Iran's President Comes Out Against His Country's Ban On Telegram
from the okay-then dept
We had just been talking about how Russia and Iran appeared to be taking similar, if not coordinated, actions to block the secure messaging app Telegram from their respective countries. While both countries couched the removal of this useful tool from its own people in the usual concerns over terrorism and national security, it was clear from the beginning that in both cases the concern was much more about dissent against the government rather than any actual violence. After all, with Telegram refusing to give away its encryption keys to these governments, the obvious interest by these countries is to be able to spy on the communications of their peoples.
The reaction to these bans has, unfortunately, largely been of the shrugging variety. The reputations of Russia and Iran in America being what they are, some of it undeserved, many simply waved this away as authoritarian regimes doing what authoritarian regimes do. With perhaps a dash of Islamophobia mixed in when it comes to Iran, care for the impact on the people there appears to have gone out the window, too. After all, the Supreme Leader chose to block the app, so what is anyone to do?
Well, it seems that, counter to the misconceptions many might have about the way Iran works, President Hassan Rouhani has come out criticizing the block on the app, saying both that he had nothing to do with it and that he disagrees with the move.
In a post on Instagram, Rouhani clarified on Friday that the blocking of Telegram was not imposed by his government and that he did not approve of it.
“If a decision has been made to restrict or block the communication of the people, the real owners of this country, which are the people, should be included in making such decisions,” Rouhani said. The statement also said that the blockage was “opposite to democracy”.
Cynics and hardliners might wave this away as either a show by Rouhani, or simply of no consequence as it’s the Surpreme Leader that holds the real control over the country. And the former might possibly be correct, but I doubt it. Rouhani, whatever else you might say about him, is indeed more liberal than the very conservative religious rulers in the country. He is also tasked with duties that are more to do with the public in Iran, whereas the Surpreme Leader is a religious figure first and politician second, interacting far more with the religious leaders in the country than people and politicians. It would not be a surprise for Rouhani’s objection for this to be very, very real.
And perhaps more practical than ideological, too. Rouhani had a front row seat to the Arab Spring that occurred in recent years in several countries in Persian and Arab nations. He saw first hand what happened when governments attempted to stave off dissent by clamping down on internet communication tools in this sort of heavy-handed way. I imagine he probably doesn’t want his own country to repeat these mistakes.