Well, the big secret is out: Whatever it takes, Iran is determined to stamp out another season of mass demonstrations railing against the parliamentary elections set for next week.
In fact, for months Iranian authorities have been targeting everyone from students, lawyers, religious leaders and bloggers to political activists and their relatives as they unleash a wave of repression, including a new "cyber army" to block Internet and social media networks, thus cutting off access to the outside world, Amnesty International charged yesterday.
"The Iranian authorities have unleashed their "cyber army' in an effort to cut off their citizens' access to information," said Suzanne Nossel, executive director of Amnesty International USA.
"Meanwhile those who dare express any unapproved thoughts on the Internet can expect to be slapped with a prison sentence of more than a decade," she said, adding, "The Iranian government is going to extraordinary lengths to impose a total information blackout on the Iranian population."
These charges are contained in the report, "We Are Ordered To Crush You: Expanding Repression of Dissent in Iran." The report says "anything from setting up a social group on the Internet, forming or joining an NGO, or expressing opposition to the status quo can land individuals in prison."
The report documents a wave of arrests in recent months that it said "lays bare the hollowness of Iran's claim to support protests in the Middle East and North Africa."
Amnesty also called on the global community "not to allow tensions over Iran's nuclear program or events in the wider region to distract it from pressing Iran to live up to its human rights obligations."
Amnesty says Iran's security forces -- including the new cyber police force -- can now scrutinize activists as they use personal computers in their own homes. A new and shadowy "cyber army" reportedly linked to the Revolutionary Guards, has carried out attacks on websites at home and abroad, including Twitter and the Voice of America.
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