to do business in any country” but said, “We believe providing people, wherever they are, with the ability to communicate is preferable to leaving them without the choice to be heard.” In March, the company sold off its monitoring technology to a German investment firm.

Deep-Packet Inspection in U.S. Scrutinized Following Iran Surveillance
BY Kim Zetter / June 29, 2009

Following a report last week that Iran is spying on domestic internet users with western-supplied technology, advocacy groups are pressuring federal lawmakers to scrutinize the use of the same technology in the U.S. The Open Internet Coalition sent a letter to all members of the House and Senate urging them to launch hearings aimed at examining and possibly regulating the so-called deep-packet inspection technology. Two senators also announced plans to introduce a bill that would bar foreign companies that sell IT technology to Iran from obtaining U.S. government contracts, legislation that is clearly aimed at the two European companies that reportedly sold the equipment to Iran. The Wall Street Journal reported last week that Nokia Siemens Networks, a joint venture between Germany’s Siemens and Finland’s Nokia, recently gave Iran deep-packet inspection equipment that would allow the government to spy on internet users. According to the Journal, Iranian officials have used deep-packet surveillance to snoop on the content of e-mail, VoIP calls and other online communication as well as track users’ other online activity, such as uploading videos to YouTube. Iranian officials are said to be using it to monitor activists engaged in protests over the country’s recent disputed presidential election, though the Journal said it couldn’t confirm whether Iran was using the Nokia Siemens Networks equipment for this purpose or equipment from another maker. Nokia Siemens has denied that it provided Iran with such technology.

But similar technology is being installed at ISPs in the U.S. It spurred extensive controversy last year when Charter Communications, one of the country’s largest ISPs, announced that it planned to use deep-packet inspection to spy on broadband customers to help advertisers deliver targeted ads. The plan sparked a backlash and heated congressional hearings. Publicity about the issue died down, however, after Charter retreated from its plan, and Congress moved on to other matters. But deep-packet inspection didn’t go away. ISPs insist they need it to help combat spam and malware. But the technology is ripe for abuse, not only by ISPs but also by the U.S. government, which could force providers to retain and hand over data they collect about users.

In its letter to lawmakers urging them to investigate the technology, the Open Internet Coalition delicately avoided placing the U.S. government in the same category as Iran by not mentioning possible U.S. government abuses of the technology. “We do not believe U.S. network owners intend to interfere with political communications in the way the Iranian government is doing, but the control technologies they are deploying on the internet carry the same enormous power,” the Coalition writes. “And, whether an inspection system is used to disrupt political speech or achieve commercial purposes, both require the same level of total surveillance of all communications between end-users and the internet.”

At a House subcommittee hearing this year to examine the technology, Rep. Rick Boucher (D-Virginia) also expressed alarm. “The thought that a network operator could track a user’s every move on the Internet, record the details of every search and read every e-mail or attached document is alarming,” he said. With regard to the sale of the technology to Iran, Sens. Charles E. Schumer (D-New York) and Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina) attempted to address the Nokie Siemens issue with a bill that would prevent foreign companies selling sensitive technology to Iran from either obtaining new government contracts or renewing existing ones, unless they halt their exports to Iran. According to NextGov, Nokia did more than $10 million in business with the U.S. government between 2000 and 2008; Siemens has nearly 2,000 U.S. government contracts and obtained $250 million in U.S. government contracts this year alone. Nokia Siemens Networks currently has more than $5 million in U.S. government contracts. Neither Schumer nor Graham mentioned how such a law would be enforced if foreign companies used proxies to sell their products to Iran to circumvent the regulation.

The U.S. government embargo against U.S. companies selling to Iran is one of the tightest. The embargo currently prevents any U.S. individual or company from obtaining a license to sell goods and technologies to Iran that could be used for, among other things, missile proliferation purposes, chemical and biological warfare proliferation, human rights and crime control. The embargo, however, has done little to prevent Iran from obtaining U.S. technology anyway. In the meantime, consumers called for a boycott of Nokia and Siemens products. And Hands Across the Mideast Support Alliance (HAMSA) has organized a writing campaign urging users to send a protest letter to Nokia. According to the organization’s site, nearly 4,000 people have acknowledged sending the letter so far.

Iranian Women Take To The Streets, Demand Equal Rights, Economic Opportunities
BY Martha Raddatz and Susan Rucci / June 19, 2009

The huge rallies this week in Iran, the largest seen since the 1979 Islamic Revolution, have included thousands of women, who have taken to the streets to oppose the government of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Some are dubbing itthe “lipstick revolution.” A week after the contested election that declared incumbent President Ahmadinejad the winner, protests over alleged voting fraud still continue strong.

Women, old and young, are visible at every rally — chanting, shouting, defiantly flashing V for Victory signs, carrying placards protesting the election results, defying the police and, in some cases, facing brutal retaliation. Others say the presence of so many woman is only the tip of the iceberg. “This movement is not about wearing lipstick and throwing their veil off,” Kelly Nikinejad, editor of Tehranbureau.com, told ABC News. “It’s so much deeper than that.” Many Iranian women want what they have desired for so long — equal rights. Women make up an important part of Iran’s population. They constitute 65 percent of all university students, but only 12 percent of women are in the workforce. Additionally, under the current law, women do not have equal divorce, child custody or inheritance rights. Last year, Ahmadinejad’s government tried to push a “family protection law” through parliament. The law would ease restrictions on polygamy and taxing mehriyeh, the traditional payment a husband gives a wife upon marriage, angering many.

In this election, women, who have been on the forefront of many a political movement in the country including the 1979 Revolution, threw their weight boldly behind Mir Hossein Mousavi, the reformist candidate who enjoys overwhelming support but according to election results, was defeated by a wide margin by Ahmadinejad, leading the opposition and their supporters to cry foul. “They are very brave,” Nikinejad said. “They go and they get beat up every day and they come back and they say I hurt, I hurt there, and then the next day they go back and they get pepper sprayed, beaten up, it’s amazing.” The bold support for Mousavi does not mean that Ahmadinejad does not have a female base. In fact, many women showed up at his rallies as well and strongly believe that he would solve their problems — from housing to health care. But to many Iranian women frustrated about their lives, Mousavi’s message of change and hope and equal rights struck a deep chord.

Iranian Women Demand Equal Rights
And they saw hope not only in Mousavi, but also in his wife, Zahra Rahnavard, a reflection of themselves. Rahnavard became the first Iranian women to openly campaign with her husband. “She was the image of change in Iran,” Nikinejad said. “She’s a very educated woman. She has two PhDs. She’s authored 20 books.” Mousavi and his wife called for more economic and social rights for women. “Changing this mentality and picture [of women] can be very helpful because if we step toward improving the situation of our women then we have progressed along the path of elimination of discrimination,” Mousavi said at a rally last week. “Women will be educated and trained so that they can be employed,” he said at another event.

His wife has also spoken out openly against Ahmadinejad’s government. “Today, we feel that an atmosphere of freedom of speech, press and thought, which we are all interested in and have confidence in, is absent. We feel that we do not possess an independent and great economy because of the wrong policies and adventurous behavior at a national and international level, and because of unilateral decisions without consultation with experts,” Rahnavard said at a political rally. “Now is the time we feel that we must be present on the scene.” Over the last few years, women once fearful in many of parts of the world are finding the courage to speak out. In 2002, in Bangladesh thousands of women marched demanding equal rights, and earlier this year 300 Afghan women protested a Taliban law that allowed marital rape. But the big question that remains to be answered is whether these courageous acts witnessed around the world will make a difference in Iran.

“The SMS (Short Message Service) system in Iran has been taken down, just hours before polls open for Friday’s presidential election. The Ghalam News report, translated from Persian, says that the popular network “was cut off throughout the country.” The action occurred just before midnight local time, less than nine hours before the start of elections. “All walks of life from all over the country” are discovering that “messages on different cell phone networks will not send.” The disruption in communication occurred after reformist candidates have been increasingly using Twitter and text messaging to rally support, per the Wall Street Journal. Approximatey 110 millions SMS messages have been sent per day leading up to the election, according to The Tehran Times.”

“Persian blogger Hossein Derakshan says Iranian officials recently detained several staff and web technicians who worked on banned reformist websites, in order to gain control of the sites. They have now reportedly taken control of the servers, shut them down, and deleted all of their content.”

“The Islamic Republic of Iran continues to expand and consolidate its technical filtering system, which is among the most extensive in the world. A centralized system for Internet filtering has been implemented that augments the filtering conducted at the Internet service provider (ISP) level. Iran now employs domestically produced technology for identifying and blocking objectionable Web sites, reducing its reliance on Western filtering technologies. The regulatory agencies in Iran charged with policing the Internet continue to expand. The Revolutionary Guard has begun to play an active role in enforcing Internet content standards.”

Iran cancels foreign media accreditation


“A purge of reform-oriented individuals….” / 17 June 2009

PROXY WARS (cont.)

Newspaper Roozonline has an interview (in Persian) with one of the young plainclothes militiamen who have been beating protesters. The Guardian’s Robert Tait sends this synopsis: “The man, who has come from a small town in the eastern province of Khorasan and has never been in Tehran before, says he is being paid 2m rial (£122) to assault protestors with a heavy wooden stave. He says the money is the main incentive as it will enable him to get married and may even enable him to afford more than one wife. Leadership of the volunteers has been provided by a man known only as “Hajji”, who has instructed his men to “beat the counter-revolutionaries so hard that they won’t be able to stand up”. The volunteers, most of them from far-flung provinces such as Khuzestan, Arak and Mazandaran, are being kept in hostel accommodation, reportedly in east Tehran. Other volunteers, he says, have been brought from Lebanon, where the Iranian regime has strong allies in the Hezbollah movement. They are said to be more highly-paid than their Iranian counterparts and are put up in hotels. The last piece of information seems to confirm the suspicion of many Iranians that foreign security personnel are being used to suppress the demonstrators. For all his talk of the legal process, this interview provides a key insight into where Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, believes the true source of his legitimacy rests.”

