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News | Foreign Email Banned; Extensive Labor Layoffs; Private Bank Dissolved

11 May 2012 04:30Comments

Press Roundup provides a selected summary of news from the Farsi and Arabic press and excerpts where the source is in English. Tehran Bureau has not verified these stories and does not vouch for their accuracy. Any views expressed are the authors' own. Please refer to the Media Guide to help put the stories in perspective. You can follow breaking news stories on our Twitter feed.

InternetCondom.jpg 4:30 a.m. IRDT, 22 Ordibihesht/May 11 After repeatedly disrupting Iranian citizens' access to internationally popular webmail services, the Islamic Republic's government has apparently decided to ban them completely. Radio Zamaenh reports:
Iran's Minister of Communications and Technology has announced a ban on the use of foreign email services such as Yahoo and Gmail in order to "protect information security."

The Mehr News Agency reports that Minister Reza Taghipour released a letter addressed to Mohammad Karampour, the head of the Radio Communications and Regulations Organization, saying that public emails are "tools of transferring information out of the country." Therefore, foreign email hosts such as Yahoo, Gmail, Hotmail and MSN are now forbidden for use in Iran. [...]

Heydar Moslehi, Iran's Intelligence Minister, has expressed concern over the spread of social networking sites on the internet, calling it a "new threat" against the Islamic Republic.

Iranian officials have also claimed that Yahoo and Gmail control the emails of their users and collect private information.

In anticipation of the move to permanently cut off foreign email services, the government recently established an Iran webmail system that requires users to submit their full names, phone numbers, and mailing addresses. For more on the steps taken in the past few months by the Islamic Republic's regime to control and restrict Iranians' online activities, see Firewall Fears: Iran's Uncertain Internet Future and More Signs of Walls Closing In on Iranians' Internet Access.

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Despite official disavowals, the problem of unemployment in Iran has been steadily growing, according to many sources, with no reversal in sight -- unless, perhaps, a breakthrough in the nuclear negotiations set for May 23 in Baghdad leads to the lifting of international economic sanctions on the Islamic Republic. Rooz's Kaveh Ghoreishi reports on the latest labor developments:

Figures published after the first of May indicate unprecedented conditions for workers in Iran and point to the deteriorating state of affairs on a daily basis. While Tehran is the scene of political battles among its power mongers, a situation that has embroiled the establishment in its deepest political crisis, workers in the country continue to be laid off [and] production units to be shut and their owners are abandoning their production plants at disturbing rates.

Official news agencies have reported that at least 3,000 workers were fired from production units across the country last week or became unemployed because their contracts were not renewed. And this is only the tip of the iceberg of [a] problem that is the topic of discussion in various government forums in the presence of security and law enforcement officials.

Reports also indicate that workers in various parts of the country have demonstrated against these conditions in their work places in the last two days. In one instance, [doz]ens of retired workers from Isfahan Steel Plant gathered in front of the Majlis in Tehran to protest the non-payment of their wages and retirement benefits.

These reports of more layoff[s] come a week after the remarks by a member of the board of directors of the High Center for the Workers Associations of Iran (Kanoone Alie Anjomanhaye Senfie Kargari Iran) about a 10 percent rise in the unemployment rate during the past year. On the eve of [I]nternational Labor Day, May 1, Abolfazl Fatholahi had said, "The administration's economic policies during [the p]ast year have resulted in the elimination of jobs."

For more on the state of employment and workers' rights in the Islamic Republic, see Iran's Labor Flash Point and Iranian Labor and the Struggle for Independent Unions.

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Tehran Bureau contributor Ali Chenar files the following item: The Central Bank of Iran (CBI) announced that it has canceled Tat Bank's license to operate. According to some reports, it will be merged with two new financial institutions, Salehin and Aati. Majles deputy Ezatollah Yousefian, a member of the parliament's Anti-Economic Corruption Commission, told Mehr News Agency that the decision was made following the discovery of irregular practices within Tat. He asserted, as well, that the bank's establishment had not followed the required legal steps.

According to Donya-ye Sanat, a report on Tat was drafted for CBI Chairman Mahmoud Bahmani in February. After reading the report, Bahmani allegedly wrote his deputy, "How this is possible? Why you have not dealt with this? The responsible parties should be introduced to the disciplinary committee." Tat Bank was evidently trading in the inter-banking market without a banking license and had taken on more liabilities than the limit permitted by its capital reserves.

According to the Tat Bank website, however, everything is fine. According to a statement there, "Currently we are in the process of an orderly merger under the CBI's supervision." There is no mention of any decision to disband the bank. Donya-ye Eghtesad reports that a new bank will be formed out of Tat that will be called Mardom (people). Tat is the first private Iranian bank to be dissolved by government fiat.

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The Iranian government appears to be quite distressed by the strategic pact between Afghanistan and the United States agreed to by presidents Hamid Karzai and Barack Obama at the beginning of May. According to Radio Zamaneh,

Iran's Foreign Ministry has spoken out against "negative publicity against Iran in the Afghani media" and summoned the Afghani charge d'affaires in Tehran. The Fars News Agency announced that Iran's Foreign Ministry summoned the charge d'affaires on Thursday and once again expressed concern about the Strategic Agreement signed between Afghanistan and the United States.

The ministry's head of Afghanistan affairs, Mohsen PakAyin, said, "Islamic Republic authorities have expressed their concerns to the Afghani government and the international community again and again about the U.S. security threat in the region, especially the continued existence of U.S. military bases in Afghanistan."

PakAyin also spoke out against the "negative publicity against Iran" in the Afghani media and said these efforts are aimed at "disrupting the friendly and brotherly relationship between Tehran and Kabul."

He went on the urge the Afghani government to "manage the situation" as soon as possible.

Meanwhile, the website of Press TV -- the English-language subsidiary of the state-controlled Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting -- has been featuring a story titled "'If Ratified, Deal with US Would Steal Afghan Independence'":

According to experts, the pact's provisions and text as well as the legal value of its terminology work to deprive Afghanistan of its sovereignty.

According to Article 9, Section 3 of the agreement, the US government can intervene in any dispute, to which Afghanistan is a party and the intervention can take a variety of forms, including political, diplomatic, economic or military. Afghan government and military "must" adapt to the forms of intervention "in the shortest possible time."

Article 3, Section 4 requires Afghanistan to obtain the US consent before making any decision on its transportation and communication network, exertion of control over borders, forming relations with neighboring countries, and deciding on the attraction of regional investment.

Article 41, Section 5 obliges the Afghan parliament to pass anti-terrorism regulations on the basis of Washington's definition of terrorism.

Article 4, Section 6 gives the Afghan government a period of several years to eliminate traditional social structures in provinces where indigenous beliefs and values are pivotal, and replace them with a single system based on the model provided by the agreement.

Afghan political groups and parties have already voiced their vehement opposition to the agreement, saying it will not bring peace to Afghanistan.

The United National Front, a coalition of various political parties, has condemned the deal, calling it illegal and "imperialistic."

"History won't forgive supporters of this imperialistic pact. They will be condemned by Afghanistan's present and future generations," said a statement from the group.

For more on the relationship between the Islamic Republic of Iran and the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, see Iran Primer: Iran and Afghanistan.

Copyright © 2012 Tehran Bureau

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