Social Media

The Iranian Regime’s Panic Over the MEK and the Power of Social Media.

Social Media

The mullahs are intent on cutting off the MEK from the people inside Iran in order to stop the influence of the organization in spreading a message of hope and democracy.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, the mullah’s have been using what is supposed to be a virtual mourning ceremony, to attempt to discredit the Iranian opposition, Mujahedin-e Khalq (PMOI or MEK).

Despite the surging number of COVID-19 cases, currently, at over 99,200 deaths on 5th September 2020, the Iranian people have been forced to hold Muharram mourning ceremonies together. The Mullah’s and Supreme Leader, Ali Khamenei, instead held their own solitary virtual mourning ceremonies. During these ceremonies, they have expressed their growing fears over social media and a possible uprising, shaped by the MEK.

Nasser Rafie, a mullah who was meant to be mourning the death of the third Shi’ite Imam Hussain-ibn Ali, took the opportunity to voice his concerns on the Iranian opposition’s role in exposing the regime’s crimes against Iranian society using social media. He said “Those people abroad, I have nothing to do with them. They are being paid in Albania [MEK’s complex] to spread lies and disappoint people,” he said while trying to discredit the Iranian regime’s viable and independent alternative.”

Khamenei has been vocal about his unease about the impact of social media and satellite channels. On 23 August 2020, Khamenei criticized Hassan Rouhani’s government in a meeting with cabinet members. He condemned them for not creating a national intelligence network “out of schedule and the government’s reluctance to hold cyber council meetings”. This demonstrates how important the use of social media platforms is against the Iranian regime and how fearful the regime is of the repercussions.

He has also stated that online platforms are being “managed and guided from abroad” and that “we cannot leave people defenseless”. The “people” that he refers to in these comments are unfortunately not the ordinary Iranian citizen, but members of the mullah’s regime. In order to take a defensive stance, recently around 40 members of the regime’s parliament submitted a bill to ban or filter all social media applications in Iran, imposing restrictions on its use and further censoring the Iranian people from freedom. The bill included the ability to identify users of anti-filters to access censored websites. It also stated that social media platforms should abide by the rules of the Iranian regime, despite having no loyalties to Iran. It is highly questionable that an international and independent social media platform would follow the regulations of the Iranian regime.

Social media’s ability to connect individuals and spread information is at the heart of the regime’s fear. The regime wishes to keep the Iranian people disconnected from the idea of possible resistance. It is necessary for them to separate the Iranian people from the outside world to ensure they remain powerless to receive or share the truth about the regime. In order to prevent information being spread after the nationwide Iran protests in November, the regime imposed a complete internet blackout.

The regime has continuously attempted to cover up the truth about its crimes and misappropriation of the country’s wealth over the last four decades. The spread of such information could be the catalyst for the further uprising of the Iranian people as more people become a part of the resistance movement. Mullah Ahmad Khatami, member of the regime’s Expediency Council recently commented: “Do you remember what cyberspace did during the 2018 [uprising]?”

The mullahs are intent on cutting off the MEK from the people inside Iran in order to stop the influence of the organization in spreading a message of hope and democracy. Rasoul Felahati, the regime’s Friday Prayer Leader in the city of Rasht, northern Iran, said on 28 August 2020: “They [MEK] use telephone and cyberspace to get connected to their sympathizers inside the country, and they are planning to make some moves in the upcoming months.”

Further to this, the state-run Resalat Daily wrote on 23 August 2020: “The situation is not the same as two decades ago to control and manage incidents and news. The soft war era has started for years. On one side is the [regime] and on the other side are its enemies and opponents. This is much like the Iran-Iraq war with one slight difference: that was a hard war and this one is a soft war.”

However, the state-run Hamdeli Daily argued on 23 August 2020: “We should not repeat the same mistake in dealing with the internet as we did it in dealing with the satellite and videos. Those same restrictions should not be imposed, because we cannot fight the technology; it will find its way. We cannot build a wall across Iran.”

Censoring and restricting internet access is not enough to suppress the growing calls for change within Iranian society. The state-run Etemand Daily commented on 23 August 2020: “The outcome of this plan will be a copied social medial platform with no outcome. There will be no security [for the regime]. By imposing these restrictions, people will choose the streets to protest.”

It is important that the international community supports a democratic and free Iran by deterring the regime from imposing restrictions on the Iranian people’s internet access and the ability to connect with the rest of the world.

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