Suppression of Dissent – The Players

Currently, there are two or three, maybe four, groups who are suppressing the students on the ground that you’ll read about throughout this thread:
1. The Basij
2. Ansar Hizbullah (which I will refer to as Ansar)
3. Lebanese Hizbullah (Unconfirmed rumour but either a probable or a persistent one. Der Spiegel, based on a Voice of America report, says that 5,000 Hizbullah fighters are currently in Iran masquerading as riot police, confirming the independent reports. Iran Press News has posted two photographs of men they claim are Hizbullah and Hamas mercenaries. Many different independent reports and video point that way. Even in the last days other independent twitter feeds have declared witnessing thugs beating on people while shouting in Arabic; I will refer to them as Hizbullah)
4. Lebanese Hamas (unconfirmed and doubtful. This rumour has been cropping up, with some of the most twitter feeds saying they had visual confirmation of Lebanese Hamas fighters along with Lebanese Hizbullah member. You should definitely take with a grain of salt, but it has been mentioned often enough, by sources generally always right, that it deserves of a mention here. Iran Press TV also claims to have posted a picture of Hamas mercenaries. I will refer to them as Hamas)

– The Basij are your regular paramilitary organization. They are the armed hand of the clerics. The Basij are a legal group, officially a student union, and are legally under direct orders of the Revolutionary Guard. Their main raison d’être is to quell dissent. They are the ones who go and crack skulls, force people to participate in pro-regime demonstrations, and generally try to stop any demonstrations from even starting. They are located throughout the country, in every mosque, every university, every social club you can think of. They function in a way very similar to the brownshirts.

They were the ones who first started the crackdown after the election, but it wasn’t enough. While they are violent and repressive, they are still Persian and attacking fellow citizens. A beating is one thing, mass killings another.

– Another group was working with them, whose members are even more extreme, is Ansar. There is a lot of cross-membership between the Basij and Ansar, though not all are members of the other group and vice-versa. The vast majority of Ansar are Persians (either Basij or ex-military), though a lot of Arab recruits come from Lebanon and train with them under supervision of the Revolutionary Guard. They are not functioning under a legal umbrella, they are considered a vigilante group, but they pledge loyalty directly to the Supreme Leader and most people believe that they are under his control. They are currently helping the Basij to control the riots, but due to the fact that they are Persians and in lower numbers than the Basij, they are not that active.

– The Lebanese Hizbullah is a direct offshoot (and under direct control) of the Iranian Hizbullah (itself under direct control of the Supreme Leader) and cooperates closely with Ansar though Ansar occupies itself only with Iran’s domestic policies, while Hizbullah occupies itself only with Iran’s foreign policy unless there is a crisis like right now. However, Hizbullah has been called to stop violent riots in Iran in the past.

(The following paragraph includes some speculation based on reports from ground zero, it is no confirmed, this is what was reported early on by various twitter feeds considered credible, so do not take this as anything but unconfirmed rumours) Hizbullah flew in a lot of their members in Iran, most likely a good deal even before the elections in case there were trouble. They are the ones who speak Arabs and are unleashing the biggest level of violence on the Persians so far. Another wave arrived recently and there is chatter that yet another wave of Hizbullah reinforcements are coming in from Lebanon as we speak. According to Iranians on the ground, they are the ones riding motorcycles, beating men women and children indiscriminately and firing live ammunitions at students.

– The Lebanese Hamas is a branch of Hamas set-up in Lebanon. Like Hamas in Gaza, Hamas in Lebanon is directly under the orders of the Hamas council of Damascus known as Majlis al-Shurah. While it is surprising to hear that they might be involved, and as I said take these reports with a grain of salt until we get more confirmations, it is not illogical either. Iran has become the main benefactor of Hamas in the last years, branching out from only supporting Islamic Jihad. They now provide Hamas with the bulk of their budget, with advanced weaponry and training by the Iranian Revolutionary Guard. Not only does Hamas own them a lot, but if the Republic falls, Hamas finds itself in dire trouble. It is very likely that, at the call of Iran, the Majlis al-Shura would have decided to send fighters from their Lebanese Hamas branch along with Hizbullah fighters if it was requested of them.

Other Players
The Police – Iran’s police force is not dissimilar to your run-of-the-mill law enforcement apparatus in other dictatorships, with the difference that they are not generally as brutal and repressive. This is because the Basij are generally in charge of these activities, meaning that Iranian policemen generally concentrate more on the law and order aspect of Iranian daily life.

Today, it is thought that the Iranian police numbers close to 60,000 members, in contrast with up to a million Basij members. This is one of the reasons why we hear much more about the plainclothes militia than we do about the police right now, the other being that the Basij and Ansar are much more willing to violently assault their fellow citizens than even the regular police force. This is not as much a testament to the decency of your average police officers as much as a damning report of what the Basij and Ansar thugs are like.

There are also subdivisions and extra-legal forces attached to the police force. The major subdivision would be the riot police (So-called Unit 110) who are actually much more violent than regular police officers, but also in much, much smaller numbers. There is also VEVAK, the secret police. Very little is known and confirmed about them, except their extreme tactics include murder, kidnapping and torture.

The Army
In Iran, there are actually two armies. They are divided between Artesh and Pasdaran. Artesh is the regular Military apparatus of the Republic. Their numbers, including reservists, go up to a million members, but only half of them have received anything more than very basic training. As it is often the case in police states, there is very little known and confirmed about the structure of the Army itself. They were created prior to the Iranian Revolution, in fact this army has existed in one form or another, and is a continuation, for more than 2,500 years. This is not as impressive as it sounds, however, as they often underwent drastic changes, there is no real links between the current incarnations, and the top echelons were most often purged when new rulers took power. In fact, in the last 100 years, those purges happened between two or three times, depending on the count, the last time centered around the time of the Islamic revolution, when most generals were forced to flee, killed, or killed while in exile.

Artesh took the brunt of the military casualties during the Iran-Iraq war, the army is considered to very nationalist and not extremely religious, which explains why they have declared their neutrality and refusal to repress the situation, as they see their purpose to defend the Iranian population. Everyone agrees they will be the ultimate key to this Revolution when they finally decide to take a side, or alternatively force the Pasdaran to stay on the sidelines with them.

Pasdaran, also known as Iranian Revolutionary Guard
The Iranian Ground forces (I will focus on them, as the Navy and Air force are currently irrelevant, will update if the situation changes) have been estimated between 100,000 and 130,000 units total. As always, truth most likely resides somewhere in the middle. They are, much like the Basij and Ansar, subservient directly to the Supreme Leader, and ideologically created in the spirit of defending the Islamic Revolution ideals and Republic, not Iran per se. They also control the Basij.

They are a child of the revolution, and they are more geared toward guerilla warfare than they are for military engagements. They are also the force responsible for training the various terrorist groups financed and supported by the Iranian government. They are fanatically devoted to the Republic through intense indoctrination.

The elite troops are called Quds. They are considered the elite of the elite, but they only number between 2000-6000, although rumours say that they are twice or three time as big. They are, however, rumours and quite unlikely. Ultimately, the Revolutionary Council and the Supreme Leader will call on them if they think they are on the verge of losing power, however it is unlikely that the army will just stay on the sidelines if this happens.

The Grand Ayatollahs
The Grand Ayatollahs are Shiite clerics who first attained the position of Ayatollahs and then, through their knowledge of Islamic Jurisprudence, attained a supreme position and are regarded as the most important voice in Shia Islam today. They revolve around the holy Shiite city of Qom, though some live outside Iran.

Niruyeh Moghavemat Basij / Mobilisation Resistance Force

The Pasdaran was given the mandate of organizing a large people’s militia, the Basij, in 1980. Islamic Revolution Guards (Vezarat-e Sepah Pasdaran-e Enqelab-e Islamic) is in charge of the paramilitary national Mobilization of the Oppressed (Baseej-e Mostazafan) Organisation. It is from Basij ranks that volunteers were drawn to launch “human wave” attacks against the Iraqis, particularly around Basra.

The precise size of the Basij is an open question. Basij membership comprises mainly boys, old men, and those who recently finished their military service. Article 151 of the Constitution says the government is obligated to provide military-training facilities for everyone in the country, in accordance with the precepts of Islam under which all individuals should have the ability to take up arms in defense of their country

Iranian officials frequently cite a figure of 20 million, but this appears to be an exaggeration based on revolutionary leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini’s November 1979 decree creating the Basij. Khomeini said at the time that “a country with 20 million youths must have 20 million riflemen or a military with 20 million soldiers; such a country will never be destroyed.” In a 1985 Iranian News Agency report, Hojjatoleslam Rahmani, head of the Basij forces of the Pasdaran, was quoted as stating that there were close to 3 million volunteers in the paramilitary force receiving training in some 11,000 centers.

General Yahya Rahim-Safavi, the commander of the IRGC, predicted that in the Third Five-Year Development Plan (2000-04) the number of Basijis will expand to 15 million (9 million men, 6 million women) to better counter potential domestic and foreign threats. While apparently falling short of the goal outlined in the plan, Basij commander Brigadier General Mohammad Hejazi estimated the number of Basij personnel at 10.3 million in March 2004 and 11 million in March 2005. Basij commander General Mohammad Hejazi said on 14 September 2005 that the Basij has more than 11 million members across the country.

Other estimates place the force at 400,000. There are about 90,000 active-duty Basij members who are full-time uniformed personnel; they are joined by up to 300,000 reservists. The Basij can mobilize up to 1 million men. This includes members of the University Basij, Student Basij, and the former tribal levies incorporated into the Basij (aka Tribal Basij). Middle-school-aged members of the Student Basij are called Seekers (Puyandegan), and high-school members are called the Vanguard (Pishgaman).

The Niruyeh Moghavemat Basij – the Mobilisation Resistance Force – was the strong right arm of Ayatollah Khomeini. Its volunteers were martyred in their tens of thousands in the Iran-Iraq war, and were given the role of moral police at home. The supreme leader’s equally conservative successor, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, has been careful not to let any of Iran’s overlapping security forces fall under the control of his elected rival.

Ashura Brigades were reportedly created in 1993 after anti-government riots erupted in various Iranian cities. In 1998 they consisted of 17,000 Islamic militia men and women, and were composed of elements of the Revolutionary Guards and the Baseej volunteer militia.

The Basij, or Baseej paramilitary volunteer forces, come under the control of the Revolutionary Guards. They have been active in monitoring the activities of citizens, enforcing the hijab and arresting women for violating the dress code, and seizing ‘indecent’ material and satellite dish antennae. In May 1999 the Minister of Islamic Culture and Guidance stated in public remarks that the Government might support an easing of the satellite ban. However, Supreme Leader Khamenei, who makes the ultimate determination on issues that involve radio and television broadcasting, quickly criticised any potential change as amounting to “surrender” to Western culture, effectively ending any further debate of the idea. The “Special Basijis” are not permitted to participate in political parties or groups, although other members of the Basij can belong to political associations if they are not on a Basij mission and do not use the name or resources of the Basij for the association. Basijis can participate in specialist or trade associations.

