The Revolutionary Guards have arrested a woman after she posted “anti-religious” comments on instant messaging app Telegram.
Mehdi Hosseini Tabar, the head of public relations for the Guards in the northeastern Golestan province told Tasnim News on August 18 that they had arrested a 33-year-old woman because she had posted comments “against Islamic leaders and the Iranian regime.” The woman was not named. It was thought some of the comments she posted on Telegram mentioned Shia clerics, though it is not clear exactly what she posted.
Convictions for “illegal” online activity continue to rise in Iran. In January, security forces arrested seven fashion models after six of them posted photographs of themselves on Instagram not wearing hijabs.
Then, two months later, the Revolutionary Guards launched a “spider attack” against a number of Instagram pages, including those operated by hair salons and film production companies.
In July, four people in northern Iran were arrested for “insulting religion and holy elements” in connection with their posts on Telegram.
On August 10, prominent journalist Isa Saharkhiz was sentenced to three years’ imprisonment for insulting Iranian officials" and "propaganda against the regime.” He had been accused of being part of an “infiltration network,” but his son Mehdi said his imprisonment was a direct result of material he had published online. “He was posting on Facebook, maybe talking in different groups, and writing articles for different websites. He was just putting his opinion out there, which according to the Iranian constitution is his right to do.”
Facebook and Twitter are banned in Iran, but Iranians regularly access the sites using proxy servers — and several Iranian high officials are active on Twitter, including President Hassan Rouhani and Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif. The supreme leader also tweets. Telegram and Instagram are currently not blocked, though, with the “spider attacks” on targeted accounts, the Revolutionary Guards could well have a new tactic against dissenting views.
Telegram has grown in popularity in Iran over the last year, and large numbers of Iranians shared news and opinion on the app in the run up to February’s parliamentary elections.