Siege Mentality

Complex stage of rule and protest, dissent and apathy


Siege Mentality
by Nasrin Alavi

The killing of the young Iranian woman Neda Agha Soltan in June 2009, captured on a mobile-phone and transmitted around cyberspace, became the human face of the Iranian’s opposition sacrifice after the stolen presidential election of that month. A basij militiaman shot 26-year-old Neda, an innocent passer-by amid the street-protests, at point-blank range. The Iranian establishment refused to take responsibility or acknowledge any wrongdoing.

But this establishment can’t even stick to a single story of denial. Since Neda’s death, the authorities have broadcast two official documentaries across Iran, depicting Neda respectively as a secret agent who staged her own death and an innocent bystander… murdered by Iran’s exiled opposition. More recently, Iran’s human-rights chief Mohammad-Javad Larijani has accused British intelligence agency MI6 of her assassination; and an announcement was made in the media that a major film about Neda was to be made.

The regime’s attempt to re-appropriate Neda Agha Soltan’s life and death has been contested all along the way by those who knew her and have come to identify with her - especially, amid stringent controls on many media outlets, in those parts of Iran’s cyberspace still free of censorship. The uproar there that greeted the news of the film even prompted the actress cast in the leading role, Leyla Otadi, to publicly deny any involvement in the project. “I wish I knew who had such enmity towards me, to put out news like this, making people so hysterical against me”, she said.

The brutal repression that pushed back the post-election street-protests and intimidated and imprisoned many “green” activists gave the internet and other new-media tools extra importance for an opposition seeking to voice its fury at violations of truth and rights. But impressive as such campaigns as the defence of Neda’s integrity are, these technologies have proved ambiguous in their use and effects.

For if they give the opposition in Iran a chance to be heard and to mobilise, they also equip the state with the power to monitor, track, disrupt, confuse and arrest critics. In the post-election security onslaught, for example, the personal computers of imprisoned activists were confiscated and their email correspondence used as material in endless hours of interrogation; the revolutionary courts cites the resulting “evidence” in handing lengthy prison sentences for “instigating war against God”.

The reductive tide

Farhad, an acquaintance of many years, is a student at Shiraz University. He describes how the regime’s cyber-assault has affected his behaviour: “I have a new email that I use purely for professional correspondence and I use a form of Skype. [In 2009] I couldn’t even imagine a day without checking out a news website like Balatarin, but today I just don’t...”

When I question Farhad about this apparent shift towards political apathy he quickly counters:

“Choosing not to be a laptop-commando does not make me indifferent. These days, most of the blogging commandos are either exiles or [Mahmoud] Ahmadinejad fans. Even when I do circumvent various filters to get to something like Balatarin, I find it dominated by the two extremes - our own home-based club-wielding hardliners who are free to go anywhere and to shout as loud as they like, or our out-of-touch exiles. No one I know will call me religious, but I do have friends who even voted for Ahmadinejad, and I can differentiate between them and the government’s salaried henchmen. Those henchmen are as old as our culture and history; my fight is still to unite my peers in prohibiting them.”

Balatarin - a web 2.0 website in Persian - played a vital role in highlighting the often bloody aftermath of the elections, and it continues to offer insight into the variety of Iran’s cyberspace. But looking at some recent content I recognise the schism between dogmatisms that Farhad refers to: the familiar absolutist rhetoric of the Iranian state alongside the bigoted prejudices of marginal western neo-fascists against Islamic cultures. This cavernous polarity, this mind-crushing rhetoric, is so at odds with the lively blogosphere I was once familiar with.

But this is only the tip of a wider degradation of much political (including online) discourse. The sledgehammer verbal assaults of regime loyalists are the most visible aspect of this; from the view of Mohammad Ali Jafari of the Revolutionary Guards that Iran is in “a state of online soft-war” that is “more dangerous than a military confrontation” to supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei’s call on "young soldiers" to confront those “spreading lies and rumours, doubt and divisions among the nation."

