Ahmad Khatami, a known figure of the faction loyal to Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, described the Iranian people’s active use of the Internet and social media as a “cultural war.” This “cultural war” is more difficult than a “military war,” he warned.
Khamenei, since 1991, referred to this threat using various terms, such as cultural assault, cultural NATO and cultural raid. The rise of social media allows for protests to be organized and the opposition to continue to build support. As a result, the regime sees it as a threat to their continued existence, and have stamped down hard on the use of social media. Activists, including bloggers, have been arrested and faced ill-treatment and torture for criticizing the regime online.
“Today, we must sense the threat,” Khatami continued in his remarks. The young should “feel this threat”, since “they are using the Internet and social media more than other walks of life,” he emphasized, going on to claim the Internet “is a blaze targeting religion, morals and social independence.”
Islam under the Iranian mullahs is a strict faith, with rules for all areas of life, including ones for dress and grooming; association between the sexes; and even restrict what can be said in the public forum.
This senior member of the regime’s Assembly of Experts called on all religious schools and propaganda organizations to establish a specific department allocated for the struggle against this “cultural attack.”
“Only religion can stand this against these attacks. To this end, we must place more energy into religion,” Khatami highlighted. However, he failed to explain why this “cultural attack” has been growing despite the regime’s continued effort to advocate religious solutions.
“Our young, struggling with unemployment, reach the conclusion that the state is not working correctly, and they must seek a state to save them from their frustration,” said Mullah Ahmad Alamalhoda, Khamenei’s representative in the city of Mashhad, northeast of Iran.
These remarks are evidence that the regime feels threatened by the continued growth of social media and the internet, despite efforts to clamp down on it through censorship.