Hezbollahi “partisans of God” consist of religious zealots who consider themselves as preservers of the Revolution. They have been active in harassing government critics and intellectuals, have firebombed bookstores and disrupted meetings. They are said to gather at the invitation of the state-affiliated media and generally act without meaningful police restraint or fear of persecution.

President Mohammad Khatami told the cabinet on 22 November 2000 that “the Basij is a progressive force which seeks to play a better role in maintaining religious faith among its allies, and acquiring greater knowledge and skills.” The deputy commander of the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps, Brigadier-General Mohammad Baqer Zolqadr, made comments in a similar vein at the annual Basij Supreme Association for Political Studies and Analysis gathering. He told the audience that the Basij pursued military activities in the first decade after the revolution because the main threat facing Iran at the time was a military one. Now, Zolqadr explained, the Basij will become “involved anywhere if the country’s security, goals, or national interests are threatened.” A statement issued by the Basij Center at the Science and Technology University on 23 November 2000 explained how this will be accomplished : “The Basij Resistance Force is equipped with the most modern and up-to-date weapons and is undergoing the most advanced training. It is making such achievements that if the enemy finds out it will tremble and have a heart attack.” The Basij demonstrated what it would do in case that faile during 23 November 2000 civil defense exercises, when armed Basijis took up positions in the streets and along strategic locations.

The Basij Resistance Force appeared to be undergoing something of a revival under the administration of President Mahmud Ahmadinejad. This could be connected with the organization’s alleged role in securing votes for Ahmadinejad during the presidential campaign and on election day. Ahmadinejad appointed Hojatoleslam Heidar Moslehi, the supreme leader’s representative to the Basij, as an adviser in mid-August 2005. But the revival — along with changes in the paramilitary organization’s senior leadership — could also be connected with preparations for possible civil unrest. In late September 2005, the Basij staged a series of urban defense exercises across the country. General Mirahmadi, the first deputy commander of the Basij, announced in Tehran that the creation of 2,000 Ashura battalions within the Basij will enhance Iran’s defensive capabilities. Ashura units have riot-control responsibilities.

Street Survival Guide / 23-Jun-2009

“This is a document that a friend of mine who is an Iranian-American police officer has put together. He is the member of the SWAT team and he’s an expert on anti riot tactics. he has been watching and studying the videos and the tactics that basij has been using and he put the document together. It would be great to spread this document and pass it on to the kids in Iran. It might save their lives.” — “SB”

“Here are some simple ways of defending yourself when attacked by Basij or Security forces.

Anti riot attacks
Once caught by security forces, the best way to break free is by swinging relentlessly in all directions. Keep in mind that security forces have to hold on to you, which means they only can use one hand to deflect the blows. Brass Knuckle is extremely effective when trying to break loose from the grip of security forces. Wooden brass knuckle is strong and simple to make. The image above is a sample of a basic wooden brass knuckle that can be made with a piece of wood, a cutter and a drill. It should not take more than 30 minutes to make a wooden brass knuckle. Wooden brass knuckle is extremely strong, light weight and versatile. Make sure that the top edges are sharp and round.

Motorcycle attacks
Iranian Basij motorcycle units use attack and retrieve tactics which is meant to create fear more than anything else. The same tactic was used by US police forces on horsebacks when confronting the civil right protestors. The advantage of utilizing motorcycles in urban environment is obvious: motorcycles can go places that cars can’t. However, motorcycles have disadvantages which can handicap the force that uses them.

The most effective way of disabling motorcycles is using tire spikes. Though made of carbon cratnor material, the Basij motorcycle tires cannot withstand multiple punctures. The easiest way to spike Basiji’s tires is by using a simple tire spike system called Iron Caltrop. This simple device can be made in a matter of minutes by wrapping two pieces of nail together in a 65 degree angle. By dropping a handful of Iron Caltrop on the ground, you can deflate the tires of Basijis’ motorcycles in a matter of minutes. If you ride, you know how difficult it is to steer a motorcycle with two flat tires.

Tear gas
A fabric socked in vinegar can very well protect you against tear gas. Cover your nose and mouth with the fabric and keep plenty of water around to wash your eyes if you come in direct contact with tear gas. Urban Legend: burning tires will reduce the effect of tear gas. Not true, it actually increases the effect and it smells bad too.

Riot police is trained to use batons. They understand that it’s easy to hit a stationary target and much easier to hit a target that is running away. Hitting somebody with baton is a matter of timing. The worst thing you can do is to run away from baton whirling security guards because it allows them to time the strike perfectly. The most effective way to counter a security guard with baton is to throw off his timing by going directly at him. That’s right. Run away and turn and go directly at him. When you go directly at the guard and close the distance, you completely screw up his timing. A boxer cannot hit a person that is standing 2 inches away from his face. That’s why boxer bounce around. A baton whirling guard is just like a boxer, he needs to time his strikes. By going directly at the guard and closing distance you mess-up his timing and might even be able to take him down.

Riot formation
Basij and police security guardsmen perform best when crowd disperses and becomes separated. The worst scenario for the riot police is when the crowd is together and inseparable. South Korean labor protestors in the 90s were the best organized units in history of rioting. Thousands of them held on to each other (locked arms) and no matter what, they did not let go. It made it impossible for the riot police to disperse them.

Just a few tips. Please translate and send it back to the youth in Iran. This can save their lives.”

The Survivalist Guide To Protesting / 25 Jun 2009

“A twitterer named lettersoftheliv has published an exhaustive series of tweets as a how-to guide for non-violent demonstrations.

Here’s how to protect yourself from tear gas:
– Do not pick up/throw back tear gas canisters- will severely burn your hands.
– Vinegar soaked bandana helps you breath with tear gas. Contaminates fast, have extra.
– Most tear gas injuries come from PANIC/chaos,not the chemicals:Ppl lose heads.Effects intense but very short-term.
– Stay calm and yell “WALK, WALK” as you walk away from tear gas/pepper spray attack- spread calm.
– Do not wear contact lens- pepper spray can linger and damage your eyes.

How to protect yourself during a basij assault:
– Go limp – When rigid,easy to pick up & move. If limp weight,hard to pick up & move (Always tuck your head by looking at your belly) link arms, stay in large groups, never touch a basiji, consider Sit Down when attacked (depending on plan/setting/ and Weapon)
– If grp sits dwn & police grab at 1 to beat, that 1 should scoot back & ppl behind open up & pull thru to back.Ppl in front close gap.
– If sit in grp&1 beaten w/batons,Ppl drape selves over target:spread hits over 3 ppl’s butts, not 1 prsn’s head.Cover head & torso
– “No-Hit Strategy”-attacked ppl hv instinct 2 hit back:Never let ppl rcv more than 2 hits b4 swarming as group 2 protect.
– Swarm/Surround agitators who are becoming violent so they cannot escalate the situation.
– If police push u n grp,unsafe 2 push back:escalates situation.All cross ankles & sit in place.Impossible 2 push seated group.
– At times you deem appropriate, sing or chant- do things to keep groups spirit strong- this is unbelievably important.
– Stay alert, “Ignore” harassment- ignore yelling, throwing objects, etc Do not react emotionally- Do not engage baiting
– Most powerful weapon you wield is SHAME- from your own religious/cultural context, choose symbolic NV acts.
– Always scan for escape routes, easiest exits.

General preparation:
– Know and trust ppl u are protesting with- don’t mix NV and violent protesters
– Be prepared – with talking points, chants, alternative plans, exit strategy, contingency plans, supplies, etc
– Practice/Roleplay NV de-escalation & tolerating/surviving/escaping “basiji” in GROUPS. Discuss-strengths,weaknesses
– Share “if I get arrested” info-emergency contacts/needs
– Assign jobs- scout, scene assessment, food, map, exits, etc. Have 1 person off-site know where you are. appoint teams of people 4 tasks- a team 2 scout & swarm agitators, keep deescalated (assume agitators r plants)
– Avoid alcohol, drugs and caffeine- dehydrating. Don’t use anything that will impair judgement.
– Stay hydrated- use oral rehydration solution:1 ts salt,8 ts sugar,1 liter clean drinking water: Stir.
– If no bathroom available use privacy circle, group stands in circle around person, faces outward.

What to wear (or not to wear):
– Wear a waterproof, nonabsorbent outer layer if possible. Cover your arms and legs.
– Wear 2 pairs of underwear. If you get arrested, you have 1 to wear and 1 to wash.
– Dress in layers, appropriately for weather.
– WOMEN- Don’t wear tampons- wear pads (can’t remove if arrested or trapped, toxic shock syndrome)”






“Writings. Eyewitness accounts. Send your own articles to us at xyaban [at] gmail [dot] com
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Long live popular sovereignty! Long live resistance to the Coup D’état! Death to dictatorship!
The Street – Issue 1 – 29 Khordad 1388 (June 19, 2009)

Aiming to negate students’ impact on the current developments: University dormitories ordered closed
Iran in a bloodbath
Workers of [car maker] Iran Khodro on Strike
Tens of thousands protesters march from Tupkhaneh Square to Haft Tir
In the provinces, coup-makers practice violent oppression

Media and the streets. A bloody page in Iran’s modern history seems to be turning in the events we are witnessing. In past days and nights, Tehran and many Iranian cities have not stayed calm as peoples’ burning rage has thrown daily life into flux. The people in the streets are playing a game of cat and mouse with violent thugs; youth are in revolt, and the elderly rack their memories for re-learned lessons of the calamitous events of the 1979 revolution to pass on to the young.

Again, after thirty years, people are leaving the doors of their homes open [to give refuge] to courageous youth, and we hear from many how great people are, and how quickly they can change. Over the past days’ witness to events, we were different people, different slogans. During the campaign until election day, the huge crowds of people that had taken to the street with the green wave were spirited, the bliss of unawareness reigning over them. Yet since the results were announced, the situation changed and people became angry, and sought the crest of the wave to propel them beyond the ignorance, repression and hundreds of lies. During recent days and nights, the tide has again turned.

