The C.R.I.M.E. Report



Dream Deferred Essay Contest 2010 - $10,000 in Prizes

Young people across the Mideast and the US are being asked to share their dream of effective civil rights reform in the region. The added incentive: $10,000 in prizes for outstanding essays. In other words, the fifth annual running of the Dream Deferred Essay Contest is now live.

On Friday, AIC’s Civil Rights Outreach Director Nasser Weddady broke the news at a Mideast bloggers’ conference in Lebanon. This year’s essay questions have been changed significantly from past years, hoping to inspire even more descriptive and imaginative essays.

Past winners have written outstanding essays outlining a campaign for women’s rights to drive in Saudi Arabia, describing the pain of growing up under repression in Iran, and imagining the plight of a cartoonist who dares to speak his mind. One past winner even appeared on Oprah. Anyone under the age of 26 is eligible to enter. Good luck!

Cairo Human Rights Film Festival Preview

The second annual Cairo Human Rights Film Festival launches on Thursday, marking the 61st anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Open to the public, the festival offers free films on international human rights topics. Feature films include Persepolis, Orange Revolution, Flowers of Rwanda, and Burma VJ.

The festival’s initial run last year marked one of the first ever human rights film series in the region. International media outlets, including Al-Jazeera and Time Magazine, covered the event. And even before this year’s opening, the festival has already received coverage from Almasry Alyoum, Al-Diwan Magazine, and the BBC.

“Egypt is known as Um al-Dunya, the ‘mother of civilization’” observes festival organizer Dalia Ziada, who directs AIC’s Egypt office. “The festival aims to highlight international human rights issues and build understanding between cultures. Many of the films expose Egyptian audiences to issues we do not often hear about.” Festival partners include Bikya Masr, the Egypt Students League, and Elbalad Bookstore. See for more information.

Iran Targets Cyber-Dissidents in America

If you are seeking for a new career at the time of economic crisis, the Iranian regime has good news. The government has just announced recruiting for multiple “senior Internet lieutenant” positions, with the objective to confront Iran's "virtual enemies" across the globe. In the effort to halt growing defiance among Iranians in dozens of countries, the Iranian government has set itself on a mission to threaten Iranians abroad and intimidate their families in Iran for their relatives’ use of social media.

Hamid, a young Iranian-American graduate student, received an ominous e-mail from someone who calls himself a “Spider.” “Spider” told Hamid to "stop spreading lies about Iran on Facebook" because they “know [his] home address in Los Angeles” and “will come after [him]."  Another Iranian-American, Omid Habibinia, claims that earlier this year Iranian security services created a fake Facebook account for him and tried to "friend" people on his behalf and ask them questions. Koosha, a 29-year Iranian-American engineering student, also received an e-mail threatening to harm his family in Iran if he didn’t stop posting his criticism on Facebook. Two days later, Koosha learned that his father was arrested in Tehran for his son’s online activity abroad.

This targeting of Iranians abroad is neither rare nor accidental. This month Iran announced a 12-member unit within the armed forces called the Internet Crime Unit. The unit, staffed with English-speaking, tech-savvy young people, works to track individuals "spreading lies and insults" about the regime. Iran's elite security force and the intelligence ministry also have their own, separate Internet-monitoring units that track prominent political figures and activists. According to prominent Iranian lawyer Nasrin Sotoudeh, “phone calls and visits from people who are being harassed and threatened” because of relatives' activities abroad have recently become her daily routine.



QUIZ: What happened when Human Rights Watch held its first-ever press conference in Libya? 
ANSWER: Mayhem. On Saturday, Human Rights Watch held a press conference in Libya to unveil a new report on Libyan abuses entitled "Truth and Justice Can’t Wait." The media event in Tripoli was apparently made possible through the intervention of Muamar Qaddafi's son Saif al-Islam. But as Human Rights Watch staffers from the US joined with Libyans whose relatives had been imprisoned and murdered by the regime, undercover government agents began to disrupt the event. Several burly men stood up and yelled at the speakers, accusing Human Rights Watch of trying to divide Libyan society. As the Times of London reported, "The press conference ended in pandemonium."

Here are quick ways to contribute to the Middle East civil rights movement: