Spotlight on Iran (Week of December 28, 2011-January 4, 2012)

Issued on: 05/01/2012 Type: Article

Spotlight on Iran
Spotlight on Iran
Spotlight on Iran

Highlights of the week

  • Registration of candidates ends for 2012 elections

  • Rafsanjani’s official website blocked: another stage in his exclusion from politics .

  • Dollar at record high after U.S. sanctions on Central Bank

  • New report by Iran’s Center for Statistics: average family’s expenses higher than income

  • "Social justice”: how much do "cyber soldiers in service” of the regime make?

  • Pictures of the week: Velayat-90 naval exercise in the Persian Gulf

Registration of candidates ends for 2012 elections

The registration of candidates for the Majles elections slated for March 2, 2012 ended last weekend. A total of 5,395 candidates registered during the application week, including 428 women. The highest number of candidates was reported in Tehran Province, with 1,066 candidates.

Some of the more prominent candidates who registered for the elections are Ali Larijani, current Majles speaker; Gholam-Ali Haddad Adel, previous Majles speaker; Ahmad Tavakoli, head of the Majles Research Center and one of President Ahmadinejad’s major opponents in the conservative camp; Mas’oud Mir-Kazemi, former petroleum and commerce minister in Ahmadinejad’s government; Mohammad Soleimani, former telecommunications minister in Ahmadinejad’s government; Parvin Ahmadinejad, the president’s sister and current member of the Tehran municipality council; Seyyed Ahmad Mousavi, Iran’s former ambassador to Syria; Tahereh Nazari Mehr, the wife of Manouchehr Mottaki, former foreign minister who was dismissed by Ahmadinejad; and two of the most notable students of radical cleric Ayatollah Mohammad Taqi Mesbah Yazdi: Qasem Ravanbakhsh and Mohsen Gharavian.

The number of candidates is considerably smaller compared to the 7,600 candidates who registered for the previous elections, held in 2008. The sharp decrease has been attributed both to a recently-introduced change in the election law requiring candidates to have at least a master’s degree, and to the calls voiced by the major reformist organizations to boycott the elections on claims that the authorities have not guaranteed the appropriate conditions for fair elections to be held. A number of candidates affiliated with the moderate wing of the reformist camp registered for the elections despite the boycott calls. As part of the regime’s efforts to portray the elections as being fair, conservative media claimed that the fact that a number of reformist candidates submitted their candidacy for the elections is proof of their fairness and that the calls to boycott them have failed.

Top conservative cleric Ayatollah Ahmad Khatami argued this week that those who call to boycott the elections serve the interests of Iran’s enemies. At the same time, the judiciary released instructions which, among other things, prohibit websites from publishing content that encourages the boycott of the elections.

Meanwhile, power struggles are still being waged between the two major bodies affiliated with the conservative bloc: the United Conservative Front, affiliated with President Ahmadinejad’s political opponents, and the Stability Front of the Islamic Revolution (Jebhe-ye Paydari), which consists of activists considered to be the president’s allies.

The Khabar Online website reported this week that from among more than 1,000 candidates who registered for the elections in Tehran Province, only about 60 are well-known political personalities; and that 46% of the candidates are affiliated with the United Conservative Front, 21% with the Stability Front, and 7% with the reformist camp.

The next stage after registration is the filtering of candidates: first by the Interior Ministry and then by the Guardian Council.

Rafsanjani’s official website blocked: another stage in his exclusion from politics

The official website of Expediency Discernment Council Chairman Ayatollah Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani was blocked by the authorities last weekend. Mohammad Hashemi, Rafsanjani’s brother, said that the website was blocked after its administrator refused to comply with the authorities’ demand to take down the last Friday sermon delivered by Rafsanjani after the presidential elections in the summer of 2009. In the sermon, the former president expressed his doubts about the election results and called for the release of the political prisoners detained in the wave of riots that broke out after the elections. The conservative daily Resalat claimed, however, that the reason the website was blocked was that some of Rafsanjani’s memoirs from the 1980s had been published contrary to the decisions of the Supreme National Security Council.

The conservative website Bibak applauded the blocking of the website, saying that it was a justified decision when considering Rafsanjani’s inappropriate activities ahead of the Majles elections and comparing it to the decisions to block the websites of the British embassy and the virtual U.S. embassy in Tehran.

The conservatives’ efforts to smear Rafsanjani could also be seen in an interview with Prof. Sadeq Zibakalam published this week by Fars News Agency. In the interview, the top reformist intellectual estimated that Rafsanjani was against participating in the Majles elections. Rafsanjani’s office later denied that this was indeed his position.

