Mansoureh Shojaee, a women’s rights activist who fled to Germany after being arrested in December 2009 and jailed for a month, says she concluded that all her communications were under watch. When she planned to meet with fellow activists, police routinely called her or her contacts to say they knew where she was headed, she says.
Interrogators at Tehran’s notorious Evin Prison asked Shojaee, 53, about her acquaintances and displayed call records and transcripts going back several months.
“My mobile phone was my enemy, my laptop was my enemy, my landline was my enemy,” says Shojaee, who turned to using pay phones.
Iran is one of many authoritarian countries across the Mideast and North Africa employing Western surveillance tools for political repression. In Bahrain, for instance, communications monitoring centers sold by Siemens AG (SIE), and maintained by Espoo, Finland-based Nokia Siemens Networks and then its divested unit, Trovicor GmbH, have been used to track and arrest activists, according to a Bloomberg News investigation.