- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Twitter restricted the account of a prominent London-based dissident who has been sending a steady stream of video images of protests across Iran.

The blocking of some viewership for Potkin Azarmehr comes as U.S. conservatives charge that the New York Times and other Western media are siding with the hardline Islamic rule in Tehran.  U.S. main media regularly refers to Iranian rulers as “moderates.”

President Obama committed his presidency to Iran outreach, culminating with the 2015 nuclear deal that freed up hundreds of millions of dollars for Tehran.

His former national security adviser, Susan E. Rice, over the weekend tweeted a New York Times op-ed that said President Trump should remain quiet and not voice support for street protesters. Mr. Trump has sent several tweets supporting them.

The Obama administration maintained a policy of total silence during the Iranian protests in 2009 that were put down brutally by the regime.

A review by The Washington Times of Mr. Azarmehr’s tweets show that he has displayed video of scenes of Iran’s security forces, led by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, cracking down on, and sometimes shooting, protesters.

Mr. Azarmehr is also capturing anti-regime chants, some of which call for the end to hard-line cleric rule in Tehran by Shiite mullahs led by Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khameini. The Western media have generally characterized the protests as a campaign for better jobs.

He posted a warning on his account page from the powers-that-be at Twitter. It said only Mr. Azarmehr’s followers may view his tweets, a move that greatly restricts his audience.

“We’ve detected some potentially abusive behavior from you account,” said Twitter, which imposed the block for 12 hours.

“Creating a safer environment for people to freely express themselves is critical to the Twitter community,” it said.

Said Mr. Azarmehr on Twitter, “Supporters of the Iranian regime have reported me to twitter and once again the twitter twits have obliged.”

He posted an article he wrote in 2015 that said, “How the Islamic Republican duped the world by its good-cop/bad-cop hardline v. softlink scenario for nearly 4 decades.”

Telegram, an encrypted messaging app, said Tehran is blocking its use. But dissidents over the years have develop work-arounds to reach the internet.

The National Council of Resistance of Iran, the Europe-based largest Iran opposition group, said on Tuesday that at least 30 had been killed in six days of protests.

Shahin Gobadi, a resistance spokesman, provided this statement to The Washington Times:

“As of Sunday night, more than 1,000 protesters have been arrested throughout Iran. The governor of Tehran has announced that 450 protesters have been arrested in Tehran alone. The actual number is much higher.

“The regime has resorted to more brute force for suppression and yesterday the Judiciary Chief threatened that there would be a harsher crackdown. The mullahs are also trying to intensify their censorship by cutting off the people’s access to social media so that the world would not know what is going on.

“There can be no illusion that this regime is very weak, decadent and hated by the Iranian people in its entirety. The Iranian people’s uprising and their slogans made it clear that so far as the Iranian people are concerned this notion of ‘moderates’ and ‘radicals’ is simply a game, and the international community should understand that.”

Mr. Gobadi said the largest council group, MEK, has been working for years to establish dissident networks and communication outlets.

“MEK activists have a serious presence on the ground in the protests and also play an indispensable role in getting the word out by sending footage and photos from the scenes, despite huge risks involved,” he said. “That explains why the regime’s officials are so nervous about them and have been expressing anxiety about the MEK and its role.”

• Rowan Scarborough can be reached at rscarborough@washingtontimes.com.

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