Like Azar of 1953 [CIA-backed anti-Mossadegh coup] and Tir of 1999 [reformist protests and regime crackdown], and – according to many present at the time – even like the protests of the revolutionary years and 1963 [clergy-led anti-shah protests]!!! Yes, we are seeing the naked face of repression. We see the green wave of reformism in its entire expanse, as it brings us into a shared arena with the existing system

Killing us and calls for calm have only made the situation more acute. Now we have more questions; more than just issues with vote counting. We want a different voice. We do not want to be sacrificed to corruption and graft again, for the nth time, so that our interests are ignored. We do not want a slaughterhouse that would set society back thirty years. We do not want a repeat of the fraud of 1979. We do not have any media but the world has gotten smaller so we no longer experience one thing on the streets yet read something different in world media. We do not want the next generation to be ignorant about what happened on the streets of Tehran, Esfahan, Tabriz, Shiraz, Mashhad, Ahvaz, Kermanshah, and the rest of the cities, large and small. We will represent a new voice in this power play: the voice of the people crying out in the streets. The people who have no delusions about colors and who demand change.”

Khiaban Issue 7

Bullet in Baharestan
According to human rights and democracy activists in Iran, after 12 this afternoon, on Wednesday 3 Tir, all the access points to Baharestan Square were closed and no underground trains were stopping at Baharestan station. More special forces and anti-riot forces and even police had surrounded the Parliament building with their cars and motorcycles and ordered closed all the stores located on Baharestan Square, even stores along secondary roads terminating at the square. They threatened to burn down any stores that did not close. Despite strict control of all the approaches, a large crowd had reached the square by about 4:30 and was standing in silence. The security forces had warned them not to gather and to disperse. A number of people had black armbands on and a small number were holding proclamation signs above their heads. Those with signs were attacks by guard forces and civilian dressed forces. At about 4:40 guard and anti-riot forces surrounded the crowd gathered in the square and sprayed teargas to scatter the people, while the slogans ‘death to the dictator, people’ and ‘don’t be afraid, don’t be afraid, we are all together’ could be heard. The people trying to enter the square from surrounding streets were the target of baton attacks, and a number were also arrested. The arrested were herded with batons to cars and beaten with batons inside the cars. As the pressure from the crowd trying to enter the square steadily built, several shots were fired in the air to break up the people. But as pressure built more, they began firing directly into the people, and cries of ‘we will protest, we will protest’ and ‘they killed my brother’ rose from the crowd. For nearly an hour the sound of gunfire could be heard on Baharestan Square and the surrounding streets. Every time a group of people would escape to surrounding streets under pressure from guard forces, they were chased down by men on motorcycles and assaulted with batons – moving the clash to surrounding streets. According to reports, a number were killed in the clashes, and 30 people were arrested and more than 50 wounded. As of yesterday, Basiji and guard forces positioned at the head of all the streets are stopping the people, especially, the young people, and searching photos and film taken on their mobile phones. They are even stopping and searching cars.

Baharestan Has Awoken
As expected, Baharestan was surrounded by security forces. They were continuously dispersing the people, and the people gathering in another corner. Everyone was expecting – and there were murmurings – that Mousavi would arrive, but no one saw him. They had stopped the people and prevented them from moving towards the Parliament building. Against the protests of people trying to reach their homes on that side, a security official was yelling: ‘We know that none of your houses are on that side.’ The security officials were openly filming the people. One point worth mentioning is the weak presence of Basiji or plain clothes security forces compared to the police forces. More anti-riot guard forces were intending to intimidate the people. They were dragging their batons against the barricades or striking them against their shields to produce a frightening noise. They are charging several people. The crowd is large, and the protests more crowded than usual. They are still openly threatening ‘If you go, the Special Forces will come and you will be beaten!!!!!!!!!’ They cleared out the pedestrian bridge in a savage way. Men on motorcycles were moving through the protesters and threatening them with batons. But the crowd, as if they had no fear, was constantly signaling to each other ‘don’t run, we are ordinary passersby.’ They released some teargas. There was an odd apprehension among the security forces. Even with violence it took about an hour to disperse the crowd. The sound of gunshots arose. There were clashes at several locations where the police quickly hauled people off to jail while beating and jeering at them. There were searching the bags of black-clad boys, searching for a pretext or green gangs. I heard that they killed a person. The Baharestan subway station was closed – up to Sa’adi. Helicopters were constantly hovering above the crowd. The plain clothes police were not intervening a lot, and they were noticeably few, but there were armed, plain clothed individuals among the crowd, and it was not difficult to identify them. Once or twice during the clashes they also struck onlookers. They shoved the crowd and dispersed them to the surrounding streets.

Civility of Religion
They have threatened families of the slain victims – agreeing to deliver the bodies of love ones only on condition that they sign away their right to file complaints against the assailants and police force. They are extorting 5 to 14 million from families as payment for delivering the bodies of their love ones slain in clashes over the last 10 days.

Will the cat above the precipice fall down?
BY Slavoj Zizek / June 25, 2009

When an authoritarian regime approaches its final crisis, its dissolution as a rule follows two steps. Before its actual collapse, a mysterious rupture takes place: all of a sudden people know that the game is over, they are simply no longer afraid. It is not only that the regime loses its legitimacy, its exercise of power itself is perceived as an impotent panic reaction. We all know the classic scene from cartoons: the cat reaches a precipice, but it goes on walking, ignoring the fact that there is no ground under its feet; it starts to fall only when it looks down and notices the abyss. When it loses its authority, the regime is like a cat above the precipice: in order to fall, it only has to be reminded to look down…

In Shah of Shahs, a classic account of the Khomeini revolution, Ryszard Kapuscinski located the precise moment of this rupture: at a Tehran crossroad, a single demonstrator refused to budge when a policeman shouted at him to move, and the embarrassed policeman simply withdrew; in a couple of hours, all Tehran knew about this incident, and although there were street fights going on for weeks, everyone somehow knew the game is over. Is something similar going on now?

There are many versions of the events in Tehran. Some see in the protests the culmination of the pro-Western “reform movement” along the lines of the “orange” revolutions in Ukraine, Georgia, etc. – a secular reaction to the Khomeini revolution. They support the protests as the first step towards a new liberal-democratic secular Iran freed of Muslim fundamentalism. They are counteracted by skeptics who think that Ahmadinejad really won: he is the voice of the majority, while the support of Mousavi comes from the middle classes and their gilded youth. In short: let’s drop the illusions and face the fact that, in Ahmadinejad, Iran has a president it deserves. Then there are those who dismiss Mousavi as a member of the cleric establishment with merely cosmetic differences from Ahmadinejad: Mousavi also wants to continue the atomic energy program, he is against recognizing Israel, plus he enjoyed the full support of Khomeini as a prime minister in the years of the war with Iraq.

Finally, the saddest of them all are the Leftist supporters of Ahmadinejad: what is really at stake for them is Iranian independence. Ahmadinejad won because he stood up for the country’s independence, exposed elite corruption and used oil wealth to boost the incomes of the poor majority – this is, so we are told, the true Ahmadinejad beneath the Western-media image of a holocaust-denying fanatic. According to this view, what is effectively going on now in Iran is a repetition of the 1953 overthrow of Mossadegh – a West-financed coup against the legitimate president. This view not only ignores facts: the high electoral participation – up from the usual 55% to 85% – can only be explained as a protest vote. It also displays its blindness for a genuine demonstration of popular will, patronizingly assuming that, for the backward Iranians, Ahmadinejad is good enough – they are not yet sufficiently mature to be ruled by a secular Left.

Opposed as they are, all these versions read the Iranian protests along the axis of Islamic hardliners versus pro-Western liberal reformists, which is why they find it so difficult to locate Mousavi: is he a Western-backed reformer who wants more personal freedom and market economy, or a member of the cleric establishment whose eventual victory would not affect in any serious way the nature of the regime? Such extreme oscillations demonstrate that they all miss the true nature of the protests.

The green color adopted by the Mousavi supporters, the cries of “Allah akbar!” that resonate from the roofs of Tehran in the evening darkness, clearly indicate that they see their activity as the repetition of the 1979 Khomeini revolution, as the return to its roots, the undoing of the revolution’s later corruption. This return to the roots is not only programmatic; it concerns even more the mode of activity of the crowds: the emphatic unity of the people, their all-encompassing solidarity, creative self-organization, improvising of the ways to articulate protest, the unique mixture of spontaneity and discipline, like the ominous march of thousands in complete silence. We are dealing with a genuine popular uprising of the deceived partisans of the Khomeini revolution.

There are a couple of crucial consequences to be drawn from this insight. First, Ahmadinejad is not the hero of the Islamist poor, but a genuine corrupted Islamo-Fascist populist, a kind of Iranian Berlusconi whose mixture of clownish posturing and ruthless power politics is causing unease even among the majority of ayatollahs. His demagogic distributing of crumbs to the poor should not deceive us: behind him are not only organs of police repression and a very Westernized PR apparatus, but also a strong new rich class, the result of the regime’s corruption (Iran’s Revolutionary Guard is not a working class militia, but a mega-corporation, the strongest center of wealth in the country).

Second, one should draw a clear difference between the two main candidates opposed to Ahmadinejad, Mehdi Karroubi and Mousavi. Karroubi effectively is a reformist, basically proposing the Iranian version of identity politics, promising favors to all particular groups. Mousavi is something entirely different: his name stands for the genuine resuscitation of the popular dream which sustained the Khomeini revolution. Even if this dream was a utopia, one should recognize in it the genuine utopia of the revolution itself. What this means is that the 1979 Khomeini revolution cannot be reduced to a hard line Islamist takeover – it was much more. Now is the time to remember the incredible effervescence of the first year after the revolution, with the breath-taking explosion of political and social creativity, organizational experiments and debates among students and ordinary people. The very fact that this explosion had to be stifled demonstrates that the Khomeini revolution was an authentic political event, a momentary opening that unleashed unheard-of forces of social transformation, a moment in which “everything seemed possible.” What followed was a gradual closing through the take-over of political control by the Islam establishment. To put it in Freudian terms, today’s protest movement is the “return of the repressed” of the Khomeini revolution.

And, last but not least, what this means is that there is a genuine liberating potential in Islam – to find a “good” Islam, one doesn’t have to go back to the 10th century, we have it right here, in front of our eyes.

The future is uncertain – in all probability, those in power will contain the popular explosion, and the cat will not fall into the precipice, but regain ground. However, it will no longer be the same regime, but just one corrupted authoritarian rule among others. Whatever the outcome, it is vitally important to keep in mind that we are witnessing a great emancipatory event which doesn’t fit the frame of the struggle between pro-Western liberals and anti-Western fundamentalists. If our cynical pragmatism will make us lose the capacity to recognize this emancipatory dimension, then we in the West are effectively entering a post-democratic era, getting ready for our own Ahmadinejads. Italians already know his name: Berlusconi. Others are waiting in line.



