By Golnaz Esfandiari, RFE/RL
On April 17, Iran celebrated its National Army Day with military parades and a warning to its enemies, which apparently includes Facebook.
Pictures from the military parade in the city of Isfahan show military jeeps carrying anti-Facebook banners, which declare that the social-networking site is one form of proof of the “soft war” Iran says its enemies have launched to bring down the Islamic establishment.
Facebook is very popular among Iranians, who have to access the site through anti-filtering tools.
A Basij official claimed last year that some 17 million Iranians are using Facebook. Iranian officials are clearly not happy about the popularity of social media, which they accuse of being tools of U.S. intelligence services.
During the 2009 postelection protests, opposition members used social media to document human rights abuses by government forces.
Iranians discuss taboo subjects on social-networking sites and inform others about news and developments that are often being censored or ignored in state media.
One example is this video of last week’s visit by Iranian President Mahmud Ahmadinejad to Bandar Abbas, where an old man tells him that he’s hungry and a young woman climbs into his car to talk with him.
Last year, a symbolic stoning, similar to the one performed at the annual haj, was staged against Facebook and YouTube at an exhibition of digital media.
This year, military forces marched against Facebook.
We’re wondering, what’s next?
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