Persian Cyberspace Report: Satirical cartoons and the falsification of the UK riots

News in Brief 

  • Restoring faith in humanity: Last week 100 youths gathered on Parkway Street in Tehran to wash windscreens and raise money for street children. The event was organised by children’s rights activist Farhad Moradi on Facebook. One attendee performed songs on the guitar while the others stopped traffic to clean windscreens and promote their cause. The story trended in the Iranian webosphere with everyone congratulating the youths for their kindness and innovation with bring social issues to a predominantly upper-class area of Tehran. Photos are available on the Kalame website.
  • This week conservative news website Nedaye Enghelab published a caricature of David Cameron with the caption “I’m worried about human rights in Iran.” Later in this report we look at more of these images, but this one was particularly scathing: Cameron is framed within a glossy BBC camera shot, while in his hands, which are out of frame, he drags injured protesters. The cartoon illustrates the argument, held by supporters of the regime, that the UK is being hypocritical in its actions, suppressing their own protesters while supporting those in Iran. Ironically, Iran is doing the same.

Official news agencies use old library images to boost the shock appeal of their coverage of the London riots

This week the Guardian picked up on a story circulating in the Iranian blogosphere that revealed Fars News (a news agency rumoured to be affiliated with the Revolutionary Guard) and Kayhan newspaper (which is under the direct control of Khamenei) had been caught using library images from events as diverse as the Notting Hill Carnival and the miners’ strike of 1984 for their coverage of the London riots. One of the pictures used by Fars News appeared to be from Chile; the stop sign in the background is written in Spanish.

In a post on Friendfeed Gomnamian, the blogger who first uncovered the improper use of library images, wrote, “Let’s be honest about it. If it were not for Balatarin and its users, I wouldn’t have been able to promote my post [about the usage of library images] and it would never have been picked up by the international news [like BBC Persian or the Guardian].” Illustrating the importance of the Iranian webosphere, the Balatarin users who viewed, commented on, and re-shared Gomnamian’s post ensured it went to the top of the trending topics list, where it was picked up by Guardian reporter Saeed Kamali Dehghan.

Another Iranian internet user commented, “Shame on you False News, you’re not respected on an international level and you have never been and will never ever be respected within Iran.” In this quote the internet user plays with the name of Fars News to make a scathingly pointed dig at the falsification of information that has been either overlooked or condoned by the media chiefs of the Islamic Republic. 


What a riot! The Persian web’s satirical reaction to the London riots

Satirical cartoons have always been a popular forum for political comment in Iran, and it is often easier to represent a dissident idea visually and abstractly than to verbalise it and thus be held accountable. The London riots have received a number of visual treatments over the past week.

Ultra-conservative blogger ‘Hossein Mersadi’ made a Photoshop composite depicting the queen leaving Buckingham Palace. The image’s caption read, “I dedicate this picture to London’s rabid dogs [police] and those so-called Human Rights Defenders who seem to have taken a vow of silence.” Hossein’s critique illustrates a view that is shared by the Iranian government, who even offered to send in reinforcements to support the protesters.













Hardline blogger ‘Duelfa’ superimposed an image of Mehdi Hashemi Rafsanjani (the son of Rafsanjani, the ex-President of Iran) onto an image taken during the UK riots. The slogan on Duelfa’s poster argues that one member of the Hashemi family is always behind an act of sedition. Nine people commented on Duelfa’s poster and all of them agreed with his idea. ‘Maryam’ said, “I think Mehdi Hashemi’s role is to arrest people with the rabid dogs [police] and deliver them to his English masters. Or maybe he electrocutes them. Or maybe he tortures these deprived and oppressed people and interrogates them.”

On the flip side, pro-Green Movement cartoonist ‘Mana Neyestani’ mocked the government’s offering of Basij troops to the UK government to keep the peace by drawing a series of cartoons depicting what would happen if the Basij and Sepah were deployed to London. In the picture below a Basij officer chases after a girl saying, “You are wearing improper clothing, come on guys, let’s gang rape her,” to which the girl replies, “But sir, I’m one of the protesters!”  


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