Though the protests failed to overthrow the regime, it was in Iran that the true might of the internet as a tool for freedom was unleashed. In Iran the powers that be, led by controversial President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has had a somewhat less than warm view towards the internet. In light of the recent uprisings fueled, in some respect, by the internet Iran has decided to take the lead and create it’s own internet.
In 2006 Iranians were the second most tech-savvy population in the Middle-East region behind Israel. Conversely, as early as then, Reporters Without Borders had recognised the Iranian regime — along with 12 other countries — as an “enemy of the internet,” citing its heavy censorship of the web and imprisonment and intimidation of bloggers who fell foul of the regimes aims to purge the nation of Western influences.
Of course this all paled in comparison to what happened following the contentious re-election of Ahmadinejad in June of 2009. This was the first instance where social media such as Facebook, YouTube and Twitter, were used to organise and in the absence of traditional media, to spread the news of what was happening in Iran to the rest of the world. Though following the successful examples of this model in Egypt, Tunisia and to a degree, Libya the world has somewhat forgottten about what’s happening in Iran, the protests have continued to this day. As the protests have continued, so has the war the Iranian regime has waged against the internet.
Proving itself again to be a frontrunner in providing a model for dictatorships, Iran, signalling a shift from the usual tactic of using filtering technology to censor sites or the outright shut-down of the internet, Iran has announced plans to create the internets first rival.
Ali Aqamohammadi, head of economic affairs in Iran, quoted in state-run Islamic Republic News Agency said — “Iran will soon create an internet that conforms to Islamic principles, to improve its communication and trade links with the world”.
He further remarked, “we can describe it as a genuinely ‘halal’ network aimed at Muslims on a ethical and moral level”. And in a clear sign that Iran has moved away from the traditional view of “dealing with” the internet he said, “the aim of this network is to increase Iran and the Farsi language’s presence in what has become the most important source of international communication”.
Bizarre declarations from the Iranian regime are not at all peculiar. This may be yet another example of that, but as the regime has shown, it does have some net-savvy and they may just be serious about this one.