Rouhani tackles Iran’s conservatives over social media

Rouhani tackles Iran’s conservatives over social media
Many popular social media networks are blocked in Iran, despite Iran’s president having his own Twitter account.
2 min read
08 September, 2014
Iranians use proxies to access social media [Getty]

Months after Iranian President Hassan Rouhani promised Iranians that he would unblock social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter, these websites are still blocked for internet users not taking advantage of proxies and anonymizing software such as Tor. A recent study concluded that over 69 percent of Iranian youth use proxies to get around the governments firewall.


Currently there is much debate on whether mobile apps will remain accessible for Iranians who rely heavily on applications such as Viber and WhatsApp, after the recent fatwa of cleric Grand Ayatollah Nasser Makarem-Shirazi calling mobile internet “immoral and unlawful”.


But Rouhani’s promises of giving more electronic freedom to his people have met harsh criticism from conservative Islamists.


“Monitoring the internet is necessary in all countries not just in Iran,” said cleric Zohair Dehghani, explaining that blocking social media sites in Iran is a must to protect teenagers and children from online material that might affect them negatively.


Gholam-Ali Haddad-Adel agrees, “This is a subject that must not be taken lightly. We have to uphold our Iranian social and cultural values” said the former member of the cultural committee in the Iranian parliament, according to the Iranian news agency ISNA.


Rouhani and members of his government have personal pages on banned social media sites such as Twitter, where they interact and answer messages from their followers. The Iranian president has been unsuccessfully trying to carry out his promises but the final decision is in the hands of the internet censorship committee. Rouhani is trying to put pressure on this specialist committee by gathering support from conservatives, as he said few days ago in a speech in front of a group of clerics, “The world today communicates in a new way. The internet is useful for school children and university students.”


Among the new generation of Iranians there are differing views on the subject of opening up the internet. Many agree with their president but there are also many that are worried that it could lead to western culture leaking into Iranian society, which is conservative by nature.


The Iranian government started to censor the internet during Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s presidency but it became more draconian during the 2009 Iranian election protests, which were organized primarily through social media. Since then there has has been much but debate on reopening these websites.

This is an edited translation from our Arabic site