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Persian Cyberspace Report: Special Edition -- Online Reactions to the Occupation of the British Embassy
In this week’s edition of the Persian cyberspace report we analyse the controversial and contradictory perspectives of online Iranians regarding the occupation of the British Embassy in Tehran, including pictures taken inside the embassy by the perpetrators. We will update the report as and when new information becomes available.
On Tuesday 29 November, 2011, a group of Basij (a volunteer paramilitary group) students invaded and occupied the British Embassy in Tehran. The occupation has been reported widely in the press, but the contradictory views emanating from Iran’s Facebook, Twitter, Google Plus and FriendFeed users have been overlooked.
Many argue that the protesters are not students. ‘Shahin1980’ addressed the media with an angry retort:
“Please don’t call them ‘student protesters’! They don’t even look like students?! Please write ‘a flock of sheep’ or ‘a herd of cows’ instead. Or at the very least write ‘Arzeshi Basiji’. Anything. Just do not write the word ‘student’ in your reports”.
Iranian users in Twitter and FriendFeed created the hash tag “England (انگلیس)”, which others can follow to keep up to date with the latest news about the occupation.
Some of those who took part in the occupation wrote about it online. Bloggers Seyed Shahabondin Vajedi and Hamid Darvishi Shahkolaei and social networker Mohammad Saleh Meftah occupied the British Embassy and supported the attack.
“Muslim Photographer” blogger ‘Seyed Shahabodin Vajedi’ wrote about how it felt to invade the embassy and he strongly criticised the Iranian police’s handling of the situation:
“I know the occupation was disorganised. And it’s not important to me whether or not the government agreed with the occupation of England’s embassy. It’s possible that we may have hurt the Supreme Leader or broken his heart, but when a group of students and Basij follow the line of justice and occupy the old fox’s embassy, the Iranian police should not act in this manner”.
‘Hamid Darvish Shahkolaei’, who also invaded the British compound in the north of Tehran (a 30 minute drive away in Tehran’s heavy traffic), wrote frantically about the event:
“We took our Iranian police brothers by surprise. They were outside the British Embassy in Ferdowsi Street, where some of the original protesters had returned. Nobody was waiting for us at the Qolhak Garden [the compound]”.
Hamid went on to explain how the group he was with searched every room in the Qolhak Garden. The diplomatic compound in the north of Tehran has been in dispute for a number of years and the Iranians have demanded its return. The 50 acres of prime real estate includes a number of properties inhabited by British Embassy staff. The Iranians believe the British should handover the land, which the Qajar dynasty gave them in the 19th century. More than 100 years ago the garden was in a rural setting but today, due to urban sprawl, it is in one of the wealthiest suburbs of Tehran:
“We started searching from room to room because that land has been illegally confiscated from us. We didn’t uplift any valuable possessions. You should have been there! There was everything under the sun. Valuable jewellery, alcoholic drinks, the complete series of Harry Potter, obscene movies and magazines.”
For the complete report, which includes reactions from across the political spectrum and pictures of the occupation posted by people who participated, READ HERE