Way back during Iran’s 2009 presidential election, Twitter was a tool wielded by the guerrilla protest movement. Supporters of the Green Movement used the micro-blogging site to overcome hostility from official media, organize protests against what they saw as a rigged vote, and rally international and domestic support for their cause.
But as Iranians go to the polls today, Twitter has gone mainstream. Accounts trumpet the views of even the most conservative presidential hopefuls — though it is not clear if they are run by campaign staffers or the candidates’ supporters. Whatever the case, it’s clear no part of the Iranian political spectrum denies the organizational power of social media.
@DrSaeedJalili touts the views of the Iranian nuclear negotiator who is believed to be one of the candidates closest to Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei. But despite Jalili’s reputation as the establishment’s man, the account isn’t shy about picking fights with Iranian government institutions. "#Iran state TV is apparently taking political side while getting funds from public treasury," it tweeted yesterday.
The dark horse candidate in this election is Hassan Rouhani, a cleric who appears to have won the support of Green Movement activists. According to at least one poll conducted recently, he even enjoys a double-digit lead over the nearest contender. @HassanRouhani, meanwhile, has touted his surging popularity in recent days, trying to drum up support from voters who may otherwise stay home. The account has taken to pulling positive quotes about the candidate from international media, including this one from the Guardian: "Wherever Rouhani speaks there’s a frenzy."
But the most powerful Iranian tweep isn’t one of the candidates — it’s Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. From @khamenei_ir, the supreme leader has listed the qualities that he’s looking for in Iran’s next president. Iran’s next president must be as concerned with remote villages as the capital, must "fight against corruption and poverty," and "shouldn’t be willing to acquire an international position [by] flattering the West."
Who knows what technology will work its way into Iran by the 2017 presidential campaign. We may even see activists spreading news using Google Glass — sanctions permitting, of course.
Blake Hounshell is managing editor at Foreign Policy, having formerly been Web editor. Hounshell oversees ForeignPolicy.com and has commissioned and edited numerous cover stories for the print magazine, including National Magazine Award finalist "Why Do They Hate Us?" by Mona Eltahawy. He also edits The Cable, FP's first foray into daily original reporting, and was editor of Colum Lynch's Turtle Bay, which in 2011 won a National Magazine award for best reporting in a digital format.
Blake joined Foreign Policy in 2006 after living in Cairo, where he studied Arabic, missed his Steelers finally win one for the thumb, and worked for the Ibn Khaldun Center for Development Studies. Blake was a 2011 finalist for the Livingston Awards prize for young journalists for his reporting on the Arab uprisings, and his Twitter feed was named one of Time magazine's "140 Best Twitter Feeds of 2011." Under his leadership, in 2008, Passport, FP's flagship blog, won Media Industry Newsletter's "Best of the Web" award in the blog category. Along with Elizabeth Dickinson, he edited Southern Tiger: Chile's Fight for a Democratic and Prosperous Future, the memoirs of former Chilean president Ricardo Lagos, published by Palgrave Macmillan in 2012.
A graduate of Yale University, Blake speaks mangled Arabic and French, is an avid runner, and lives in Washington with his wife, musician Sandy Choi, and their toddler, David. Follow him on Twitter @blakehounshell.| Passport |