The blocking of Rafsanjani’s official website is yet another expression of his ongoing exclusion from political life, which began after the presidential elections in the summer of 2009. In March 2011 Rafsanjani was dismissed from his position as chairman of the Assembly of Experts, and according to various estimates he will soon be dismissed from his position as chairman of the Expediency Discernment Council, a title he has held since 1989.

Meanwhile, Rafsanjani’s daughter, Faezeh Hashemi, was sentenced this week to six months in prison on charges of "propaganda against the regime”. In addition, she will not be allowed to take part in any political, cultural, or media-related activity for five years.

Dollar at record high after U.S. sanctions on Central Bank

The dollar hit an all-time high against the Iranian rial this week. On Monday, January 2, one dollar was selling for nearly 1,800 tomans on the free market. The sharp increase in the dollar’s exchange rate is continuing despite the efforts made in recent weeks by the Central Bank and the Finance and Interest Committee to curb it. The dollar crossed the 1,600-toman line two weeks ago but then corrected down.

The sharp increase in the dollar’s exchange rate earlier this week has been attributed to the decision made by the United States to impose sanctions on Iran’s Central Bank. Officials in Iran, however, dismissed the decision. Mohammad Nahavandian, head of the Chamber of Commerce, claimed that Iran’s economy remained dynamic despite the sanctions against it, while Central Bank Governor Mahmoud Bahmani said that the world is laughing at the United States because of its sanctions on the Central Bank.

This week the Asr-e Iran website warned about the escalation of the Iranians’ crisis of confidence in the rial, and laid much of the blame for the devaluation of the rial on the government. Unless the government adopts an appropriate policy to curb the ongoing decrease in the value of the rial, the website warned, Iran’s currency could meet the same fate as that of Zimbabwe.

The daily Tehran Emrouz also criticized the government for its inability to curb the appreciation of the dollar. According to the daily, the sanctions imposed by the United States on the Central Bank are no more severe than those imposed on Iran in the past thirty years, and the responsibility for their unusually strong impact on the Iranian economy rests with the government and the Central Bank, which did not adopt an effective policy in view of the developments on the foreign currency market.

The reformist daily Mardom Salari, too, criticized the government for its economic failures, arguing that the optimistic speculations of the president and top economic officials do not reflect the economic figures.

Meanwhile, it was reported this week that housing prices went up by 20 percent in recent weeks, mostly as a result of the dollar’s sharp gains against the local currency.

New report by Iran’s Center for Statistics: average family’s expenses higher than income

This week the Iranian Center for Statistics released its annual report for 2010-2011 on the expenses and income of an average Iranian family. According to the report, the annual income of an average urban family last year was 106 million rials (about 6,650 dollars), while its annual expenses amounted to 113.7 million rials (about 7,100 dollars). The annual income of an average rural family was 59.3 million rials (about 3,700 dollars), while its expenses were 68.5 million rials (about 4,250 dollars).

The report also shows that 23 percent of the expenses of an average urban family go towards the purchase of food (compared to 38 percent of the expenses of a rural family). A category-by-category breakdown of an average Iranian family’s income sources reveals another interesting figure: only 33 percent of the income of an average family comes from a stable salary. The rest of the income comes from private businesses or "various sources” (which the report did not specify).

91 percent of urban families made use of home gas last year (compared to only 40 percent in rural areas), 88 percent had cell phones (73 percent among rural families), and 37 percent had a private car (compared to only 18 percent in rural areas). 

"Social justice”: how much do "cyber soldiers in service” of the regime make?

Ahmad Najmi, a cleric and blogger affiliated with the religious establishment in the city of Qom, stirred a controversy among regime supporters this week after revealing that the "soldiers of the soft war”, who work to further the regime’s objectives on the internet, are paid 7,000 tomans an hour (approx. 4.3 dollars), considerably higher than the norm in Iran’s economy. The cleric referred to Basij members whose work is supported by the regime, and who are involved, among other things, in disseminating content that reflects the regime’s position on websites, blogs, and social networks.

The information exposed about the wages of the "cyber activists” drew strong reactions from blogs and websites affiliated with the regime’s supporters. One of the bloggers accused Najmi of slandering the revolutionary cyber activists, and the conservative website Jahan News argued that it was a false report released on behalf of Saudi Arabia and the Al-Arabiyya network to tarnish the reputation of the "Hezbollah forces” and compromise Iran’s regional position.