The state is heavily investing in this area of political combat. The majlis (parliament) has provided a $500 million budget for cyberwarfare; lavish “cyberwar" conferences are held that “reveal” the reformist ex-president Mohammad Khatami to be a “freemason”; emerging groups like the “Basij cyber committee” boast of training “1,500 active bloggers engaged in battle”. The online grandstanding can take ludicrous forms; the official Fars news agency claimed that an article on France about Ahmadinejad's speech at the United Nations general assembly in September 2010 reaped 2.2 billion reader comments - the true figure, France 24 pointed out, was thirty-one.

A growing band of well-staffed and funded news agencies spew out the archetypal worldview of a mighty nation conspired against by global Iran-obsessed enemies (one story even asserts that the rescue of the trapped Chilean miners was a Zionist conspiracy to undermine Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s visit to Lebanon).

The enemy within

Yet even a paranoid can have real enemies - and delights in conjuring more from its delusions. Three decades of sanctions and suspicion from the west have nurtured revolutionary Iran’s sense of siege. The regime uses every particle of hostility to blame any domestic problem or upheaval on foreign powers, the United States and Britain above all. It is skilled too in sustaining the alarmist message that internal enemies are in the pay of or serving the interests of these nefarious outsiders.

This is clear in the tightening security measures ahead of contentious government plans to phase out subsidies on energy, utilities and some basic food products. The national police chief Esmail Ahmadi-Moqaddam warns of the “drumbeats of economic sedition” represented by “civil disobedience, riot and chaos” - amounting to a western “conspiracy” reminiscent of the “flames of sedition in the aftermath of the election”.

The combat against this soft-war “conspiracy” is equally alert to offline threats. The Revolutionary Guard-affiliated website Jahan News reports the distribution of underground pamphlets - shab-namehShab-nameh (“night letters”, with the sense of samizdat) were widely used by Iran’s pro-democracy constitutionalists in the early 20th century as a tool of rebellion in their fight against a corrupt monarchy. Today, an “organised team” of “green subversives” in Isfahan is reported to be under arrest for distributing shab-nameh; while such pamphlets have appeared in college campuses around Iran. - against the removal of energy subsidies in provincial towns.

Another publication that the government targets is the bulletin Kalameh, originally a newspaper launched by opposition presidential candidate Mir-Hossein Moussavi days before the 2009 election in 2009 - and banned soon after. Today it has been revived in a two-page online format ready for printing and distribution, with even school-students among the recipients; a senior education-ministry official, Ali Asghar Yazdani, has raised concerns about its presence in secondary schools.

Moussavi addresses students in a recent edition of Kalameh as the nation’s “vigilant guardians”. He tells them that the government’s “terror over the free flow of information” reveals its view of all Iranians as complicit in the “conspiracy for its destruction" - and that this will prove its downfall.

The inside work

The establishment’s determined crushing of dissent finds enemies at every turn, even among the youngest Iranians. Yet this complex stage of rule and protest, dissent and apathy, polarisation and dead language, offers two important lessons.

First, the areas where Iran’s future are still argued over with any semblance of genuine engagement - whether vast cyberspace or a simple shab-nameh - are mere tools without intrinsic value. There is nothing in these tools that can definitively vindicate one side or the other, nothing published there that will provide the final blow. Everything, now, is double-edged.

Second, three decades after the revolution, Iran has become the only country in the middle east where people don’t have the luxury of blaming an American-backed leadership for the tyranny, corruption, mismanagement, waste and daily hardship that blights their lives. If there is one larger political truth in Iran today it is that the children of the 1979 revolution, in their non-violent fight for civil rights, are demanding that we Iranians should hold ourselves accountable for our failures and successes.

