Opposition to Iran’s regime has typically been exiled. One such journalist, Roohullah Zam, launched a channel on Telegram to broadcast protests against economic decline.
He chose it because the app is highly encrypted and has the option of self destructing photos and videos – but that’s not all. Telegram is used by 50% of Iran’s 80 million population; and while Twitter and Facebook can be restricted, messaging apps often sneak around unnoticed.
Even the Pakistani government has blocked Telegram after its rapid increase in active users across the country.
That is, until M.J. Azari Jahromi – the country’s telecommunications minister – was, to his horror, exposed to the channel. He immediately pointed it out in a tweet to the app’s CEO, and ordered its removal.
@Durov: A Telegram channel is encouraging hateful conduct, use of Molotov cocktails, armed uprising, and social unrest. NOW is the time to stop such encouragements via Telegram.
— MJ Azari Jahromi (@azarijahromi) December 30, 2017
Pavel Durov said that he would comply – Telegram’s policies are against “calls for violence” – but most of the world is offended that he should have done so. One NSA contractor said he should have done the opposite.
People like Edward Snowden are claiming that Telegram is no longer “free” since the company is willing to remove channels and check content to see whether it complies with its policies. On the other hand, it is necessary for the app developers to keep its userbase in check since countries like Pakistan and Iran have started blocking Telegram on locals ISPs.
However, the governments must understand that blocking messaging apps cannot stop the targeted people. They could simply move to other secure apps or use VPNs while the common public suffers.
Telegram was blocked in Iran on Saturday – and even Instagram has been temporarily shut down “to maintain tranquility”. But Zam is relentless. Other channels have been activated, which, he says, “will work as hard as before and with the help of God, we will become millions again.”
Situation in Iran
Yes, that’s very eloquent. But the president will only stay mum for as long as there’s no real threat. He said so in his cabinet meeting. Citizens are free to criticize, he said, but the government will not tolerate social disorder. These protests are the biggest since 2009.
Iran’s population is 15% poorer than a decade ago, and everyone is saying it. Creating channels that amass 1.3 million followers will only result in doom. And speaking out against supreme leader Ayatollah Khomeini, not to mention the president himself, cannot have have a flowery end.
Exiled son of former Shah Reza Pahlavi supports these demonstrations, and no wonder he was sent away. Zam’s own father is against him. “I found that you crossed the red line,” he wrote, “Our red line is the supreme leader, but you’ve passed the red line.”