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Repression of free speech continues to grow in Iran
Throughout Iran, journalists, bloggers, and activists of all types are being hounded to give up their efforts to create real change within the country for the Iranian people.

The regime is determined to maintain its source of power by whatever means necessary, including silencing all voices that might disagree with them or expose their actions, such as human rights violations and abuses.

Iran has not limited targeting of journalists within their own country, but has focused on foreign journalists as well. Using cyber attacks, they have targeted Iranian journalists abroad and their colleagues. The regime has also launched an investigation of the BBC Persian, falsely charged a British-Iranian for conspiring against the regime by teaching journalism. Throughout the regime, journalists are seen as a source of Western agents that are infiltrating the country.

On November 9, an investigation by the Center for Human Rights in Iran concluded that hackers from the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) emailed malware on November 6 to three journalists based in Europe and the US, along with a human rights lawyer in the US. What makes the attacks stand out even more is that they have been able to attack a Mac, not just a Windows or Android system.

On November 4, the Iranian judiciary announced fresh charges against British-Iranian charity worker Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, who received a five-year prison sentence last year on spurious espionage claims. The new allegations, which accuse her of "spreading propaganda against the regime," came in the wake of an incorrect statement by British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson that Ratcliffe had visited Iran to teach journalism. In fact, she came to the country to see family while on vacation. Tehran cited Johnson's comments as the reason for the new charges, although there is evidence that their "investigation" had already begun before Johnson's comments. Johnson has retracted his statements since that time and demanded her release.

A website functioning as an IRGC mouthpiece attempted to justify Tehran's persecution of the BBC by noting that Iran remains locked in an "ongoing soft war" with Britain.

"Isn't the BBC," wrote Javan chief editor Abdollah Ganji, "at the service of the opponents of the Islamic Republic, who pose as academic experts from places no one has heard of? Why wouldn't Iran see them as enemies? Are enemy properties not part of the spoils of war?"

This declaration suggests that Tehran regards journalists as foot soldiers in a larger ideological struggle against Iran. Journalists, in Tehran's view, aim to undermine the regime's legitimacy by proliferating content that discredits the Shiite theology guiding it. Iran also keenly recalls that the internet, particularly social media, played a key role in facilitating the mass protests of 2009.

The Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) has arrested at least 30 dual nationals in Iran since the signing of the nuclear deal in July 2015, according to a Reuter's investigation. Research by CHRI shows that at least 12 dual and foreign nationals, as well as permanent residents, were in prison in Iran as of October 2017 without due process.

The Iranian judiciary's launch of a criminal investigation earlier this year of 152 current and former staff members of BBC Persian based outside Iran reflects the authorities' growing willingness to extend its repression and the denial of freedom of expression beyond the country's own borders.

"Given Iran's longstanding refusal to cooperate with international human rights bodies, the EU is in a unique position to discuss human rights directly with the Iranian authorities. The EU must use this opportunity to channel its concern over human rights violations and press the Iranian government for progress on key issues," said Dimitris Christopoulos, FIDH President.

Women, religious minorities, and ethnic communities have continued to be discriminated against. Iranian law ostracizes women and minorities in blatant disregard of international law. These groups are often persecuted and are denied access to work and education. In light of International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, these continued human rights violations and the oppression of journalists are a source of concern for the international community.

"Violence against women is fundamentally about power," Guterres said in his remarks alongside UN Women Executive Director, Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, at a special event held at UN Headquarters in New York to commemorate International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, which is annually observed on 25 November. "It will only end when gender equality and the full empowerment of women will be a reality," he stressed, adding that his policy on gender parity in the United Nations is one step towards achieving this goal.

Guterres noted that every woman and every girl have the right to a life free of violence, but this right is violated in a variety of ways in every community, with more than one in three women worldwide face violence throughout their lifetime.

Addressing this violence and the human rights violations in Iran are key to creating real change, but this will mean that the international community needs to put additional pressure on the regime.

Editorial NOTE: This article is categorized under Opinion Section. The views expressed in this article are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of merinews.com. In case you have a opposing view, please click here to share the same in the comments section.
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