“The measure of a nation is its vote.” – Ayatollah Khomeini

‘Real’ vote count, allegedly showing Ahmadinijad in THIRD place

President of the Committee of Election Monitoring : Election is Invalid
from Iran Interior Ministry (Authenticity NOT VERIFIED)
“The chart that follows informs Khamenei of the vote’s “real” results. It says 42 million votes were cast with with Mousavi getting 19,075,623 votes, Mehdi Karroubi getting 13,387,104 votes, Ahmadinejad finishing a distant third with 5,698,417 votes, and Mohsen Rezaee getting 3,754,218.”


Rafsanjani: shark or kingmaker?
BY Simon Tisdall / 15 June 2009

More intriguing are similarly unsubstantiated claims that Rafsanjani is in the holy city of Qom, where he once studied and where he has strong links to a moderate clerical body, the Association of Combatant Clergy. Rafsanjani was said to be assessing whether he has sufficient votes in the 86-member Assembly of Experts to dismiss Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the Supreme Leader and Ahmadinejad’s chief patron. Under Iran’s constitution, only the assembly has the power to do this.

The super-rich Rafsanjani, his family, and his supporters in the reformist Kargozaran party make no bones about helping finance and direct Mir Hossein Mousavi’s campaign to topple Ahmadinejad, whom they despise. But with Mousavi ostensibly beaten, the developing post-election struggle now pits Rafsanjani against Khamenei rather than the president – who is widely seen as a mouthpiece for the hardline fundamentalism typified by the Supreme Leader. Although he is supposed to stay above the fray, Khamenei endorsed Ahmadinejad this time, just as in the second round of the 2005 election.

Rafsanjani has made no secret of his belief that foreign and economic policies pursued during the past four years under Khamenei’s guidance have seriously damaged the Islamic Republic. His frustrations came to a head last week after Ahmadinejad was allowed to publicly accuse him of corruption. In an angry letter he lambasted Khamenei for failing to uphold the country’s dignity. In what was in effect an unprecedented challenge to Khamenei’s authority, he implied the Supreme Leader, normally above criticism, was negligent, partial, and possibly involved in plans to steal the election.

“I am expecting you to resolve this position in order to extinguish the fire, whose smoke can be seen in the atmosphere, and to foil dangerous plots,” Rafsanjani wrote. “If the system cannot or does not want to confront such ugly and sin-infected phenomena as insults, lies and false allegations, how can we consider ourselves followers of the sacred Islamic system?”

Rafsanjani remains unpopular with many Iranians who believe the corruption claims and blame him for a murderous, covert campaign to silence dissidents at home and abroad during his 1989-97 presidency. Those latter allegations earned him another nickname: the “grey eminence”. At the same time he is respected as one of the Islamic revolution’s founding fathers and a close associate of its first leader, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini. As a result he can count on some powerful friends if he decides to try to shame Khamenei into allowing an election re-run or standing down.

Apart from his clerical allies in Qom, prominent establishment conservatives such as Ali Akbar Velayati and Ali Akbar Nateq-Nuri have criticised Ahmadinejad. So, too, has Ali Larijani, the influential Majlis (parliament) speaker and former national security chief. The mayor of Tehran, Mohammad Bagher Qalibaf, is another potential ally, as are the former president Mohammad Khatami, Mousavi, the other defeated presidential candidates, and their millions of thwarted supporters.

If mobilised, his would comprise an elite coalition operating inside the hierarchy of the Islamic Republic, rather than from outside on the streets. It would not be a democratic movement; but it would be a dagger held to Khamenei’s breast. Not for nothing is the Machiavellian Rafsanjani, pistachio nut millionaire, pragmatist and ruthless political survivor, known by yet another nickname: the “kingmaker”. Iran awaits his next move.

Top Pieces of Evidence that the Iranian Presidential Election Was Stolen

1. It is claimed that Ahmadinejad won the city of Tabriz with 57%. His main opponent, Mir Hossein Mousavi, is an Azeri from Azerbaijan province, of which Tabriz is the capital. Mousavi, according to such polls as exist in Iran and widespread anecdotal evidence, did better in cities and is popular in Azerbaijan. Certainly, his rallies there were very well attended. So for an Azeri urban center to go so heavily for Ahmadinejad just makes no sense. In past elections, Azeris voted disproportionately for even minor presidential candidates who hailed from that province.
2. Ahmadinejad is claimed to have taken Tehran by over 50%. Again, he is not popular in the cities, even, as he claims, in the poor neighborhoods, in part because his policies have produced high inflation and high unemployment. That he should have won Tehran is so unlikely as to raise real questions about these numbers. [Ahmadinejad is widely thought only to have won Tehran in 2005 because the pro-reform groups were discouraged and stayed home rather than voting.)
3. It is claimed that cleric Mehdi Karoubi, the other reformist candidate, received 320,000 votes, and that he did poorly in Iran’s western provinces, even losing in Luristan. He is a Lur and is popular in the west, including in Kurdistan. Karoubi received 17 percent of the vote in the first round of presidential elections in 2005. While it is possible that his support has substantially declined since then, it is hard to believe that he would get less than one percent of the vote. Moreover, he should have at least done well in the west, which he did not.
4. Mohsen Rezaie, who polled very badly and seems not to have been at all popular, is alleged to have received 670,000 votes, twice as much as Karoubi.
5. Ahmadinejad’s numbers were fairly standard across Iran’s provinces. In past elections there have been substantial ethnic and provincial variations.
6. The Electoral Commission is supposed to wait three days before certifying the results of the election, at which point they are to inform Khamenei of the results, and he signs off on the process. The three-day delay is intended to allow charges of irregularities to be adjudicated. In this case, Khamenei immediately approved the alleged results.

I am aware of the difficulties of catching history on the run. Some explanation may emerge for Ahmadinejad’s upset that does not involve fraud. For instance, it is possible that he has gotten the credit for spreading around a lot of oil money in the form of favors to his constituencies, but somehow managed to escape the blame for the resultant high inflation. But just as a first reaction, this post-election situation looks to me like a crime scene. And here is how I would reconstruct the crime. As the real numbers started coming into the Interior Ministry late on Friday, it became clear that Mousavi was winning. Mousavi’s spokesman abroad, filmmaker Mohsen Makhbalbaf, alleges that the ministry even contacted Mousavi’s camp and said it would begin preparing the population for this victory. The ministry must have informed Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, who has had a feud with Mousavi for over 30 years, who found this outcome unsupportable. And, apparently, he and other top leaders had been so confident of an Ahmadinejad win that they had made no contingency plans for what to do if he looked as though he would lose. They therefore sent blanket instructions to the Electoral Commission to falsify the vote counts. This clumsy cover-up then produced the incredible result of an Ahmadinejad landlside in Tabriz and Isfahan and Tehran. The reason for which Rezaie and Karoubi had to be assigned such implausibly low totals was to make sure Ahmadinejad got over 51% of the vote and thus avoid a run-off between him and Mousavi next Friday, which would have given the Mousavi camp a chance to attempt to rally the public and forestall further tampering with the election. This scenario accounts for all known anomalies and is consistent with what we know of the major players.”

“Professor Mebane has updated his analysis to incorporate 2005 second round district-level data. In 2005 some opposition politicians called for a boycott of the election. The surge in turnout in 2009 is widely interpreted as meaning that many who boycotted in 2005 decided to vote in 2009. Hence towns that have high ratios should have lower proportions of the vote for Ahmadinejad (the coefficient should be negative). He then tested this hypothesis using an over-dispersed binomial model, finding that it worked well for most districts. Suspiciously however, whenever this data significantly deviated from his model, it was in Ahmadinejad’s favor.”

Guardian Council: Over 100% voted in 50 cities / 21 Jun 2009

Iran’s Guardian Council has suggested that the number of votes collected in 50 cities surpass the number of people eligible to cast ballot in those areas. The council’s Spokesman Abbas-Ali Kadkhodaei, who was speaking on the Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting (IRIB) Channel 2 on Sunday, made the remarks in response to complaints filed by Mohsen Rezaei — a defeated candidate in the June 12 Presidential election. “Statistics provided by the candidates, who claim more than 100% of those eligible have cast their ballot in 80-170 cities are not accurate — the incident has happened in only 50 cities,” Kadkhodaei said. Kadkhodaei further explained that the voter turnout of above 100% in some cities is a normal phenomenon because there is no legal limitation for people to vote for the presidential elections in another city or province to which people often travel or commute. According to the Guardian Council spokesman, summering areas and places like district one and three in Tehran are not separable. The spokesman, however, said that the vote tally affected by such issues could be over 3 million and would not noticably affect the outcome of the election.

He, however, added that the council could, at the request of the candidates, re-count the affected ballot boxes, and determine ” whether the possible change in the tally is decisive in the election results,” reported Khabaronline. Three of the four candidates contesting in last Friday’s presidential election cried foul, once the Interior Ministry announced the results – according to which incumbent President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was declared the winner with almost two-thirds of the vote. Rezaei, along with Mir-Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi, reported more than 646 ‘irregularities’ in the electoral process and submitted their complaints to the body responsible for overseeing the election — the Guardian Council.

The Devil Is in the Digits
BY Bernd Beber and Alexandra Scacco / June 20, 2009

Since the declaration of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s landslide victory in Iran’s presidential election, accusations of fraud have swelled. Against expectations from pollsters and pundits alike, Ahmadinejad did surprisingly well in urban areas, including Tehran — where he is thought to be highly unpopular — and even Tabriz, the capital city of opposition candidate Mir Hussein Mousavi’s native East Azarbaijan province.

Others have pointed to the surprisingly poor performance of Mehdi Karroubi, another reform candidate, and particularly in his home province of Lorestan, where conservative candidates fared poorly in 2005, but where Ahmadinejad allegedly captured 71 percent of the vote. Eyebrows have been raised further by the relative consistency in Ahmadinejad’s vote share across Iran’s provinces, in spite of wide provincial variation in past elections.

These pieces of the story point in the direction of fraud, to be sure. They have led experts to speculate that the election results released by Iran’s Ministry of the Interior had been altered behind closed doors. But we don’t have to rely on suggestive evidence alone. We can use statistics more systematically to show that this is likely what happened. Here’s how.

We’ll concentrate on vote counts — the number of votes received by different candidates in different provinces — and in particular the last and second-to-last digits of these numbers. For example, if a candidate received 14,579 votes in a province (Mr. Karroubi’s actual vote count in Isfahan), we’ll focus on digits 7 and 9.