First published in

Nasrin Alavi is the editor of We Are Iran: The Persian Blogs.


sara yashil

How U R seen in Iran

by sara yashil on

Mehran Modiry’s perspective on the LA crowd   



Battle of goodness with Evil

by siavash1000 on


"You go on about the “heirs of Great Cyrus, Darius, Babak and Nader” & the they bash us in the head with the heirs of the 12 Imams and underneath it all you are so similar in your blind hatred"

                                               Sara Yashil

In Persian methology , the battle of goodness and evil has been documented in a fairly tales. Mitraism or Mazdakism historical religions reflecting war between Faresheh(angel)  and Ahreeman(devil) .  It has been ongoing battle since ancient time. Nationalism or love for innocent country men and women consider as a good or lightness. On the other hand, murder of innocent people like Neda consider as an "Evil" or darkness. In that respect,  In Christinity Black represents evil and white represents angel. History has always been on side of angels versus devil. These criminals who occupied Iran for last 31 years are representing darkness. I am sure finally Persianism or lightness will prevail. It is interesting to read about these criminals on site:

Payandeh our Aryan land IRAN

sara yashil


by sara yashil on

You go on about the “heirs of Great Cyrus, Darius, Babak and Nader” & the they bash us in the head with the heirs of the 12 Imams and underneath it all you are so similar in your blind hatred


Joke of the year

by siavash1000 on

The heirs of Great Cyrus, Darius, Babak and Nader ....are in need of these stinky rag head criminals to lead them for prosperity ....very powerful... ha, ha, ha.

The other idiot says powerful leadership picture. What a retarded people we are dealing in here. Of course if they are not on payroll by stinky mullahs, they must be retarded. Hope these bastards have balls and enough courage to come forward and confess they're receiving money for selling their country men and women.

These stinky mullahs can not even prospers their personal hygine and their body odor.  Now, all of the sudden they become hope of million Iranians for power and prosperity. Mullah's only contibution to Iran history is their sperms. They're promoting prostitutions under the name of Segheh. One of them had 16 segheh lately. 

Payandeh our Aryan land IRAN


Funny Picture

by AlexInFlorida on

Looks like the Fat Guy Ate all the food of the other guys... who are as thin as pencils.

And Khameneii's like "get my plane ready, if this is my army I need to be able to escape to Russia ASAP."

sara yashil


by sara yashil on

Ps my note was for  delavar

sara yashil

Saragord you have lost your argument

by sara yashil on

Saragord you have lost your argument as soon as you start discharging such bigoted comments... you reduce everything down to prejudiced stereotypes of appearance and you are no different to the militia who would wait outside my girls high school in Tehran and who would stop us and tear us young innocent teenagers for a of glittery lip gloss & define us & hate us for that. I can smell your bigoted hatred and it stinks far more than any unwashed man i have come across  Sadly I think the the writer means you when she writes “the bigoted prejudices of marginal western neo-fascists against Islamic cultures”.   



by delavar on

So what is it about you hezbollahys and the Talibans that you don't like to be clean shaven? I can understand if you were a mullah but you are not. I was in Iran about 2 years ago after a long long time and one day I had a conversation with a basiji but I couldn't stand the guy not just because of his ideology but because his looks, untidiness, and his body smell. His body smelled like sweat and his mouth smelled like garlic and tooth decay. Is it haram for you guys to shave ? Is it haram to shower regularly and brush your teeth? Is using Aftershave, soap and body spray forbidden by the ayatollah or is it a "Taghooti" thing to do?

btw, please do do not compare by saying for example  that it is the same in the U.S because some alchoholics and drugy bums in the the U.S may look and smell the same as you hezollahi and Jihadi guys in your Islamic utopia in Iran. Your illogical comparisons of the U.S and your Islamic govt in Iran do not work anymore.  There are no similarities b/w any country in the world and your theocratic govt.


خدا هم انشالله جمهوری اسلامی را گوه بگیرد!


زیگموند فروید، روحت شاهد!


