Kurdish bookseller sentenced to three months in prison for selling Bible

Rahimi was first arrested in June, but was granted bail until his sentence was finalized by the judiciary council.

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August 28, 2019 21:36
4 minute read.
THE BIBLE

THE BIBLE . (photo credit: JERUSALEM POST)

The Iranian Guardian Council has sentenced Kurdish Bookseller Mostafa Rahimi to three months in prison on charges of selling copies of the Bible in his bookstore, according to the Hengaw Organization for Human Rights.

Rahimi was first arrested in June, but was granted bail until his sentence was finalized by the judiciary council.

He was arrested once again in early August, to serve out his sentence in Bokan prison.

Iran is well-known for passing down prison sentences for those not observing religious laws and those who protest against the government and religious entities related to Iran.

For example, all women must wear hijabs and modest clothing, and just last month Monireh Arabshahi, Yasamin Aryani, and Mojgan Keshavarz, three women who have been held in Iranian custody since April of this year for "disrespecting compulsory hijab," were sentenced by the Iranian Revolutionary Court to prison terms of at least 16 years each for disobeying the country's Islamic dress code - 39 women were arrested last year in connection with hijab protests in 2018 alone.

This month, Sadegh Zibalkam, a political science professor at the University of Tehran and prominent liberal intellectual, received a one-year prison sentence for his outspoken views against the Islamic Republic of Iran, according to IRNA state-run news.

Zibalkam was charged by the conservative judiciary with "spreading lies for the purpose of agitating the public," after he compared the employment costs of hiring 300,000 clergymen to the wealth of three poor provinces within Iran.

After an Iranian religious cleric suggested hiring the new clergymen to oversee "public morality," Zibalkam argued in a short op-ed that the costs exceed the budgets of three poor Iranian provinces and placed religious authority at the forefront of Iranian government aspirations over concerns for public welfare.

Iran also holds control over most mainstream media and social media channels, building in the process an almost complete internet blockade on the entire country from gaining information from the outside world.

Internet censorship in Iran has already been classified as pervasive to its citizens. At any given time, the Iranian government blocks up to 27% of all computer websites, according to a survey performed by viewdns.info. Sites including Facebook, Twitter and YouTube are officially banned by the country and there is a new push to place Instagram on that list as well.

Iran blocked direct access to Twitter in 2009, saying that anti-government demonstrators were using the social network to organize mass protests. Ayatollah Ali Khamenei recently warned of the "penetration of decadent Western culture in Iran" for the reasoning behind government censorship.

However, leading Iranian political figures, including President Hassan Rouhani and Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, make extensive use of both Twitter and Facebook. Some Iranians are able to get around the ban as well by using virtual private networks (VPNs) which is a software that allows users to connect to banned websites via computers located outside Iran.

During the 2017-18 protests in the country, the Islamic Republic blocked Internet access to mobile devices in an effort to quell the protests.

The government has this power because it instituted a national Internet in 2012 in order to stymie Western influence on the country, where every Internet service provider must have content-control software and gain approval from both the Telecommunication Company of Iran and the Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance - giving the government almost complete control over the Internet.

Iran uses this power to keep control over the population and filter the information comes in or out of Iran, mainly through state-run media. Iranian workers have been protesting Iranian government positions over months of unpaid wages in addition to working conditions.

“Our enemy is right here; they lie saying it’s America,” workers at the Haft Tapeh sugarcane factory in Shush, Iran, chanted during protests against unpaid wages during Friday prayers earlier this year at the city mosque, Radio Farda reported - and protests have continued since then.

According to videos posted to social media, the enraged employees interrupted prayers, chanting “Death to the oppressor!” “Peace be upon the worker!” and “A huge army is here, for the love of the labor!”

State-run radio and TV chose to cover the protests in Gaza rather than the demonstrations in Shush, which further enraged the protesters, Farda reported.

The protests come as Iran’s economy has been hard-hit by US sanctions, which were reimposed November 5 after the United States withdrew from the 2015 Iran nuclear deal in May.

Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei claims that the unrest in the labor force is a “foreign plot” to bring down the government.

“One of the major activities of our enemies has been to create a recession and obstacles in our factories and among our labor groups – particularly the big ones – so they can provoke the workers,” Khamenei said.


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