This may seem strange, because these digits usually don’t change who wins. In fact, last digits in a fair election don’t tell us anything about the candidates, the make-up of the electorate or the context of the election. They are random noise in the sense that a fair vote count is as likely to end in 1 as it is to end in 2, 3, 4, or any other numeral. But that’s exactly why they can serve as a litmus test for election fraud. For example, an election in which a majority of provincial vote counts ended in 5 would surely raise red flags.

Why would fraudulent numbers look any different? The reason is that humans are bad at making up numbers. Cognitive psychologists have found that study participants in lab experiments asked to write sequences of random digits will tend to select some digits more frequently than others.

So what can we make of Iran’s election results? We used the results released by the Ministry of the Interior and published on the web site of Press TV, a news channel funded by Iran’s government. The ministry provided data for 29 provinces, and we examined the number of votes each of the four main candidates — Ahmadinejad, Mousavi, Karroubi and Mohsen Rezai — is reported to have received in each of the provinces — a total of 116 numbers.

The numbers look suspicious. We find too many 7s and not enough 5s in the last digit. We expect each digit (0, 1, 2, and so on) to appear at the end of 10 percent of the vote counts. But in Iran’s provincial results, the digit 7 appears 17 percent of the time, and only 4 percent of the results end in the number 5. Two such departures from the average — a spike of 17 percent or more in one digit and a drop to 4 percent or less in another — are extremely unlikely. Fewer than four in a hundred non-fraudulent elections would produce such numbers.

As a point of comparison, we can analyze the state-by-state vote counts for John McCain and Barack Obama in last year’s U.S. presidential election. The frequencies of last digits in these election returns never rise above 14 percent or fall below 6 percent, a pattern we would expect to see in seventy out of a hundred fair elections.

But that’s not all. Psychologists have also found that humans have trouble generating non-adjacent digits (such as 64 or 17, as opposed to 23) as frequently as one would expect in a sequence of random numbers. To check for deviations of this type, we examined the pairs of last and second-to-last digits in Iran’s vote counts. On average, if the results had not been manipulated, 70 percent of these pairs should consist of distinct, non-adjacent digits.

Not so in the data from Iran: Only 62 percent of the pairs contain non-adjacent digits. This may not sound so different from 70 percent, but the probability that a fair election would produce a difference this large is less than 4.2 percent. And while our first test — variation in last-digit frequencies — suggests that Rezai’s vote counts are the most irregular, the lack of non-adjacent digits is most striking in the results reported for Ahmadinejad.

Each of these two tests provides strong evidence that the numbers released by Iran’s Ministry of the Interior were manipulated. But taken together, they leave very little room for reasonable doubt. The probability that a fair election would produce both too few non-adjacent digits and the suspicious deviations in last-digit frequencies described earlier is less than .005. In other words, a bet that the numbers are clean is a one in two-hundred long shot.

{Bernd Beber and Alexandra Scacco, Ph.D. candidates in political science at Columbia University, will be assistant professors in New York University’s Wilf Family Department of Politics this fall.}


How to Confuse Iranian Censors on Twitter

Very briefly, preceding the recent elections in Iran, many leftists had been organizing protests and what not via facebook and other social networks. However, Iranian censors quickly jumped on this trend and blocked facebook’s site from the entire country. Following the elections, protests ensued and were organized and publicized on Twitter, which the luddite bureaucracy failed to block in time. Iranian censors are now combing the twitter network for dissidents in a Stasi like fashion. In retaliation, people around the world have tried to throw a wrench in their efforts:

1. Change Your Time zone and Home City:
Click Twitter Settings in the top right, change your Home City to Tehran and your time zone to GMT +3:30 Tehran Time. It’s likely that the first method of filtering will relate to the location of the user. If we flood twitter with accounts that all appear to be from Tehran, we build a bigger data cloud that the censors have to sift through in their search for Iranian dissidents. This is not full proof, but will likely buy them some time in the same way that searching “John Smith” on face book will yield a frustratingly large selection of people to search through.

2. Change the Name Associated with your Twitter Account
Click Twitter Settings and change your birth name to something Iranian. You can find a list of Iranian names here: http://tehran.stanford.edu/Information/Iranian_names.html . Should the censors end up on your account, your American (or whatever) name will be a likely clue that you aren’t worth their time.

3. Repost Content
Follow someone posting from Iran and repost their material. Content is the ultimate tell tale of who is and isn’t a dissident in this situation. By reposting someone else’s content censors be forced to look at the timestamp of the tweet to decipher who is the original writer. Ideally, your follow up tweet would be so close to the initial posting time that the two become indiscriminate. You can also go a step further and, if they have uploaded a photo, save the file and re upload it via your account (merely linking to their account is liable to clue the censors in). Edit: Be careful in reposting, there have been reports of false accounts going up to provide misinformation to the prostestors. More info here: http://emsenn.com/iran.php . Do not repost things verbatim, paraphrase. Also, when retweeting to not use the original posters name.

4. Maintain the ‘false data cloud’
Even in the event that Iran blocks twitter as they did Facebook, it is likely that the censors will still have access to the site, and will continue to comb it. Sustaining your efforts could serve to further delay the censors. Obviously, none of these methods are full proof. The idea is to buy any of the said dissidents time to hide, evacuate or so on… “If only for an instant, we will unite what you have divided. Our calls will be heard from shore to shore, through borders, races, classes and languages, For we bear a torch that burns one hundred thousand years strong, we carry the flame of revolution.”

Down Time Rescheduled / June 15, 2009
“A critical network upgrade must be performed to ensure continued operation of Twitter. In coordination with Twitter, our network host had planned this upgrade for tonight. However, our network partners at NTT America recognize the role Twitter is currently playing as an important communication tool in Iran. Tonight’s planned maintenance has been rescheduled to tomorrow between 2-3p PST (1:30a in Iran).”

The Kid at State Who Figured Out the Iranians Should Be Allowed to Keep Tweeting / Jun 17 2009

Imagine our surprise, then, when we learned that, instead, it was a 27-year-old whiz kid whose job is to advise the State Department on how to use social media to promote U.S. interests the Middle East. And imagine our further surprise when we learned this young gentleman wasn’t one of Barack Obama’s social media geniuses, but instead was a Condi Rice pick hired specifically to advise the State Department on young people in the Middle East and how to “counter-radicalize” them. According to the New York Times, it was Jared Cohen, a member of the Policy Planning Staff, who contacted Twitter on Monday, inquiring about their plan to perform maintenance in what would be the middle of the day, Iran time. Following that contact, Twitter decided to postpone their maintenance so that it would take place in the middle of the night Iran-time, even though that meant it would be the middle of the day U.S. time. The Times noted that the move marked “the recognition by the United States government that an Internet blogging service that did not exist four years ago has the potential to change history in an ancient Islamic country.” So we wondered, who was this young guy with this remarkable insight?

Cohen was only 24 when he was hired into the Policy Planning Staff back in 2006. He’d received an undergraduate degree from Stanford and a master’s degree from Oxford, where he’d been on a Rhodes Scholarship. Oh, and he’d also talked his way into a visa for Iran (according to a December 2007 New Yorker profile), where he met young people his own age who threw underground house parties and made alcohol in bathtubs. “Iranian young people are one of the most pro-American populations in the Middle East,” Cohen told the New Yorker. “They just don’t know who to gravitate around, so young people gravitate around each other.” Cohen compiled his observations from that trip—and others to Lebanon, Syria, and Iraq—into a book released by Penguin, titled Children of Jihad: A Young American’s Travels Among the Youth of the Middle East (selected, by the way, as one of Kirkus Review’s “Best Books of 2007”).

The Times describes Cohen’s job today as “working with Twitter, YouTube, Facebook and other services to harness their reach for diplomatic initiatives in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere.” In May, Cohen, whom CNN chose as one of its “Young People Who Rock,” organized a trip to Iraq for Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey and other new media executives “to discuss how to rebuild the country’s information network and to sell the virtues of Twitter,” as the Times put it. According to Federal News Radio, Dorsey has now been working with mobile companies in the Middle East “to establish a short code so that Iraqis can get on Twitter without actually having to have access to the internet.” “I’m a strong believer in the fact that access drives innovation,” Cohen told Federal News Radio. “In order for young people to have their innovative minds tapped into, they need to have access to the tools to do it, and I believe that cellphones and the internet will bring that.” Given Cohen’s background, it’s not surprising that he was the one to make the call on (and to) Twitter. It’s also an interesting indication about how these young kids, with their social media, might actually understand a thing or two about how the world works and how to get it to move in the direction you want it to go.



“Since Twitter started getting coverage for its role in the goings-on in Iran, commentators have expressed concern over which Twitter feeds are fake, and whether Twitter could be used to spread disinformation. The unofficial Twitter watchdog Twitspam has a list of “fake Iran election tweeters,” and their feeds make for fascinating examples of reverse propaganda in action.

Their techniques have different approaches and levels of subtelty. Some simply make up silly stories, like one user’s claim “BREAKINGNEWS: Ahmedinejads plane take off from Russia 2 hours ago & lost over BlackSea! Does he know how to swim? confrmation?” or another’s insistence that “Mussavi concedes, pleads halt to protest.” Others take a more egotistical approach, such as this user generously volunteering to become the leader: “Saturday – small groups organized by “ERAN SPAHBOD RUSTAM” will attack government buildings and basij.women,children stay home.” Finally, some Tweeters, in their rush to spread violence, seem rather unclear as to correct grammatical usage of Arabic words: “Get a mask and gloves – lets intifada tonight on the streets of Teheran – My group will barricade one street. Make your group 2. kick ass”

The most pernicious fake Twitter user, though, has been Persian_Guy, who’s not only provided fake news ( “Mussavi overheard: ‘We don’t need a black man’s help, that’s humiliating, at least not arab.'”) and calls for violence (“”non-Iranian Arabs waving Hamas/Hezbollah flags around the protests. Kill Arabs now, they are scums!”), but has even brought Twitter into the fake narrative. According to this user, “Twitter’s staff are ecstatic by what’s happening in Iran, “We’re so glad there’s chaos in Iran, finally Twitter is ‘useful.'”” Somehow, I doubt that will endear him to his fellow Tweeters.”