 

Registration of candidates ends for 2012 elections

The registration of candidates for the Majles elections slated for March 2, 2012 ended last weekend. A total of 5,395 candidates registered during the application week. Interior Minister Mohammad Mostafa Najjar reported this weekend that 428 of the candidates who registered are women, and that 260 of the 290 current Majles members registered for the next elections. The highest number of candidates who will run in the directly-elected constituencies was reported in Tehran Province (1,066), followed by Esfahan Province (417) (Fars, December 31).

The number of candidates is considerably smaller compared to the 7,600 candidates who registered for the previous elections, held in 2008. The sharp decrease can be explained by two main factors: a recently-introduced change in the election law requiring candidates to have at least a master’s degree, and the calls of the major reformist organizations to boycott the elections. The Asr-e Iran website argued this week that the new education restriction approved by the current Majles works mostly against candidates in smaller provinces, where the percentage of graduate degree holders is relatively small. The website said that the problematic performance of the current Majles, which weakened its public status, also contributed towards the drop in the number of candidates who registered for the elections (Asr-e Iran, December 31).

Some of the more prominent candidates who registered for the elections are Ali Larijani, current Majles speaker, who will apparently run on behalf of Qom Province; Gholam-Ali Haddad Adel, previous Majles speaker; Ahmad Tavakoli, head of the Majles Research Center and one of President Ahmadinejad’s major opponents in the conservative camp; Mas’oud Mir-Kazemi, former petroleum and commerce minister in Ahmadinejad’s government; Mohammad Soleimani, former telecommunications minister in Ahmadinejad’s government; Parvin Ahmadinejad, the president’s sister and current member of the Tehran municipality council; Seyyed Ahmad Mousavi, Iran’s former ambassador to Syria; Tahereh Nazari Mehr, the wife of Manouchehr Mottaki, former foreign minister who was dismissed by Ahmadinejad; and two of the most notable students of radical cleric Ayatollah Mohammad Taqi Mesbah Yazdi: Qasem Ravanbakhsh and Mohsen Gharavian.

This year’s registration of candidates was marked by a decision made by the main reformist organizations, headed by the Council for the Coordination of the Green Path of Hope, the Participation Front, and the Mojahedeen of the Revolution Organization, to boycott the elections on claims that the authorities have not guaranteed the appropriate conditions for fair elections to be held, which includes releasing the two reformist opposition leaders Mir-Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karoubi from the house arrest  they were put under about a year ago, lifting the ban on the activity of the main reformist parties, and removing the restrictions imposed on reformist websites and newspapers.

Registration of candidates ends for 2012 elections

Despite the boycott calls, a number of candidates affiliated with the moderate wing of the reformist camp registered for the elections, including Mohammad Reza Tabesh, Dariush Qanbari, Mostafa Kavakebian, and Akbar A’lami. As part of the regime’s efforts to portray the elections as being fair, conservative media claimed in recent days that the registration of candidates affiliated with the reformist camp is proof that the boycott failed and that the elections are competitive.

This week top conservative cleric Ayatollah Ahmad Khatami discussed the calls heard from the reformist camp to boycott the elections, saying that they go against the legacy of Ayatollah Khomeini, founder of the Islamic revolution. In a Friday sermon delivered by Khatami, he said that the citizens of Iran have the right and responsibility to take part in the elections, and that those who call to boycott them serve the interests of Iran’s enemies, who seek to spoil the election atmosphere (ISNA, December 30). At the same time, the judiciary released instructions for websites on election-related reports. Among other things, the instructions prohibit the publication of content that encourages the boycott of the elections (Fars, December 31).

Meanwhile, power struggles are still being waged between the two major bodies affiliated with the conservative bloc: the United Conservative Front, affiliated with President Ahmadinejad’s political opponents, and the Stability Front of the Islamic Revolution (Jebhe-ye Paydari-ye Enqelab-e Eslami). The latter consists of political activists considered to be the president’s allies, including former cabinet ministers in his government, a number of current Majles members affiliated with him, and political activists who are members of the Ammar Headquarters, a think-tank affiliated with the radical wing of the conservative camp. The front is supported by radical cleric Ayatollah Mohammad-Taqi Mesbah-Yazdi. According to some speculations, it is highly unlikely that the two bodies will reach an agreement on a list of candidates to run jointly in the various constituencies. There is, however, a possibility that some candidates in some constituencies will run for both lists, as happened in the previous Majles elections in 2008, in which the conservative bodies were likewise unable to come to an agreement to run jointly.

