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Iranian Minister: We Won't be Able to Ban Facebook Forever

Iran’s Culture Minister admits his country will not be able to forever ban popular websites.
By Elad Benari
First Publish: 3/5/2014, 6:29 AM

Facebook
Facebook
Reuters

Iran’s Culture Minister admitted this week that the Islamic Republic will not be able to forever ban access to Internet hubs such as Facebook.

"Four million Iranians are on Facebook, and we have restricted it," said Minister Ali Janati, according to AFP.

"We cannot restrict the advance of (such technology) under the pretext of protecting Islamic values," he added.

Access to the popular social networking site - along with others which Iranian authorities regard as un-Islamic, immoral or undermining the Islamic establishment - is obstructed by a massive filtering mechanism.

Tech-savvy Iranians have resorted to measures, known as anti-filters, to circumvent the restrictions.

Janati drew a parallel with a ban on fax machines and video tapes and players imposed the 1979 Islamic revolution.

"If we look back, we see many of the actions we took after the revolution were ridiculous," he said.

The comments are a reflection of the supposed “moderate” policy of Iran’s President, Hassan Rouhani, who was elected last year and replaced the hardline Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

In a speech he delivered a month before being sworn in, Rouhani said that a strong government does not “limit the lives of the people.”

“We need a strong society, a strong government. Today, the ground has been prepared for popular participation. The people have pinned their hopes on the future. A strong government does not mean a government that interferes and intervenes in all affairs. It is not a government that limits the lives of people. This is not a strong government,” he said.

Two weeks after his victory in the elections, Rouhani told a popular Iranian youth magazine that he believed social networking sites such as Facebook were a welcome phenomenon.

Janati said a few months ago that his department would review a ban imposed on certain books which censors have barred from publication.

On Sunday, Janati suggested that the government was working to remove the constraints on websites.

"The six ministers who are members of the (filtering) committee have clearly stated that we cannot continue to isolate ourselves from the world," he said, according to AFP.

But, he added it would take time.

"However, (filtering) is one of those issues whose solution requires time. And it will be resolved in time," Janati said.

Even under Rouhani, Iran's has continued to detain activists accused of providing material to “anti-government websites”.

Iran also regularly executes people who are convicted of murder, rape, armed robbery, drug trafficking, adultery and espionage.

The Islamic Republic has continued to do so even under Rouhani and, in fact,  a report by Amnesty International at the beginning of 2014 revealed that there has been a surge in executions.

The Iranian opposition has warned the world not to be fooled by Rouhani’s “smile attack” and has urged it to take note of the human rights violations under his regime as an indicator of his true intentions.