How Iran’s Hackers Killed Big Brother
BY Douglas Rushkoff / 6.16.09

“Perhaps the best indication for Americans that something important is going on in Iran right now is the fact that Twitter has delayed a scheduled downtime for maintenance in order for Iranians and others involved in the post-election digital melee to keep at it. For anyone lacking a Twitter feed and thus missing the intense virtual crossfire, what’s happening is nothing short of a test of Internet users’ ability to challenge not only a regime’s power over an election, but over the network itself. The effort alone constitutes a victory. Unlike the United States, where Facebook friends, Meetup groups, and other online innovations successfully elected a candidate who (at least initially) lacked top-down support, the Iranian power structure has less compunction about snuffing digital democracy. Incumbent Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is widely believed to have shut down Iranian access to Facebook as soon as it was clear his opponent’s supporters were using the social network to organize rallies and motivate voters. Not that Mousavi’s 36,000 Facebook friends at that point would have led to the undeniable landslide the opposition leader would have needed to actually win—but the heavy-handed gesture hinted at what was to come. It was the opening salvo in a digital war with global implications, and a blueprint for the democratizing influence of the Internet.

Now that Ahmadinejad has claimed victory, the blogosphere, Twitterverse, and the rest of the social-networking sphere is on virtual fire. Tens of thousands of messages per minute condemning the results as fraud are passing to and from Iran, as angry Iranians and sympathetic outsiders exchange datapoints, analysis, and on-the-ground coordinates. While only a small minority of these posts are from people actually organizing protests, rooting out provocateurs, or sending aid to victims of violence, it’s too easy to discount the more virtual interactions as trivial. Ahmadinejad sure hasn’t. His regime is working hard to stifle protest without completely unplugging Iran’s telecommunications infrastructure. Their tactics: limit cell service to in-country only, shut off text messaging, block transmissions to and from Facebook, and even shut down access to Friendfeed, a messaging aggregator extremely popular in Iran. They’re also identifying and then blocking messages from offending users and Web sites.

Iran’s Internet-savvy youth have fought back, however, exploiting “proxy servers” to make their messages appear to be coming from different sources, and exchanging the digital addresses of the ever-changing list of servers still capable of transmitting packets. Iran’s government counterattacked with a blockade, closing off the four Internet access routes it controlled, leaving just one pipe through Turkey for messages to breach it. One particularly aggressive opposition group responded by facilitating a “denial of service” attack on the Iranian government’s servers. All over the Internet, users of all nations can get easy instructions for how to install a small program that “pings” the offending servers so frequently that they crash, unable to handle the incoming requests. Of course, the problem with this strategy is that it also overloads the few, compromised pipelines into and out of the country.”




“The purpose of this guide is to help you participate constructively in the Iranian election protests through twitter.
1.Do NOT publicise proxy IP’s over twitter, and especially not using the #iranelection hashtag. Security forces are monitoring this hashtag, and the moment they identify a proxy IP they will block it in Iran. If you are creating new proxies for the Iranian bloggers, DM them to @stopAhmadi or @iran09 and they will distributed them discretely to bloggers in Iran.
2. Hashtags, the only two legitimate hashtags being used by bloggers in Iran are #iranelection and #gr88, other hashtag ideas run the risk of diluting the conversation.
3. Keep you bull$hit filter up! Security forces are now setting up twitter accounts to spread disinformation by posing as Iranian protesters. Please don’t retweet impetuosly, try to confirm information with reliable sources before retweeting. The legitimate sources are not hard to find and follow.
4. Help cover the bloggers: change your twitter settings so that your location is TEHRAN and your time zone is GMT +3.30. Security forces are hunting for bloggers using location and timezone searches. If we all become ‘Iranians’ it becomes much harder to find them.
5. Don’t blow their cover! If you discover a genuine source, please don’t publicise their name or location on a website. These bloggers are in REAL danger. Spread the word discretely through your own networks but don’t signpost them to the security forces. People are dying there, for real, please keep that in mind.
6. Denial of Service attacks. If you don’t know what you are doing, stay out of this game. Only target those sites the legitimate Iranian bloggers are designating. Be aware that these attacks can have detrimental effects to the network the protesters are relying on. Keep monitoring their traffic to note when you should turn the taps on or off.
7. Do spread the (legitimate) word, it works! When the bloggers asked for twitter maintenance to be postponed using the #nomaintenance tag, it had the desired effect. As long as we spread good information, provide moral support to the protesters, and take our lead from the legitimate bloggers, we can make a constructive contribution.
Please remember that this is about the future of the Iranian people, while it might be exciting to get caught up in the flow of participating in a new meme, do not lose sight of what this is really about.”

Secure Connection Tools
“This site was made by people – ‘hacktivists’ – who are imbued with a set of skills related to Internet Technology, who saw what the Iranian government was doing to it’s people to suppress it’s messages for democracy and it’s hope for a free and fair electoral process. So, what I guess you could say is that computer nerds around the world saw what was unfolding and thought “We should help these people, we have the ability and the tools …why not help them?””

“Free Accounts for Iranian Citizens: We are offering free IPRental accounts to all Iranian citizens who want completely anonymous web browsing via untraceable USA IP addresses. Change Your IP Address Instantly….Constantly : If you have a need to access the web from different IP addresses, IPRental is your answer! Our revolutionary IP address rotation service allows you to connect to an ever-changing pool of fresh IPs for 100% anonymous web surfing, effective classifieds postings, creating ratings reviews and comments, accessing USA sites from overseas, or any other reason you may need to change or hide your IP address. IPRental is NOT JUST ANOTHER PROXY SERVICE which just gives you access to as many static IPs as they control, all of which are typically in a contiguous block and already blocked by the sites you wish to access. Instead IPRental gives you access to a vast ever-changing pool of non-contiguous residential USA IP addresses, allowing you to change your IP address whenever you like! To get your account email us at: iran [at] iprental [dot] com ”

From Austin Heap, who setup the instructions: “Please don’t run this on a machine that you’re worried about or is used for production sites; and take basic security precautions, ie: moving ftp off the default port, using a firewall package, etc.”


S.F. techie helps stir Iranian protests
BY Matthew B. Stannard / June 17, 2009

Little about Austin Heap’s first online venture, a site hosting free episodes of the cartoon “South Park,” suggested he would one day use his computer skills to challenge a government. But for the past few days, Heap, an IT director in San Francisco, has been on the virtual front lines of the crisis in Iran, helping people there protest the presidential election, which opponents of the incumbent regime maintain was fraudulent. Hundreds of thousands of demonstrators have taken to the streets since Saturday, organizing and sharing news on sites such as Twitter, Facebook and YouTube. The Iranian government, in response, has blocked those sites, along with mobile phone service and other communications tools. But Iran has the highest number of bloggers per capita in the world, said Abbas Milani, director of the Iranian Studies Program at Stanford University, and they were undeterred. “People used Twitter, and people used their cell phones and used all kinds of mechanisms.”

Heap, 25, has never followed Iranian news much. But as reports of the election began dominating Twitter – but not, he believed, American mainstream news – Heap felt the same defiant frustration that led him in the past to butt heads with the music and movie industry associations by creating file-sharing sites. “I believe in free information,” he said Tuesday. “And I especially have no room for a tyrannical regime shutting up a whole population. I was 13 and able to take on a huge company like Comedy Central from my bedroom. With a computer, everybody has the power to do that.”

Proxy server a weapon
Heap’s weapon in the past few days was the proxy server, a computer configured to act as an intermediary between a computer user and the Internet. Such servers have many legitimate functions, such as speeding response times, and some illegitimate ones, such as helping spammers hide their identities. What interested Heap was the use of a proxy server to bypass censorship. Properly configured, a proxy server could identify Web surfers in Iran and route them to Twitter and other sites the government had restricted. People around the world were posting network addresses for such proxies on Twitter and elsewhere, Heap said, but there was no organization and the servers were unpredictable.

Simple first effort
Heap’s first effort was simple: a list of working proxy servers that he published Sunday afternoon. Almost immediately, those servers began to vanish. Perhaps spammers or pornographers, who constantly cruise the Internet looking for open proxies, were overwhelming the system, he thought.

It was only later that Iranians on Twitter warned Heap – and others publishing lists of open proxies – that by posting public lists they were exposing those proxies to attack. “I really didn’t expect their government to be this on top of it,” he said. “I know everybody knows about Twitter. But I didn’t think it was going to be to this extent.” So Heap took another tack, creating a password-protected list of proxy servers and giving only a handful of people access to each, reducing the possibility of a widespread attack. On his blog, he published simple instructions for configuring proxy servers.

Heap wasn’t the only techie setting up or promulgating proxies, but his easy-to-follow instructions quickly spread through Twitter and the blogosphere. Suddenly, people were sending him addresses for new proxy servers in Australia, Japan and Mexico. Traffic on his blog grew from a couple of dozen unique users a day to more than 100,000 in 24 hours. A woman in Canada asked him for help getting her Iranian family back online. On Twitter, a Tehran resident posted: “@austinheap Thank you for all you are doing to help my people. This support and kindness will never be forgotten.”

‘Almost made me cry’
“Most of the reactions from Iran have almost made me cry,” he said. “Having somebody tell me that their family thanks me – that’s the power of the Internet.” The last 24 hours have been less fun, Heap said. He’s had to figure out which of the professed Iranians contacting him he can trust and which might be seeking access to a proxy service to shut it down. Monday night, his site came under a denial-of-service attack – a flood of phantom file requests from the United Kingdom designed to bring his system to its knees. Tuesday morning he received his first e-mailed threats. Still, he thinks he’s doing the right thing. “If I can help them get their message out and help them tell the story and step back, that’s my job,” he said. “(But) my mom is terrified right now.”

By mid-Tuesday, Iran appeared to be blocking all non-encrypted Internet traffic, making the 1,600 new proxy-server addresses now in his in-box temporarily useless. But Heap was working with other professionals and companies seeking new ways to reconnect. “I haven’t been in the middle of an outpouring like this, ever. And it makes me incredibly proud of the IT community,” he said. While it’s not clear how much impact Heap’s efforts are having, history may look back on his tweets about proxy servers as a profound moment in political evolution, said Stanford’s Milani. “The regime probably doesn’t recognize it, but I can tell you, the marriage of civil disobedience with the social networking savvy is the death of despotism in these places,” he said. “If you combine these two, you have a very potent force.”





[RAND report by Paul de Armond in 2001 about 1999 WTO protest in Seattle]

“By the way, at the same press briefing, one reporter asked if the White House was considering beaming broadband capability into Iran via satellite so the opposition forces would be able to communicate with themselves and the outside world. Gibbs said he didn’t know such a thing was possible. (Is it?) But he said he would check on the technological feasibility and get back with an answer. That caused some head-scratching in the press room. If the United States could do that and was planning on doing so, wouldn’t this be one of those intelligence matters that Gibbs won’t discuss? But maybe some telecom entrepreneur or Silicon Valley whiz-kids can make this happen. The Google guys? The Twitter people? XM Radio? This is the sort of covert action that could be worth outsourcing—with the project manager actually taking full credit. Think of the endorsement possibilities: the Iranian Revolution…Brought to You by DIRECTV.”