The Khabar Online website, which released the complete list of candidates in Tehran Province, reported this week that from among more than 1,000 candidates who registered for the elections in Tehran Province, only about 60 are well-known political personalities;
46% of the candidates are affiliated with the United Conservative Front, 21% with the Stability Front, and 7% with the reformist camp (Khabar Online, December 31). Ali-Reza Zakani, one of the leaders of the United Conservative Front, accused the president’s allies of paying hundreds of thousands of dollars to each Stability Front candidate to secure their victory (Khabar Online, December 30). In recent months the president’s opponents warned about the intention of the "deviant faction” (a term used to refer to the president’s allies and his office chief, Rahim Masha’i) to take over the Majles in the coming elections.

The next stage after registration is the filtering of candidates: first by the Interior Ministry and then by the Guardian Council. The candidates are filtered according to criteria established by law. Among other things, a candidate needs to prove that he or she is loyal to Islam, the constitution of Iran, and the principle of "rule of the religious jurisprudent”, is in good health, has at least a master’s degree, doesn’t have a criminal record, and is between 30 to 75 years old.

Guardian Council Spokesman Abbas-Ali Kadkhoda’i reported this week that the council will be filtering candidates from January 10 to February 20. He rejected claims that the elections are not competitive due to the non-participation of reformist candidates, and noted that the candidates who registered for the elections represent the entire political spectrum, including the reformist faction (ISNA, December 31). 

Rafsanjani’s official website blocked: another stage in his exclusion from politics

The official website of Expediency Discernment Council Chairman Ayatollah Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani was blocked by the authorities last weekend. In an interview given to ILNA News Agency, Rafsanjani’s brother Mohammad Hashemi confirmed the reports about the blocking of the website, and said that it was blocked after the website administrator refused to comply with the authorities’ demand to take down the last Friday sermon delivered by Rafsanjani after the presidential elections in the summer of 2009. In the sermon, the former president expressed his doubts about the election results and called for the release of the political prisoners detained in the wave of riots that broke out after the elections. Criticism voiced by regime supporters against Rafsanjani increased following the sermon. Since then the Expediency Council chairman no longer delivers Friday sermons in Tehran.

Mohammad Hashemi noted that the demand to remove Rafsanjani’s last sermons from his official website and to "purify the website” had been relayed to the website administrator in an e-mail sent on behalf of the team in charge of monitoring websites. He defined the demand as illegal and surprising (ILNA, December 30).

The conservative daily Resalat claimed earlier this week that Mohammad Hashemi’s remarks are baseless, and that the real reason the website was blocked was that some of Rafsanjani’s memoirs from the 1980s had been published contrary to the decisions of the Supreme National Security Council (Resalat, January 1).

The conservative website Bibak applauded the blocking of Rafsanjani’s website, saying that in recent months the website attempted to sow discord in the conservative camp and even brought up doubts about the fairness of the coming Majles elections. Bibak condemned Rafsanjani’s conduct in the 2009 elections and the riots which broke out afterwards, saying that the authorities’ decision to block his official website is justified, similarly to the decisions to block the websites of the British embassy and the virtual U.S. embassy in Tehran. The website also accused Rafsanjani’s brother Mohammad Hashemi of serving the interests of the regime’s enemies ahead of the Majles elections (Bibak, December 29).

The conservatives’ efforts to smear Rafsanjani could also be seen in an interview with top reformist intellectual Prof. Sadeq Zibakalam published this week by Fars News Agency. In the interview, Zibakalam was asked to address Rafsanjani’s position on the reformist faction’s participation in the coming Majles elections. The Tehran University intellectual said that, in his view, Rafsanjani is against participating in the Majles elections since the demands he brought up to solve the political crisis that broke out after the 2009 presidential elections have not been met. He added that, like top reformists Mehdi Karoubi and Mohammad Khatami, Rafsanjani also announced that he has no intention of presenting his own list of preferred candidates for the coming Majles elections, and that no "true” reformist group has announced that it is going to run in the elections (Fars, December 31).

The day after the interview, the news agency issued a clarification stating that, following a request Zibakalam received from Rafsanjani’s office, he would like to stress that his discussion of Rafsanjani’s position on taking part in the elections reflects just his own personal speculations (Fars, January 1)

Rafsanjani’s official website blocked: another stage in his exclusion from politics

The blocking of Rafsanjani’s official website is yet another expression of his ongoing exclusion from political life. The political rift between him and the regime widened since the presidential elections in the summer of 2009. His critics claimed that he did not unequivocally side with the Supreme Leader and the regime in their fight against the reformist opposition, and even collaborated with its leaders before the elections and during the riots that broke out afterwards. The conservative media also accused Rafsanjani and his relatives in involvement in corruption.