خدا را گوه مي‌گيرم


حداد عادل افزود: من به عنوان كسي كه از سال 57 معاون وزير بوده و تا امروز كه نماينده مجلس هستم خدا را گوه مي‌گيرم كه در اين 32 سال در هر تصميم‌گيري كه براي كشور داشته‌ايم محال بوده كه يك بار يك خارجي حضور و قدرت داشته باشد كه به ما دستور بدهد چكار كنيم يا اراده خودش را به ما تحميل كند و اين بزرگترين نعمتي است كه نصيب اين ملت شده و قدر آن را بايد دانست. اين نعمتي است كه كشورهاي ديگر در حسرت آن مي‌سوزند و خدا آن را به بركت خون شهدا به ملت ايران داده است و بايد با حفظ اتحاد و آگاهي و بصيرت آن را حفظ كنيم.

Sargord Pirouz


by Sargord Pirouz on

I've been thinking of putting a pic of my face as an avatar. I even have one picked out (and I'm not clean-shaven in it). Might happen some time. Keep checking back.


Sargord Pirooz

by delavar on

Why not put a picture or a real Sargord with the shaved face in a real secular Iran as opposed to a beardo Hezbollahy face basiji wannabe sargords pretending to be sargord? Why can't we have a regular army in Iran that each and every soldier has discipline shaved facedefending Iran instead of defending a terrorist theocracy called Republic of Islam?


That fat

by Raoul1955 on

Guy looks so funny.  :-)   The guy in turban looks like he can benefit from extensive daily enemas, given to him by the fat guy of course.  :-)


Pasdar Pirouz

by statira on

Even you as a Hezbolahee dont wanna be compared to firozabadi.

Ash chegade shore ke khanam fahmideh!

Sargord Pirouz


by Sargord Pirouz on

That photo is from 2008 if I'm not mistaken.

And no, there are no Sargords in the photo.  


A very well written and informative article and Ironically.....

by Roozbeh_Gilani on

one of the claims made in the article about islamist regime funded "cyber bassij army" was duely proven by comments from two user IDs. "Shushtruk" and "IRI", whose ataunchly pro islamist government, yet ridiculously written comments seem to follow exactly the same script! 

"Personal business must yield to collective interest."


Is the chunky one

by statira on

on the rt side of Khamenei is our Sargord Piroze(abadi)?

Khodemoneema, ajab shakh shekastehayee hastanda! Mesle ye lashgare shekast khorde mimonand.

sara yashil

read word for word

by sara yashil on

I’ve read this article several times and it should be read word for word.

 Khanoum Alavi you are a genius the “familiar absolutist rhetoric of the Iranian state alongside the bigoted prejudices of marginal western neo-fascists against Islamic cultures” Is everywhere online where Iranians write. I was in the 3 million protest in Tehran that day they killed soharab. We were all one, not like on or Balatarin where the religious attach the atheist & the Shaholahis attack the Hezbolahi. My generation has had enough of the issues you carry. When i came to study in Europe four years ago i was shocked to found my older fellow Iranians here no less dogmatic than the older generation regime supporters in Iran. Luckily we the youth outnumber you. Khanoum Alavi I screamed out loud with joy and recognition when i read your closing sentence  “it is that the children of the 1979 revolution, in their non-violent fight for civil rights, are demanding that we Iranians should hold ourselves accountable for our failures and successes”

As for Shutruk boro kenar bezar bad biad.

Big Boy

Shutruk is right

by Big Boy on

Anytime a society puts lawyers, professors, engineers, politicians, journalists in jail (or just decides to kill them), that society is a dynamic society.

When a society denies the family of one of the founders of the revolution (ayatollah Montazeri) to have the one-year death anniversary event, that society is dynamic.

When a society denies the right to education to its youth because they have become 'political' that is a sign of a dynamic society.

Thank god Canada, USA, Western Europe, even Eastern Europe aren't dynamic societies so at least Iranians have a place to escape the tyranny of Shuti's dynamic society. 


Iran is on the move

by IRI on

great picture of the Islamic Republic of Iran powerful leadership.

