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Iran Social Network Supports Ayatollah

New Iranian social networking site has been established specifically for supporters of the 'Supreme Leader'. Facebook beware.
By Elad Benari
First Publish: 8/19/2010, 5:34 AM / Last Update: 8/19/2010, 5:29 AM

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A new social network which has recently been launched in Iran was created especially for supporters of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

The social network is called Velayatmadaran, a reference to “followers of the velayat,” (Iran's Supreme Leader), and is part of an attempt by Iranian officials to get in on the social networking craze which includes sites like Facebook and Twitter, to name a few.

According to a recent report published by the Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center, the social network’s creators established the site in order to give an appropriate response to what is described as the “soft war” being held online by enemies of Iran. It is also meant to create a friendly online environment for supporters of Khamenei, allowing them to engage in conversations and exchange ideas, as well as to become familiar with the methods used by Iran’s enemies to conduct their struggle against the Islamic republic.

Similar to other social networking sites on the web, Velayatmadaran allows its users to upload audio, video, and photos to the site. The network is open to Khamenei supporters around the globe, and particularly from what the site’s creators call “Occupied Palestine”, meaning Arabs from Judea, Samaria, and Gaza. The site is also open to users from what is called “Dear Palestine”, referring to Arabs who reside within the 1948 UN created Israeli borders.

The Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center also reported that recently, Ayatollah Seyyed Ahmad Alam al-Hoda, the leader of Friday prayers in Mashhad, said that all “cyber war” capabilities must be used in the campaign waged by Iran’s enemies on the Internet. He claimed that the Internet has been taken over by the enemy and turned into a battlefield.

According to the  report, al-Hoda said that Muslims cultural activists’ top priority is to make themselves heard online by creating blogs and websites or attacking websites, using any tactics and any means permissible in war. He added that if the Muslims do not strike the enemy, the enemy will strike them first.

Radio Free Europe, which reported on the new social network at the end of July, said that so far the site has attracted some 3,000 members. Users have uploaded posts of pictures of “Imam Khamenei,” as well as articles about the teachings of ultra-hard-line Ayatollah Mesbah Yazdi, and cartoons skewering the opposition Green Movement.

However, Iranians in parts of the world have criticized the new website and said that it is unlikely to attract young Iranians. Ali Honari, a 32-year-old sociology student currently living and studying in Holland told Radio Free Europe that the new website appears to be an attempt by the Iranian authorities to funnel their supporters away from mainstream social networking. "A friend of mine who taught some courses at the Qom seminary said that even there, students are becoming increasingly modern," he said. "They have access to the Internet, they watch the latest movies. [The establishment] needs to make sure they remain loyal."

Iranian blogger Arash Kamangir, who lives in Toronto, said: "It's not difficult to launch a new social site. What is difficult is to attract members. [Iranian leaders] cannot do it, because they don't want to open these sites to those who are opposed to them and their supporters don't seem to be many."