Neda Agha-Soltan’s mother speaks out

The murder of Neda Agha-Soltan is one of the most watched and viral videos and viscerally compelling stories that came out of Iran this year. Neda’s mother was interviewed by the BBC recently. This is one answer.

How would you like your daughter to be remembered?

I don’t want people to forget her. People – Iranians – have all been very supportive. They come to me and congratulate me for having had such a brave daughter. And now I want you to do something for me. I want you, on my behalf, to thank everyone around the world, Iranians and non Iranians, people from every country and culture, people who in their own way, their own tradition, have mourned my child… everyone who lit a candle for her – every musician, who wrote songs for her, who wrote poems about her… you know, Neda loved the arts and music. I want to thank all of them.
I want to thank politicians and leaders, from every country, at all levels, who remembered my child.

Her death has been so painful – words can never describe my true feelings. But knowing that the world cried for her… that has comforted me.

I am proud of her. The world sees her as a symbol, and that makes me happy.

Nokia Siemens in Iran: Shame or all’s fair game for telcos?

Deep packet inspection is bad under any regime, no matter how benevolent. When a regime such as Iran today gets access to technology with the potential of DPI, you have a justifiable uproar on far more serious and urgent implications than delayed music downloads.

Global media over the past week pointed to Nokia and Siemens as having provided the Iranian regime with technology to detect and filter information they found inconvenient. According to a widely republished and quoted Wall Street Journal article on 22 June that the newspaper stands by, a system installed in Iran by Nokia Siemens Networks provides Iranian authorities with the ability to conduct deep-packet inspection of online communications to monitor the contents and track the source of e-mail, VoIP calls, and posts to social networking sites such as Twitter, MySpace and Facebook. As quoted by Wired, the newspaper also said authorities had the ability to alter content as it intercepted the traffic from a state-owned internet choke point.

Commenting on the story was Ben Roome, a spokesperson for Nokia Siemens Networks who noted in a blog post that,

I do want to say to the people commenting here if we’re (I’m) aware of the situation in Iran. We are (and I am), and it is mainly because of mobile phone video, photos and calls from across Iran, communicating events first hand as they happen, that we are so aware. As I said above: we had a choice as to whether we bring the Iranian people this mobile connectivity, in the knowledge that telecoms networks in Iran are required to have the ability to monitor voice calls as they do all over the world. We made that choice and believe there is a net benefit to the people of Iran.

The point made is that the world is angry about Iran, and sees horrific videos such as the murder of Neda Soltani, because of the ICT networks and foundations facilitated by Nokia Siemens Networks. The over one hundred comments to date on Ben’s blog post reveal the frustration and anger of people who point to the culpability of Nokia Siemens Networks in the violence that has gripped Iran today.

I suggested to some colleagues this morning that one can look at this issue from the perspective of power and accountability. The power of these DPI systems in Iran pale into insignificance with the capacity of what, for example, the US and its allies can monitor and intercept domestically and globally. But there is, at worst, retroactive judicial oversight in the US even when the Executive runs amok combined with the enabling Freedom of Information legislation. What can and should business do when this accountability and oversight is not present, and yet government’s ask for powerful technologies that can be used to undermine human dignity and human security?

But let’s not kid ourselves – you don’t do any business with a regime like Iran expecting them to give a free reign to rights, dissent and democracy. Is that a reason to not do any business? Not. Is that a reason to be up front to consumers about the business one does? Perhaps. Is that a reason to brush away a moral responsibility for the death of Neda Soltani?

Definitely not.

Facebook and Google Maps in Iran

Following up from my previous post on the use of new media and citizen journalism in Iran recently, I came across two more powerful examples today.

Presidential candidate Mir Hossein Mousavi
Presidential candidate Mir Hossein Mousavi

Facebook it seems, in Persian, is now an important means of mobilising and disseminating information produced by polity and society opposed to the Presidential election outcome. The very fact that Persian is available on Facebook is because of its heightened use in Iran. As Facebook notes,

Since the Iranian election last week, people around the world have increasingly been sharing news and information on Facebook about the results and its aftermath. Much of the content created and shared has been in Persian—the native language of Iran—but people have had to navigate the site in English or other languages. Today we’re making the entire site available in a beta version of Persian, so Persian speakers inside of Iran and around the world can begin using it in their native language.

View Embassies Accepting Injured People in Tehran in a larger map

This Google Maps mashup shows a list of foreign embassies accepting injured people in Tehran, with information sourced from the Huffington Post. It’s certainly not innovative in the sense of using Google Maps to display information critical in a crisis. However, with well over 6,831 views in less than 24 hours, it means that those on the ground in Tehran and elsewhere in the world communicating this information back to friends, colleagues and loved ones back in Iran find this information critical.

This is another simple and powerful example of the self-organisation of protest groups and dissent made possible by mapping platforms on the web.

Posts on Iran, new media and citizen journalism

I’ve been inundated with links on how new media is helping us understand what’s going on in Iran after its recently held Presidential elections.

In order to understand the broader context of who uses new media in Iran, why and how, the Berkman Centre’s Mapping Iran’s Online Public is essential reading.

A few articles on new media and the fallout of the Presidential elections in Iran I found genuinely insightful are:

What you need to understand about the riots in Iran and Twitter from Canada’s World
Tehran, Twitter, and Tiananmen by Dan Rather
Tehran, Twitter, and Tiananmen by the Washington Post
The Iranian Uprisings and the Challenge of the New Media by Henry Giroux in Counterpunch

Evgeny Morozov’s Texting Toward Utopia: Does the Internet spread democracy?, which to me is a definitive essay on the pros and cons of the web and Internet augmenting democracy also resonates with the observations in these articles.

In a slightly lighter vein, I have also looked at why Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s help in developing IT and e-government in Sri Lanka is urgently needed and would be roundly welcomed.

Why Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad should be Mahinda Rajapakse’s IT advisor

There are a number of questions being asked as to why Indian über-geek and guru extrodinaire N.R. Narayana Murthy decided to withdraw from being the personal advisor to our President on IT matters due to ‘personal reasons’. All is not lost. Given our close ties with Iran the President is well advised to get Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s help in developing IT and e-government in Sri Lanka.

President Ahmadinejad’s qualifications for this far exceeds Murthy’s.

Firstly, he is a fellow President, democratically elected in a free and fair election, with shared interests in strengthening human rights and democracy. Murthy at best can buy command and control over a botnet. Secondly, and more importantly, President Ahmadinejad blogs, which is frankly very cool.  He started to do so way back in 2006 (and you thought Obama was the trendsetter?) and though he’s stopped now, it’s clear that Murthy’s knowledge of the IT industry is equal to his ignorance of new media.

Continue reading

Blogs and media censorship – Iran and Sri Lanka

“Given the repressive media environment in Iran today, blogs may represent the most open public communications platform for political discourse. The peer-to-peer architecture of the blogosphere is more resistant to capture or control by the state than the older, hub and spoke architecture of the mass media model.”

The very same could be said of the blogoshere in Sri Lanka today.

Read the fascinating study, Mapping Iran’s Online Public: Politics and Culture in the Persian Blogosphere, conducted by the Berkman Center for Internet and Society here.  

Also read: