In the weeks leading up to the Quds day rallies, Mohsen Sazegara, a veteran of VOA (Voice of America Persian Service) who now gives daily messages to the “greens” in Iran via Youtube and the VOA, emphasized the following slogan to be shouted in the Quds Day rallies: “Na Ghazeh, na Lobnan, janam fadayeh Iran” (My life belongs to neither Gaza or Lebanon – but Iran.)
Here’s my personal opinion on this statement and I repeat, it’s ONLY a personal opinion:
- This was Quds day after all, and no matter what other reasons the protesters had for being there, there was no reason to be indifferent, or to intentionally snide the Palestinian cause. In fact, these two struggles could be tied together in many ways, rather than alienated.
- At the same time, the Palestinians have always been vocal about the fact that their plight is mis(used) by all factions within the Middle East, there was no reason to play into that criticism.
- And lastly, I think the slogan was simply arrogant.
Now, the main green websites, Mowj, Mowjcamp, Bahman Agha and some others came up with an alternative: Che Ghazeh, Che Iran Margh/Nangh bar Zaleman (whether in Iran or Gaza, down with tyrants).
But it did not become as popular.
And quite obviously so. Hell of a lot more people have access to satellite dishes in Iran than they do the internet.
Out of the minority of Iranians who do happen to have computers in their home, the majority have to deal with disruptive dial-up services that are practically impossible to use when the authorities crack down on cyberspace.
VOA has now become the main medium for the green movement within Iran. Ayatollah Montazeri’s family, Shajarian, prisoners’ families, etc gave interviews to this network. Anyone with a satellite dish tunes into the network for their news every single day. Even people who previously never did.
The leading contender is BBC Persian Service but it is only offered 3 hours a day, and is constantly disrupted by authorities. The channel is currently experiencing interference on its satellite broadcasts due to a jamming signal originating from within Iran As many have pointed out, it makes you wonder why sometimes, VOA is the ONLY functional Persian satellite news service.
Quite knowingly, it has cut back on the “crazy”: it is no longer a place for crazy analysis and lunatic hosts as it used to be and presents itself as a much more “respectable” news agency. It no longer even features as many monarchists.
That is scary. Because it knows its target audience. It knows that it has many more subscribers now and has toned down the rhetoric as not to alienate them.
Perhaps it is a triumph of the greens that even a nutty channel like the VOA has caught on to their message. And more shameful for IRIB that it still has not.
Despite this, I think it is absolutely imperative that the greens secure their own television station sometime soon. Satellite dishes are much more available in Iran and have a much larger audience than the internet.
Of course, if the Iranian authorities had a shred of decency or foresight, they’d see why they should, for their own sake, give the reform movement a chance to print its newspapers and get a slice of IRIB (state TV).
They frankly don’t have either (decency or foresight).
Ahmad Tavakoli wrote a letter to Mousavi after the rallies criticizing him for the “slogans his supporters shouted in the demonstrations, which were dictated straight from Washington D.C.” (basically implying that his supporters were getting orders from Sazegara in Washington for chanting Sazegara’s slogans). And Beheshti, Mousavi’s adviser replied: “Who is the responsible party here?” So long as the reformists don’t have a voice in Iran, anyone can come along and pull the strings on the listeners.
New questions come up of course: “Who” are the greens? How will we define them to then be able to define their media? While Mousavi/Khatami and Karoubi propose working within the frameworks of the IRI, how can directly or indirectly they run a satellite TV station?
I don’t claim to have answers to these questions … I just think the greens NEED their own media outlet, and they need one fast.