Iranian Politics in the New Media Age

Iranian Student Protester at Amir Kabir University in Tehran

A student at Amir Kabir University in Tehran holds up a piece of paper during a visit by President Ahmadinejad that says: “Fascist president, the Polytechnic is not your place”

Fingerprinting my Taser

In November 2006, the Majles (parliament) passed a bill requiring all US visitors to Iran to be fingerprinted on entry.

It was a controversial bill, not likely to pass at all. Ahmadinejad and his government opposed it, as did many members of the Majles.

However, when footage taken on a mobile phone of an Iranian student being tasered by police at UCLA in California was released on the internet, it didn’t take long for Iranians to disseminate it to the community outside and inside Iran. The attack was denounced in the Iranian media and debated in parliament.

On November 19, over two-hundred Majles deputies condemned the beating of the Iranian student. On the same day they passed the US fingerprinting bill – despite the government’s objections.

The irony of the incident is that the student, Mostafa Tabatabainejad, is Baha’i, a persecuted minority in the Islamic Republic.

Still, it does strike me as quite crazy that a mobile phone video in LA can affect parliamentary proceedings in Tehran.

See the film below:

“Death to the Dictator”

In December, Ahmadinejad addressed students at Amir Kabir University in Tehran, where he was confronted by angry protests.

Although the hall where he gave his televised speech was largely packed-out with the government’s Basij faithful, there was a group of students at the back of the hall who burned pictures of Ahmadinejad and chanted “death to the dictator”.

Pro-government media has tried to say that the dissenting group was a tiny minority of the student body. However, in a repressive state where the price of protest is high, such demonstrations are taken seriously by everyone.

I like the way Ahmadinejad’s response was similar to what Blair says every time he’s confronted with a protest:

“I am not surprised, because there is such a free atmosphere in the university environment that these incidents can happen.”

As the students later wrote in an open letter, December 12 2006 will be remembered as “a day in which the university loudly proclaimed that it was alive”

Official TV footage:

Mobile video from the back of the hall:

Demonstration outside the gates (chanting “death to the dictator”):

Dirty Dancing

Finally, on a more humorous note, a Vice-President of Iran, Rahim Moshai, has been busted for watching women sing and dance.

On a visit to Turkey to an Organisation of the Islamic Conference event, he was invited to watch a display of dancing which included women with their hair uncovered.

While this wouldn’t be a problem is most other parts of the world, Rahim Moshai’s government is responsible for forcing men and women to celebrate separately at events such as weddings, lest the men catch a racy glimpse of a dancing lady, or indeed hear her sing.

So when a video of the incident hit the internet it sparked outrage in parts of the Iranian media and even precipitated calls for Rahim Moshai’s resignation. The Iran News website, which originally posted the video, had its managing director detained and its site blocked.

Mr Vice-President, shame on your loose morals!

See extremely explicit video below:

Here’s him arriving at the conference

And here’s the “unislamic” dancing

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