Khamenei permits Facebook?

Article Highlights

  • #Facebook banned after #Iranians used it to discuss that country’s presidential debates in 2009.

    Tweet This

  • Rejection of #Facebook became a regime loyalty test in #Iran.

    Tweet This

  • #Khamenei declares that EFacebook can be used in #Iran for good or bad.

    Tweet This

Editor's Note: FMSO’s Operational Environment Watch provides translated selections and analysis from a diverse range of foreign articles and other media that analysts and expert contributors believe will give military and security experts an added dimension to their critical thinking about the Operational Environment.

Source:“Pesakh-e hazarat-e Ayatollah Khamene‘i dar baraye estifadeh az facebook” (“Answer
of His Excellency Ayatollah Khamenei About the Use of Facebook,” 29 April

Michael Rubin: The Islamic Republic has always had a love-hate approach to the internet. In the 1990s internet cafes sprung up across Tehran and in other major cities. Authorities were initially uncertain how to react. In early internet cafes, for example, the Intelligence Ministry simply paid managers and informants to look over shoulders and check browsing histories. The regime believed it could harness the power of the internet for its own purposes. Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, for example, maintained his own internet site to disseminate his speeches, writings, and fatwas, not only in Persian, Arabic, and Urdu, but also in Japanese, Bahasa Indonesian, Swahili, Hausa, and various European languages. Security services traditionally worried more about cell phones than social networking.

Ordinary Iranians, however, soon embraced the internet to reach out both to each other and the outside world. For a short time Persian became the thirdlargest blogging language after English and French, and it still places in the top ten. While President Mohammad Khatami preached “dialogue of civilizations,” regime hardliners increasingly worried about the mechanisms of that dialogue.

"Rejection of Facebook became a regime loyalty test, with some political leaders forced to deny ever having an account." -- Michael Rubin 

As Facebook became popular, it became a tool not only for social networking but also for political discussion. On May 23, 2009, three weeks before Iran’s disputed presidential elections, the Iranian judiciary banned Facebook after Iranians began using the internet site to discuss that country’s presidential debates. In the wake of the uprising, Facebook was a prominent component of forced confessions, with the Islamic Republic’s revolutionary courts accusing the United States of using Facebook to sow sedition. Rejection of Facebook became a regime loyalty test, with some political leaders forced to deny ever having an account, while the Intelligence Ministry used accusations of Facebook activity to delegitimize Ahmadinejad’s election rivals. The Revolutionary Guards’ weekly newspaper depicted both Facebook and Twitter as “instruments of the enemy.” Despite the regime’s efforts to condemn and sometimes block Facebook, however, the paramilitary Basij claims that there are still 17 million Facebook users in the country.

It is against this backdrop that the Supreme Leader issues his fatwa. While Iranian authorities continue to develop a national Internet with the goal of disconnecting Iran from the global Internet, they are still at least three years away from accomplishing this goal (a goal which American engineers privately concede the Iranian regime can accomplish). Khamenei’s declaration that Facebook can be used for good or bad in the meantime effectively suspends the broad crackdown on social networking, most likely because the regime has been unable to dissuade or prevent Iranians from using social networking sites. Khamenei’s statement does, however, leave the door open to continued regime monitoring and perhaps selective targeting of student leaders and reformist politicians.

Michael Rubin is a Resident Scholar at the American Enterprise Institute.

Also Visit
AEIdeas Blog The American Magazine
About the Author



What's new on AEI

Defeating ISIS: AEI experts weigh-in before the president’s address on Wednesday
image Degrading, defeating, and destroying the Islamic State
image Wealth Building Home Loan: Building wealth through homeownership and retirement savings
image The $3 iPhone
AEI on Facebook
Events Calendar
  • 15
  • 16
  • 17
  • 18
  • 19
Tuesday, September 16, 2014 | 5:00 p.m. – 6:00 p.m.
The Constitution as political theory

Please join us for the third-annual Walter Berns Constitution Day Lecture as James Ceasar, Harry F. Byrd Professor of Politics at the University of Virginia, explores some of the Constitution’s most significant contributions to political theory, focusing on themes that have been largely unexamined in current scholarship.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014 | 8:10 a.m. – Thursday, September 18, 2014 | 1:30 p.m.
Third international conference on housing risk: New risk measures and their applications

We invite you to join us for this year’s international conference on housing risk — cosponsored by the Collateral Risk Network and AEI International Center on Housing Risk — which will focus on new mortgage and collateral risk measures and their applications.

Thursday, September 18, 2014 | 2:15 p.m. – 3:00 p.m.
Speaker of the House John Boehner on resetting America’s economic foundation

Please join us as Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) delivers his five-point policy vision to reset America’s economy.

Friday, September 19, 2014 | 9:15 a.m. – 11:00 a.m.
Reforming Medicare: What does the public think?

Please join us as a panel of distinguished experts explore the implications of the report and the consumer role in shaping the future of Medicare.

No events scheduled this day.
No events scheduled this day.
No events scheduled this day.
No events scheduled this day.