NEW YORK--(BUSINESS WIRE)--On Tuesday, United Against Nuclear Iran (UANI) launched its Social Media Campaign, by calling on Facebook, Inc. to suspend the account of Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei (https://www.facebook.com/www.Khamenei.ir) ahead of the June 14, 2013 presidential election in Iran. Today, the Iranian regime arbitrarily barred all but eight candidates from running in the election.
At the same time it uses Facebook to promote its agenda, the regime blocks Iranian citizens’ access to the site. The regime has unjustly imprisoned, tortured, and killed Iranians who have used Facebook to protest and express political opinions, particularly in the aftermath of the fraudulent 2009 presidential elections.
In a letter to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, UANI CEO, Ambassador Mark D. Wallace, wrote:
… As you are surely aware, the Iranian regime uses this account to promote its propaganda even while it bans its own citizens from accessing Facebook. Moreover, in the aftermath of the fraudulent 2009 presidential elections, the regime severely punished citizens that accessed sites such as Facebook to mobilize protest and opposition activities. UANI is therefore calling on Facebook, Inc. to take immediate action to suspend the Facebook account of Ayatollah Khamenei ahead of the June 14, 2013 presidential elections in Iran. UANI believes that Facebook should not allow the Iranian regime access to its platform, especially given the fact that the regime severely restricts its own citizens' use of Facebook and when freedom of expression is so severely repressed in Iran.
… If you recall, following the disputed June 2009 presidential elections in Iran, Facebook was a vital tool used by Iranians to voice their dissatisfaction and organize rallies in protest. In the post-election crackdown, Iranian authorities blocked access to Facebook and prosecuted a number of protesters who used Facebook for organizing purposes. While some Iranians are able to circumvent the ban on Facebook through the use of Virtual Private Networks, their freedom of action is greatly restricted because “some of the most affordable VPNs on the Iranian market are supplied by the Revolutionary Guard itself, and provide no protection whatsoever.” In short, Facebook is largely inaccessible to Iranians and those Iranians that do have access to Facebook become a target of regime authorities.
The risks of using Facebook and other social media platforms in Iran have intensified since the Iranian regime established its “FATA” cyber-police unit in January 2011. The purpose of FATA is to “take on anti-revolutionary and dissident groups who used Internet-based social networks in 2009 to trigger protests against the re-election of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.” As a result, Iranians risk arrest, torture, and death for using Facebook, particularly when such use is determined to be political or “un-Islamic.” For example, in May 2011, Baha'i activist Houshang Fanian was sentenced to an additional year of prison for “disseminating anti-state propaganda on Facebook.” Iran’s online spying is also used to silence cyber dissidents abroad. In May 2012, Iranian authorities imprisoned a man in the notorious Evin Prison for the Facebook activities of his son, who was studying abroad in the Netherlands. In the most notorious case, FATA tortured to death Iranian blogger Sattar Beheshti in November 2012 for criticizing the Iranian government on Facebook.
The time to take principled action is now....By suspending the official Facebook account of Ayatollah Khamenei and other senior regime officials, Facebook will be sending a powerful message to the Iranian regime that it does not tolerate the regime’s denial of digital freedom for the Iranian people and that all Iranian citizens, not just the Ayatollah, should enjoy the freedom to speak up and express themselves.
UANI has requested a reply by May 27, 2013.