July 2, 2021

New Bill Would Further Restrict Internet Access

Week of June 28th, 2021 | Iran Unfiltered is a weekly digest tracking Iranian politics & society by the National Iranian American Council

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New Bill Would Further Restrict Internet Access

A bill in parliament would further restrict internet access if passed. The bill is titled, “Supporting users’ rights and basic services in cyberspace.” An older version of the bill was titled, “Protecting users rights on cyberspace and organizing social media.”

The bill would require all domestic and foreign website or application developers to attain a license to operate in Iran and abide by certain limitations. If they do not receive a license, access to them would be restricted. This would apply to websites and social media messengers such as Instagram, Google, Linked In, and WhatsApp, which are not currently blocked in Iran.

The bill also makes Iran’s Armed Forces responsible for “guarding the borders of cyberspace and cyber defense.” This would in effect put them in control of Iran’s main internet gateways.

The bill also introduces a series of legal punishments for violating its terms. This includes on Iranian companies that do not switch to using domestic data infrastructure or officials who use foreign social media.

The bill also says that selling VPNs, which allows internet filters to be circumvented, can be punished by imprisonment or fines.

Earlier in the week, Mohammad Saleh Meftah, a political figure close to parliamentary speaker Mohammad Bagher Ghalibaf, said the bill was no longer under consideration by parliament. However, this was rejected by a member of the parliament’s governing board, who said the bill would go to the parliamentary floor for a full review. He said this would happen after the parliament’s recess period.

Some parliamentarians earlier called for passing the bill using “Article 85” of the Iranian constitution. This article allows some bills to be passed into law by a parliamentary committee, and not by the full parliament, and be implemented for a temporary period. However, in the past, bills passed using this measure have been implemented for years.

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Strikes in Oil Sector

Contract workers in Iran’s oil, gas, and petrochemical services started a strike on June 19th that is ongoing. Their asks include increased wages and vacation time.

Workers in over 60 locations belonging to Iran’s hydrocarbon sector in eight provinces have gone on strike. Some facilities have shut down as a result according to some reports.

However, President Rouhani has denied that Iran’s oil sector has been impacted by the strike. During his weekly cabinet meeting, Rouhani promised to “resolve” the issue of the striking workers.

Rouhani said the strikers were not official employees of the oil sector but contractors. But he instructed his labor minister to address the grievances of these workers.

This is the second strike of workers in Iran’s oil industry in the past year. The workers have said in a statement that if their demands are not met, they will expand their strike.

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New Judiciary Chief Appointed

Ayatollah Khamenei has appointed Gholam-Hossein Mohseni-Eje’i as the new head of the judiciary. Eje’i will replace Ebrahim Raisi, who will be inaugurated as president on August 5th.

Eje’i was previously the spokesperson for the judiciary. However, he has a long record in Iran’s judiciary and intelligence apparatuses.

Eje’i has been connected to many human rights abuses inside the country over the years. He is currently sanctioned by both the EU and the United States on human rights violation allegations.

In the early years after the 1979 Islamic Revolution, Eje’i was an interrogator for Iran’s intelligence service. He later was the judiciary’s representative to the intelligence ministry during the 1980s.

Eje’i was also intelligence minister during the first term of former president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Ahmadinejad’s dismissal of Eje’i in 2009 led to a fissure between him and Khamenei which increased over time.

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Suspected Attack Targets Iranian Centrifuge Production Site

The Atomic Energy Organization of Iran (AEOI) says there was an attempted act of sabotage against a nuclear facility that it says was neutralized. Some Iranian outlets reported that the act of sabotage was carried out by a drone.

Nour News, an outlet connected to Iran’s Supreme National Security Council, says the attack targeted an AEOI facility near the city of Karaj. The outlet says no one was hurt and there was no material damage caused.

The New York Times has reported that a drone hit a facility used to produce centrifuges.

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