His status in the Assembly of Experts, which he had chaired, was eroding as well, and in March 2011 the assembly chose Mohammad-Reza Mahdavi Kani to replace him as chairman. In recent months there have been more and more speculations that he will soon be dismissed from his position as chairman of the Expediency Discernment Council, a title he has held since 1989, in the coming round of appointments.

Meanwhile, Rafsanjani’s daughter, Faezeh Hashemi, was sentenced this week to six months in prison on charges of "propaganda against the regime”. In addition, the Revolutionary Court in Tehran prohibited her from taking part in any political, cultural, or media-related activity for the next five years. Faezeh Hashemi was brought to trial after giving a number of interviews to the press in which she strongly criticized the regime’s conduct after the last presidential elections. The former president’s daughter also took part in the riots which broke out in Iran in the summer of 2009 and was even arrested at that time.

Dollar at record high after U.S. sanctions on Central Bank

The dollar hit an all-time high against the Iranian rial this week. On Monday, January 2, one dollar was selling for nearly 1,800 tomans on the free market. Just one day prior to that one dollar was selling for 1,520 tomans on the free market. The dollar’s sudden gain further increased the difference between its exchange rate on the free market and its official exchange rate, set this week by Iran’s Central Bank at 1,118 tomans.

The sharp increase in the dollar rate is continuing despite the efforts made in recent weeks by the Central Bank and the Finance and Interest Council to curb it. The dollar crossed the 1,600-toman line two weeks ago but then corrected down. The euro’s exchange rate against the rial keeps rising as well, and it was trading for 2,075 tomans on the free market this week. Its official exchange rate was set at 1,450 tomans.

Dollar at record high after U.S. sanctions on Central Bank
The dollar’s exchange rate on the free market during President Ahmadinejad’s tenure,
1384-1390 [2005-2012] (Khabar Online, January 2)

The sharp increase in the dollar’s exchange rate earlier this week has been attributed to the decision made by the United States to impose sanctions on Iran’s Central Bank. Last weekend President Barack Obama signed the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2012, one of whose sections imposes sanctions on any bank that does business with the Central Bank of Iran.

Officials in Iran, however, dismissed the decision. Mohammad Nahavandian, head of the Chamber of Commerce, defined the U.S. decision as "inappropriate” and claimed that Iran’s economy remains dynamic and its commerce keeps improving despite the sanctions. Central Bank Governor Mahmoud Bahmani’s reaction was also one of disdain. He said that the world is laughing at the United States because of its sanctions on the Central Bank and referred to the decision as an irrational "political maneuver” that ignores the Central Bank’s independence (Mehr, January 1).

This week the Asr-e Iran website warned about the escalation of the Iranians’ crisis of confidence in the rial. The website said that the increase in the dollar’s exchange rate stems from a combination of the economic sanctions imposed on Iran, the government’s failure to stabilize the foreign currency market, and the activity of speculators. However, Asr-e Iran laid much of the blame for the collapse of the rial on the government, saying that severe economic consequences may result if the trend continues. A commentary article published by the website said that, when the dollar’s exchange rate goes up by more than 40 percent in a year, the government cannot restore the public’s confidence in the local currency through slogans alone. Unless the government adopts an appropriate policy to curb the ongoing decrease in the value of the rial, the website warned, Iran’s currency could meet the same fate as that of Zimbabwe (Asr-e Iran, January 2)

Rooz Online, January 2
Rooz Online, January 2

The daily Tehran Emrouz also criticized the government for its inability to curb the appreciation of the dollar. According to the daily, it is the administrative weakness of the government and the Central Bank that facilitated the significant psychological effect of the sanctions imposed by the United States on the Central Bank. An editorial published by the daily said that the sanctions are no more severe than those imposed on Iran in the past thirty years, and if the government and the Central Bank took an effective policy in view of the developments on the foreign currency market, their impact could be reduced (Tehran Emrouz, January 3).

The reformist daily Mardom Salari, too, criticized the government for its economic failures, arguing that the optimistic speculations of the president and the government’s top economic officials do not reflect the economic figures. The increase in foreign currency exchange rates is an indication of economic instability, deflecting investments from the productive sector to the black market. An editorial published by the daily earlier this week said that the government achieved none of the economic objectives set out in the multi-year development program, some of which are: increasing economic growth and investments, improving production, reducing economic inequalities, raising employment, increasing oil production, minimizing dependence on oil revenues, and lowering inflation (Mardom Salari, January 2).

