Like this? Iran's Supreme Leader gets social on Facebook
Social media are routinely blocked and monitored in Iran. But now the country’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, has joined millions of dissenting Iranians by setting up his own Facebook page.
The 73-year-old ayatollah has been on Twitter for some time, and dabbled in online photo sharing using Instagram.
The news broke on Khamenei’s Twitter account and the page received more than 10,000 “likes’ within a few days.
The news may confuse some Iranian internet users, who have in the past been targeted by the authorities who see websites such as Facebook as decadent and part of a Western-Zionist conspiracy.
In a recent post on the page, the Supreme Leader appears in a video with Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah, predicting a rebirth of Islamic governance in the region following the Arab Spring.
The page’s cover photo shows him with the Islamic Republic’s founder Ayatollah Rouhollah Khomeini and was modified using Instagram to highlight the men’s faces.
Comments on the page have ranged from praise to calls for his execution, although comments have been moderated by his office and some have been deleted.
The US State Department has jokingly said it is monitoring how many people “like” the page as a matter of national security.
More than 5 million websites are blocked in Iran but many Iranians use proxy servers to get around the restrictions, which the US has labelled an 'electronic curtain'.
Some commenters on the page mocked the ayatollah by asking what proxy service he had used. In the past, Iran’s filtering machine has blocked one of Khamenei’s own fatwas.
In the run up to Iran’s presidential elections next year, the move may be interpreted by some officials as a green light to use the web for campaigning.
After the central role of social media in Iran’s 2009 protests, sensitivity toward online services has spiked, with the country labelling Google a spying device.
Do you like this? Why do you think the ayatollah has chosen now to branch out into the realm of Facebook? Does it signify a deeper move by Iran to embrace online tools? Let us know your thoughts below.