Please post more pictures. Thank you

(Next election vote Larijani so the country can continue on its path to power and prosperity)


Cost of progress

by Shutruk on


Iran is a dynamic society - just look at the number of NGOs or the number of women at university and those with their own businesses and careers. Look at the media industry with over 40 national dailies, news agencies or Iranian cinema or sport. Iran is a vibrant society.


The U.N ranks Iran above Turkey in human development and as one of the countries with a "high level of human development"


Now, read the IMF report on Iran:


Iran's growth has been robust over the last 5 years while inflation has dramatically fallen in the last 12 months.

If Iran is a "pariah" it is only because it refuses to capitulate and obey the dictates of other countries.

The Revolution continues and leaves the self-haters behind.


hey SHUTURK, you said

by Cost-of-Progress on

"a government that has transformed Iran into a dynamic society , enjoying relatively high living standards, and a regional and global power that the world must take seriously."

Only islamists like you can sit there and make these proposterous statements....

dynamic society?

High standard of living?

Are you using that opium you distribute among the people to keep them prepetually high? Have you people no shame? You have taken a country on the verge of progress and turned into a pariah state with high unemplyment, disstaisfied populous and skyhigh inflation and you have the audacity to praise theis incompetence?

And the overpriced north korean junk you buy to become regional superpower isn't worth the lead paint smeared on it........

Shame of you people - PURE SHAME. I wish you all the worst.






Of Neda and never

by comrade on



The so-called election about whose outcome some of us still bicker, was supposed to be a non-event, for "the real opposition"(remember?). That so-called election remains disputed and never proven as stolen.

Exploitation of the memory of a victim who had no clue about her manufactured fate whose  status should have never been raised above an "accidental hero" is a morally bankrupt crime committed by both sides: The criminal IRI, and the comfy so-called opposition. 

Never increase, beyond what is necessary, the number of entities required to explain anything.



Iran has numerous enemies but still makes progress

by Shutruk on

The Americans, the British and the Zionists all despise the Islamic Republic because it testifies to the political independence of the Iranian people and is a hope for other Muslim peoples. They,and their Arab tyrant allies, have waged war, sanctions, subversion, assassination, terrorism and propaganda against the Islamic Republic since it was founded by a popular revolution.

Unfortunately, there are some Iranians here who prefer to side with the enemies of the Iranian nation rather than to invest in Iran and help direct the evolution of the Islamic Republic which has changed substantially over the past 30 years.

Like it or not, under Islamic rule, Iran has enjoyed 25 nationwide competitive elections with turnouts as high as 80%: something western regimes can only envy.

For all the talk on censorship, the Iranian press is amongst the most vibrant and independent in the world - not owned and run by the wealthiest 2%, like in the United States. There are about 40 national dailies.

It amazes me how my fellow Iranians are prepared to disgrace themselves and embarrass the homeland with their constant slander and abuse against a government that has transformed Iran into a dynamic society , enjoying relatively high living standards, and a regional and global power that the world must take seriously.

The "human rights" issue repeated here is just a red herring. Human rights are abused routinely in the United States, Canada and places where Iranian expats live. But do they complain about this? No. Did Iranians voice their outrage over the LA riots that left over 50 people killed in 1992? No.

At least in Iran, people who abuse human rights are prosecuted and punished: as with the Kahrizak case.

I have a simple request for all the anti-IRI agents here.Either you are with the Iranian nation or you are against it. Please choose.



by ABBAS47 on

While no doubt there are elements in this regime that are after money and power they are  not all like that. What would you do if all the countries around you were scheming against you and send their spies to cause mischeive in your country. I know some people think they are protecting themselves but they are genuinely worried about the country and trying their best to protect it against outsiders. Try and be a bit fair at least. Bad elements exist in all ruling class in all countries.


my god!

by shushtari on

look at these freaks! this is supposed to be the leadership of our beautiful ????!


ye mosht aftabe dozd va hendooneh forooshe sabegh !


maye aberoo reezee