Within Iran, the internet is not a place of freedom, but one that is heavily policed for ideas that do not meet the criteria of what is acceptable to the mullahs’ regime. Despite all the risks and the restrictions in place, Iranian youth are getting around them to access social media networks, where they are questioning the integrity of the elections. The regime response to these curious youth is to give notices and warnings about these networks, along with large-scale arrests of social network managers.
PMOI supporters have been active online, especially in campaigns that have attempted to show and expose the criminal records of the presidential candidates and the plans of the supreme leader. A popular slogan has cropped up on social networks, declaring “The Iranian people’s vote is to overthrow the regime”. Other PMOI supporters have been involved in hanging banners reading “No to sham elections!” and pictures of Maryam Rajavi in the street of Tehran and other cities throughout the country.
Taking a glimpse of Twitter and Telegram posts, which are not under the control of the regime, one gets a glimpse of the mood of the Iranian people and the reason why the regime is desperate to clamp down on these comments.
Social media has been used to expose Ebrahim Raisi’s role in the 1988 massacre of political prisoners, as well as the various killings throughout the 1980s of anyone opposing the regime. Raisi is seen as the favorite candidate of the faction within the regime closely affiliated with Khamenei. But questions have also been raised about Rouhani’s role in the 1988 massacre, as well as Rouhani’s calls for more executions and additional repression, even attaching newspaper clippings to support their revelations.
Some individuals, such as Mohammad Maleki who was the first Tehran University Chancellor after the fall of the Shah’s regime and who has been in prison for many years of the mullahs’ regime, have chosen not to participate in the election, calling it a “selection”.
A number of users have taken to social media to call for a boycott of the “fake elections” by producing a ribbon and inviting all to not participate in the elections. They ask users to express their disgust at the show by changing their profile picture and adding the ribbon to it.
Expats from Iran have taken to broadcasting these calls through their own tweets, sharing or retweeting various information. Social media has also published the activities of those who support the Iranian resistance. But they have gone beyond social media, taking their call of the boycott to the streets in the form of placards, banners, and statements distributed in different parts of large cities or highways.
These efforts are gaining attention, as Iranian newspapers report on them. “With presidential elections approaching, counter-revolutionary groups become more active to confront people’s presence at the polls. Grouplets…ask people to boycott the election,” wrote the Jomhouri newspaper.
The response has been for a variety of officials to emphasize the religious duty individuals have to participate in the election, in addition to the various punishments being meted out to the various individuals posting on social media and encouraging the boycott.
Social media has been one key tool of the Iranian people to keep themselves from being silenced about their distrust and disgust with the mullahs’ regime.