For the Iranian regime, monitoring their people is what they believe is critical to keeping themselves in power. Therefore, when the Iranian people use an independent communication application that the regime cannot monitor, the regime tries to find a way to reduce or limit the use of that application.
Iran’s Culture and Media Court ordered the ban on Telegram on April 30, and part of their assertion is that Telegram was used to organize actions that they claimed were threatening Iran’s security, including the protests in December and January, as well as terrorist attacks on the Iranian parliament and the shrine of Ayatollah Khomeini.
“Telegram’s banning is based on the final decision of a court. If a court is able to issue a verdict and take away a part of people’s rights, nothing would be left of people’s rights. This is a violation of the nation’s rights. And it would result in nothing but the lack of trust in the regime and the system. Telegram banning has caused people to use American proxy servers, which is not logical,” said Jalil Rahimi Jahan Abadi, a member of the Iranian parliament’s legal commission.
According to the judicial order, the blocking needs to make sure that Telegram is not accessible through any anti-censorship program. Telegram has 40 million users in #Iran. The number of jobs directly and indirectly related to the use of Telegram is estimated to be anywhere between one and five million.
The Iranian authorities also used Telegram, but the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) has told the Iranian Ministries that they must stop using Telegram and has told them to use a state-sponsored application instead. According to the memo to the Minister of Petroleum, all data, information, and news that was dispersed on foreign messenger services, including Telegram, are to now be transferred to the domestic messenger service “Soroush”. They acknowledge that there may be bumps in the road in terms of technical difficulties, as part of expanding the culture of using Iranian domestic products and services.
People reactions to the Telegram baning
“I do not think that Telegram banning would cause people to embrace Iranian messenger apps,” said Tayyibah Siavashi, a member of the Iranian parliament’s cultural commission. “The truth is that banning of Telegram has caused oppression. Especially that during the election campaigns, President Rouhani had promised that Telegram will not be banned, and the communication will happen freely. Nowadays, no matter which part or class of society you encounter, the debate over banning Telegram is heated. And the majority of the people are not happy about it…we have to agree that this has caused an extensive atmosphere of oppression in the society.”
Several members of the Iranian parliament also noted how Telegram was integral to how many Iranians did business, so the banning would have an economic impact. However, they also noted that other foreign applications were available, so it seemed unlikely that the ban would encourage people to switch to state-sponsored applications.
Despite the ban, it seems that the Iranian people are not willing to switch to the domestic messenger service, which is regularly monitored by the regime and its security forces. In a survey by Radio Farda, Iranians were asked if they would use another messaging app and more than 90% responded that they use anti-filtering software and have no intention of changing to an alternative platform.
The reality is that while the regime wants to use oppressive measures to limit any chance of an uprising, those same oppressive bans increase the disgust of the Iranian people with the regime.