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Iran's first best foreign film Oscar; Internet disruptions still plague Iranians; sanctions delay 3G mobile phone equipment; VPN usage increased tenfold in the past 7 months; and satire show launched in response to Radio Farda's 'Pas Farda'

Persian Cyberspace Report: Mir-Hossein Mousavi gives a message to the Green Movement from behind the walls of his house arrest, ongoing blackouts plague Iran’s internet users and frustrate researchers and students, an Iranian athlete wins gold at the Asian Indoor Athletics Championships and an Iranian student flees after a video of a dissident speech he made at Urmiah University went viral.

Media Analysis: Reactions to Asghar Farhadi Winning Iran’s First Academy Award

Minister of Communication, Reza Taqipour, in the news this week: Taqipour commented that the country’s mobile penetration rate was 73-percent, based on currently active Sim-Cards. In the same statement, he also announced that two projects of the National Information Network, the National Science Network and the National School Network have been inaugurated. In another statment he said, "major applications which require high security and do not require the internet will gradually be transferred to the National Information Network.

Brigadier General Jalali, Director of Iran’s Civil Defense Organization spoke of plans to launch the country’s first cyber army. During the final day of the Cyber Defense Conference, he said, "the US is in the process of downsizing their military in order to expand their cyber defense organization." At the Cyber Defense Conference at the Ministry of Interior, Jalali said, "cyberspace plays an important role in today’s modern warfare. By controlling the battlefield and intelligence, [cyberspace] can lead to victory." He referred to the ‘sedition’ of 2009 (unrest following the disputed presidential elections) as one incident in which the country was unprepared against cyber threats and added:

Keeping in mind that today the cyberspace can be considered as a war-zone, a cyber-army also needs to exist in the country…The cyber army needs to be present in all the administrative bodies of society while maintaining its defensive approach.

Jalali, in reference to foreign E-mail services: "In general, these types of services, whose providers are outside of the country, are not safe at all, since they have access to users information…In order to deal with this issue, appropriate infrastructure needs to be developed in the country, under the framework of the National Information Network."

The structure for the Command Centre of the IRGCs (Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps Cyber Defense and the Centre to Combat Organized Crimes (Gerdab) is set to change. The spokesperson for Gerdab said "Based on the adopted policies of the opponents of the Islamic Revolution in the context of cyberspace, after serious revision and comparative studies conducted by experts in the field, and by identifying the perpetrators, it has been decided to update the model for facing and countering these threats."

CEO of the Third Operator (RighTel – 3G Sim-Cards) said, "so far there have been 14,000 registrations in Karaj province for permanent Sim-Cards. We hope that they will be distributed by Spring 2012. He added that presently the network’s capacity stands at 200,000 users, which will be doubled by the first phase of distribution. In reference to the many delays of the Third-Operator, RighTel, the Minister of Labor, Cooperatives and Social Welfare said, "we have faced problems such as sanctions by European and American countries and 3G equipment has been prevented from entering the country. Filling this gap has required more work and time."

On Stuxnet, the Vice President of Technology at the Ministry of Intelligence said, "Out of negligence, this virus entered some industrial organizations and affected around 16,000 computers...In the future one of the problems we will face is the ability to use up-to-date anti-malware, due to sanctions. At the moment, in many cases it is not possible to update the current anti-malware. This will force us to create them locally…"

On February 20th, based on reports from inside the country, the https protocol was blocked for the second time in two weeks. Again, there have been no official statements explaining the circumstances. See here and here for possible explanations. In a highly critical editorial entitled "Internet Disconnection and Toying with the Feelings and Potential of the Youth," published on Khabar-Online, Rasool Jaafarian, cleric and Director of Majlis Libraries said,

For some time now, without reason or explanation, the internet, in particular websites which have an informational aspect have been shutdown or slowed down. This has caused utter frustration amongst the youth who are students and researchers and use these tools on a daily basis for the exchange of information and to conduct their research…This is while there is no local replacement with even half a percent of the functions of these services…In your opinion, what should young people’s reactions be towards this kind of behavior?

New data from AnchorFree, which distributes the world's most popular virtual private network (VPN), shows that 10 times more users in Iran employed their service last month (366,403), than in the previous July (35,505).

More websites in support of President Ahmadinejad have been blocked in Iran, ahead of the March parliamentary elections. This is following a trend which first started last year, as a few local news websites affiliated with the president were blocked. According to Digarban (one of the websites blocked last year) announced that and were recent targets.

After penning a poem on soft-war, head of Iran’s Basij Force, has been at it again with a four line poem addressed to the ‘great Satan’ (The US) on the March parliamentary elections.

Farsi for "the day before yesterday," "Pariruz" is a show started in response to Radio Farda’s popular satirical show, “Pas Farda,” or “The Day After Tomorrow.” Radio Pariruz launched on January 24. So far, it seems it is having a tough time recasting its shrill message in the playful language of satire. Pezhman Karimi, the writer and editor of the program, recently told the Iranian Student News Agency (ISNA) that his goal is to address “the documents of the enemies of the Revolution and Iranian nation, paradoxes in speech and acts and also the ridiculous points of views of so-called anti-revolutionary political personalities and American spies.”

Bahman Dorri the Manager of the Policy-making Council for Tehran’s 25th annual International Book Fair announced that the main admissions condition for publishers to get in the Book Fair is hijab.

In a recent operation of Iranian Police forces in the east part of Tehran province, satellite receivers and dishes have been confiscated. It is called “Social Safety Plan” (Tarh-e amniat-e ejtemaee) and the ostensible aim is confronting thugs, drug dealers, thieves etc. to protect society.






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