Persian Cyberspace Report: Google Reader, Gaddafi and Iranian pilot

News in Brief 

  • One pilot’s supreme skills prevent a catastrophe as he lands a plane with its nose gear closed. He becomes an instant hero in social networks and Facebook users set up a Public Figure page for him which has 1,003 likes. A video of the masterful feat was published on YouTube and has been watched nearly 100,000 times.
  • Another Facebook page ‘Fans of Capitan [sic] Hooshang Shahbazi,’ published this photo of Hooshang sitting in a very dated cockpit. Vahid Elh commented, “Captain Hooshang was flying a Boeing 727 produced between 1974 and 1976 for Iran Air. The aeroplane itself is older than 65% of Iran’s population.” No wonder its wheels didn’t open!
  • The national census, conducted every ten years, has begun in Iran. Some internet users are wondering why they are bothering counting the population when they didn’t count the votes properly after the election.
  • On October 26, 2011, Hillary Clinton appeared on BBC Persian’s interactive program ‘Nobat-e Shoma’ (Have Your Say) and VOA’s weekly show Parazit to answer Iranians’ questions.

Iranian Google Reader users react to change

Last week Google announced a plan to merge the Google Reader platform into Google+, a plan which involves disabling all of Google Reader’s social features, like the ability to follow users, comment on shared items, or share subscriptions. It will be stripped down to its previous incarnation as an unadorned feed reader, which is what the tool was designed to be.

Many Iranians are dissatisfied with the plan because Google Reader has played an important role in their lives over the past few years both as a stand-in social network and as a censorship circumvention tool (Google Reader lets Iranians read filtered blogs via RSS feeds). The tool also played a crucial role as a communication facilitator during and after the controversial 2009 presidential elections.

Javad Oftadeh mused on why Google Reader is so important for Iranian users in a blog post: “Google Reader is a part of online life for Iranian internet users and their addiction to it is not comparable with any of the other social networks. The most important thing is that Google Reader allows access to uncensored information.” Google Reader user Ali commented: “We have made a world for ourselves here and shared our ideas. Why do they want to ruin it?” Marjan replied, “It wasn’t made by us. It was made by a big corporation that is now trying to make us use its other product Google+.”

A huge amount of content concerning the plan has been shared over Google Reader and some have tried to keep it light-hearted. Google Reader user Kathy probed others to respond: “What are you afraid of? Don’t worry about other people’s opinions!! Actually … Other opinions won’t exist after these changes.”


Reflections on Gaddafi’s death in the Persian webosphere

After it was revealed that Gaddafi had died and a film was released showing the stab wounds to his hip, some Iranian bloggers and social networkers reacted with scorn. Most of them blamed the National Transitional Council (NTC) rebels for Gaddafi’s death and were also very critical of NTC’s decision for Libya’s new constitution to be based on Sharia law.

Twitter user ‘Friedrish’ said: “Every minute a new film showing the capture of Gaddafi is published on YouTube, the poor man was beaten within an inch of his life and then stabbed with a knife, now we’re waiting to see the porno.”

After seeing all of the films and comments made by NTC authorities Twitter user ‘Mehdiys’ saw Gaddafi in a more favourable light: “Gradually I’m concluding that Gaddafi was the best option to lead Libya.”

But blogger ‘Kamran’ concluded that Gaddafi deserved to be punished: “I don’t know if I should be sad that the human rights of a man [Gaddafi] were violated [by NTC rebels] or happy because they ‘raped’ [stabbed with a knife] a man that himself killed and raped thousands of people. When I think about all this I just remember one of the many innocent women who were raped by his forces … And when I think of her I say to myself that he well and truly deserved it.”

After Libya’s new ruler declared that Libya would be ruled by Sharia law many Iranian social networkers expressed concern. ‘Humanwatch’ called on other Iranian bloggers to inform Libyans of the dangers involved in mixing politics and religion: “Dear friends, we must write an open letter from the Iranian bloggers to the Libyan people with Arabic and English translations and tell them about the dangers of Islamic law based on our own experiences.”

Google Reader user ‘Farbud Akhtarry’ said, “Really Libya? The first thing you do after 40 years of miserable suffering is to say that monogamy is against Sharia law and should be ousted? Really? Well, in that case, God bless the colonel.” FriendFeed user ‘Roadrunner’ is sure the transition will have disasterous consequences for Libya: “It is the Arab Spring or the Arab Autumn? We’re transitioning from secular dictators towards fundamentalism and religious dictatorship.” 


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