Should We Spam Proxies to China? from the or-just-viagra-ads dept.
BY CmdrTaco / August 20 2007

“Frequent Slashdot Contributor Bennett Haselton is back with a story about fighting censorship with spam. He starts “Is it OK to send unsolicited e-mail to users in China, Iran, and other censored countries, telling them about new proxy sites for getting around Internet censorship? I hasten to add that I have NOT done this, am not planning on doing it and would not have any idea how to go about it anyway. Between the various companies that offer proxy services, I don’t know of anyone who is doing it (no, not even people who swore me to secrecy about it). But I think the question involves ethical issues that would not apply to most discussions of spam.”

It doesn’t seem that you could use conventional channels to advertise proxies to Chinese and Iranian users. If you bought ads on Google AdSense or a similar ad-serving network, China might threaten to block all ads served from that network unless they started screening out ads for anti-censorship services (especially in the case of Google, which seems to comply with most Chinese self-censorship demands). Then there’s the question of how to charge Chinese and Iranian users even small amounts for the services. It would not be a good idea to have the charges show up on their credit cards issued by Chinese banks. Paying small amounts with PayPal would be a little bit better since the charge would simply show up from “PayPal”, without revealing the recipient. And since all traffic to the PayPal site is encrypted over SSL, Chinese censors wouldn’t be able to detect or block users who were paying to circumvent the Great Firewall, unless they blocked all traffic to the PayPal site. But could PayPal be leaned on to provide the identities of Chinese users who were paying for circumvention services, under threat of having their site blocked otherwise? And the biggest impediment of all would be that once you start charging even $1 for a service, there’s a huge dropoff in people willing to sign up, even if they would have to spend much more than $1 worth of effort to find a free alternative somewhere else.

So, if circumvention services provide enough benefit to Chinese users, maybe spamming proxy sites would do more good than harm, and if the lack of freedom in the country means that you could not sell or advertise the services to Chinese users by conventional means, maybe that means spamming the proxy locations would be the only way to do this.”

Tiananmen Square and Technology
By David Houle / June 3, 2009

It was 20 years ago this week that the demonstrations in Tiananmen Square turned violent. After days of open demonstrations, the Chinese government had had enough and sent in the army. This led to one of the most iconic visual images of protest in recent decades: a single man standing right in front of four tanks, daring them to run him over.

The image is one that anyone over the age of 35 can remember as it flashed around the world, and represented the individual facing down superior force in a literal stand for freedom. It was this image that gave the communist Chinese government its first taste of international outrage as it was slowly moving toward a more open, capitalistic society. It was a government and a country unused to global scrutiny. While the crackdown on protestors continued, it was done quietly and out of camera range of foreigners and journalists. A single image had flashed around the world and had left an indelible mark on human consciousness.

One of the dynamics that led this single man to stand in front of the tanks was the impact of technology. When the government moved to end the demonstrations, it blocked all known communications channels, isolating the demonstrators. International TV and radio was jammed so the demonstrators had no idea whether there was support for them around the world. One thing the government missed was the new communications technology called the fax machine. Evidently in offices near Tiananmen Square and in universities there were fax machines. They were used by demonstrators to get the word out to the world. Much more importantly, the world responded, sending faxes by the hundreds, letting the demonstrators know that the whole world was watching. This is what gave the demonstrators strength. This is what emboldened the young man to stand in front of the tanks.

Fax technology was just a few years old in 1989. The fax machine first entered the office in the mid 1980s and didn’t make it into the home until the 1990s. It was this brand new technology of sending documents through phone lines that fueled the demonstrations. There were only a few million cell phones in the world in 1989, and certainly none available for the demonstrators at Tiananmen Square. So it was the fax machine using land lines that kept hope alive in Beijing.

What is striking is how much transformation in communications technology humanity has experienced in the 20 years since 1989. In 1995 there were 89 million cell phone subscribers in the world, in 2005 there were 2 billion, and today there are 4 billion! In 1995, the year the first commercial browser came to market, there were some 45 million people using the Internet. By 2005 that number had crossed 1 billion and there are close to 2 billion today. Cable and satellite TV was still in early stage growth in 1989, today they are global in reach. In 1989, the few laptops in the world were large, bulky and heavy and there weren’t very many of them.

Humanity is more globally connected than it has ever been. Terrorist attacks are caught on cell phone cameras and telecast to the world. Network news anchors speak live via videophone to correspondents anywhere in the world. Internet services such as Skype allow us all to cheaply communicate globally via video. Bandwidth expansion and data compression are such that a month’s worth of videos from YouTube equals what coursed through the Internet the entire year of 2000. We are constantly connected.

Communications technology may now provide us with more information than can possibly be absorbed and digested. The electronic feed trough of information is always on, and this can feel overwhelming. We move from the delight in access and availability to the desire to totally unplug. The good news for freedom and openness is that, with each technological step forward, barriers fall, dictators’ control lessens, ignorance decreases and people can take ever more informed actions.

The fax technology of 1989 provided the demonstrators with the knowledge that the whole world was watching, allowing one man to take an informed action that single-handedly stopped a phalanx of tanks. That was 20 years ago this week. How far we have traveled since then.

iran post-election

“Call these numbers to discuss the Iranian elections! Do NOT do from within Iran.”
President : 00989121196107 / 00989123274006
Esfandiyar Rahim-Masha’i – Vice President of Iran : r_mashaee@ichto.ir
Council of Guardians : 00982166401012
Mojtaba Samareh-Hashemi – President’s trusted advisor and campaign manager : 00989121081443
Ali Akbar Javanfekr – Press advisor to the President : aajavan321@hotmail.com / 00989123279500 (telephone) / 00982164454028 (fax)
Gholamhoseyn Elham – Government spokesperson : 00989121486826

Amnesty International USA suggests the following:

write officials at: info_leader@leader.ir

Supreme Leader of the Islamic Republic
Ayatollah Sayed ‘Ali Khamenei,
The Office of the Supreme Leader
Islamic Republic Street –
End of Shahid Keshvar Doust Street,
Tehran, Islamic Republic of Iran

Minister of the Interior
Sadegh Mahsouli
Dr Fatemi Avenue
Tehran, Islamic Republic of Iran
Fax: +98 21 8 896 203

Answers From Sealand HavenCo CTO Ryan Lackey / July 03 2000

“A few weeks ago, you asked questions of Ryan Lackey, CTO for HavenCo, a company dedicated to providing secure off-shore data hosting from Sealand, a principality off the coast of England. Ryan has lately survived dental emergencies, the loss of a laptop (it dropped into the North Sea — how many people can say that?) and other stresses, but he’s followed through with some interesting answers. He even has some ideas for how you can make a lot of money, and lists the tools you need to start your own data haven. Kudos to Ryan for taking the time to answer so thoroughly.

[by Jamie Zawinski] Q: Why do you need physical security at all?
Lots of people are asking questions about physical security, and how you’re going to repel missiles and commandos, but I’ve got the opposite question: why do you need physical security and a physical location at all? Would not the best way to protect your customers’ data be to wrap it in hard crypto and distribute it far and wide across the whole of the net, ensuring that there is not a single point of failure or a single physical installation that can be isolated? As we’ve seen again and again recently, the best protection against censorship and other legal attacks is massive redundancy and decentralization.

[Ryan Lackey] A: This actually brings up several issues, which I will address in turn.

1. Physical location vs. distributed presence
You seem to be suggesting a distributed data store, a la Eternity, by Ross Anderson. Basically, a federation of servers on the net, possibly hidden servers interfaced to the outside world through remailers (such as Blacknet) or ZKS Freedom. These servers would move data around among themselves, opaque to the outside world, and users would be able to store their data, manually or automatically, on as many servers as possible. There would presumably be some kind of payment system so users could anonymously pay for documents to be stored (as if you run the system for free, it will end up collapsing due to a flood of useless content; if you use a MRU/LRU scheme for your caches, script kiddies will just run scripts to keep their favorite documents in the cache, dropping real content out).

While this approach is interesting from a theoretical standpoint, there are no production-quality systems ready yet. Additionally, there are fundamental limits to distributed computation — latency, as you add nodes, or threat of compromise, if you have very few nodes. We’re going to be incorporating some distributed cache technology which should provide our datacenters with some of the benefits of freenet/eternity type systems. Our system will, however, have a small number of very secure nodes, such as our facilities on Sealand, in which customers can conduct trusted transactions — the intermediate results are guaranteed confidentiality and integrity in processing.

The distributed data serving systems are also not practical for any transaction oriented site, especially low-latency transaction oriented sites, at least without a small number of trusted nodes to do the processing. Due to security constraints, this means tamper-resistant hardware, and since this hardware is expensive, it needs to be purchased in limited quantity, and protected from theft/attack, meaning you want to put it in a small number of high security physical environments. Since it becomes a critical link in all of your transactions, you also need high quality bandwidth. These distributed hosting systems are certainly interesting, but don’t really meet all the neets of our customers. If we borrow 10% of the technology in building a secure distributed cache system, we’ll be able to offer 95% of the benefits, as well.

2. Secret physical location vs. single well-defended point
If you’re going to have a physical location, there’s no easy way to distribute to a very large number of physical locations; you have a base cost per site, and your security is incredibly low until you spend a substantial multiple of that. There are definite economies of scale in running larger datacenters. Keeping physical locations secret is difficult. Keeping active physical sites, with actual servers connected to the net, secret, while still having decent pingtimes and large pipes, is almost impossible. You would need to go with hidden fiber cables laid through some kind of territory in which you could destroy anyone or anything looking for them, and your physical site would need to have the same density as the surrounding area, as well as no magnetic anomaly, or unusual power consumption, or whatever. Or, you could communicate by non-DFable HF SS radio, but that would severely limit your bitrates. I’d say this is basically hopeless.

3. How much of our security is HavenCo, vs. Sealand
A fair bit of the security on Sealand is related to protecting the Principality of Sealand from the kind of takeover which was attempted in 1978, rather than strictly necessary for HavenCo itself. HavenCo’s security is primarily due to tamper-resistant hardware and cryptography, not the site security of Sealand

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