Meanwhile, it was reported this week that the rapid depreciation of the local currency (rial) against the dollar in recent weeks has resulted in a 20-percent increase in housing prices. Mehr News Agency reported an unprecedented boom in housing prices driven by developments on the foreign exchange market, which leads Iranians to prefer real estate investments. Commentators believe that housing prices will continue to increase in the next several months following the anticipated increase of energy prices due to the launch of the second stage of the subsidy policy reform (Mehr, January 2).

New report by Iran’s Center for Statistics: average family’s expenses higher than income

This week the Iranian Center for Statistics released its annual report for 2010-2011 on the expenses and income of an average Iranian family. The report is based on a sample of 18,701 families living in urban areas and 19,584 families living in rural areas.

According to the recent report, the annual income of an average urban family last year was 106 million rials (about 6,650 dollars). It was an increase of 13.4 percent compared to the previous year (2009-2010). The annual income of an average rural family was 59.3 million rials (about 3,700 dollars), up by 13.1 percent compared to the previous year.

The annual expenses of an average urban family last year amounted to 113.7 million rials (about 7,100 dollars). It was an increase of 14.6 percent compared to the previous year. The annual expenses of an average rural family were 68.5 million rials (about 4,250 dollars), up by 15.6 compared to the previous year.

The report also breaks down the expenses of an average Iranian family into categories. Twenty-three percent of the money spent by an urban family goes towards food and tobacco (26 percent of which for buying meat). Forty-two percent of the non-food expenses goes towards housing.

Thirty-eight percent of the money spent by a rural family goes towards food and tobacco (25 percent of which for buying meat), while 26 percent of the non-food expenses goes towards housing.

A category-by-category breakdown of an average Iranian family’s income sources shows that 33 percent of the income of an urban family comes from a stable salary; 18 percent from private businesses, and 49 percent from "various sources” (which the report did not specify). Thirty-three percent of the income of a rural family comes from a stable salary; 34 percent from agricultural businesses, and 32 percent from "various sources”.

The report also shows that 91 percent of urban families made use of home gas for heating and cooking last year (compared to 90 percent in the previous year), 88 percent had cell phones (compared to 86 percent in the previous year), and 37 percent had a private car (compared to 36 percent in the previous year). Forty percent of rural families made use of home gas (compared to 35 percent in the previous year), 73 percent had cell phones (compared to 65 percent in the previous year), and 18 percent had a private car (compared to 15 percent in the previous year) (ISNA, January 1). 

"Social justice”: how much do "cyber soldiers in service” of the regime make?

An Iranian blogger stirred a controversy among regime supporters this week after revealing that the "soldiers of the soft war”, who work to further the regime’s objectives on the internet, are paid 7,000 tomans an hour (approx. 4.3 dollars), considerably higher than the norm in Iran’s economy.

Details on the wages earned by "soldiers of the soft war” were published several days ago on the Friendfeed social network by Ahmad Najmi, a cleric and blogger affiliated with the religious establishment in the city of Qom (http://friendfeed.com/najmi/1dc37c83/7). The cleric referred to Basij members who have operated online for the past several years, and whose work is supported by the regime. They are involved in disseminating content that reflects the Iranian regime’s position on websites, blogs, and social networks. They also act against websites considered to be "hostile” towards the regime.

The information exposed about the wages of the "cyber activists” drew strong reactions from blogs and websites affiliated with the regime’s supporters. One of the bloggers accused Najmi of slandering the revolutionary cyber activists. The blogger said he had called Najmi to demand an apology, but the latter insisted that his information was correct and hung up in the blogger’s face (Digarban, January 2; http://www.janfada.com/post/61).

Basij commander Mohammad Reza Naqdi (Digarban, January 2)
Basij commander Mohammad Reza Naqdi (Digarban, January 2)

The conservative website Jahan News also strongly criticized Najmi, arguing that the report on the wages earned by Basij members working in cyberspace for the regime was fabricated, and that it was released on behalf of Saudi Arabia and the Al-Arabiyya network to tarnish the reputation of the "Hezbollah forces” and compromise Iran’s regional position in light of the success of Iran’s cyber activists (Jahan News, January 2)

Pictures of the week: Velayat-90 naval exercise in the Persian Gulf

Velayat-90 naval exercise in the Persian Gulf

Velayat-90 naval exercise in the Persian Gulf

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