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Nothing Comes Between Iranians And Their Satellite Dishes -- Not Even The Police

By Golnaz Esfandiari, RFE/RL

Photos: Satellite Dishes Come Under Attack In Tehran!

For years now, the authorities in Iran have tried to crack down on the use of satellite dishes, which give Iranians access to foreign channels. The dishes are banned in the Islamic republic. Police officers spend a considerable amount of time searching for them, dismantling them, and confiscating them. (See a YouTube video here of one such "dismantling.")

But it appears that Iran's war on satellite dishes is a losing one. Neither police raids nor stiff fines have been able to stop Iranians from watching their favorite shows.

At a recent seminar about the "harming effects" of satellite dishes, held in the city of Qom, researcher Mohammad Reza Khoshrou said that, according to the latest figures, 65 percent of Tehran residents use satellite dishes.

Khoshrou said the figure in Qom - which is home to Iran's religious seminaries -- is between 30 and 40 percent, the same as in other Iranian cities. He didn't provide details about the source of the figures.

Iranian officials have acknowledged the popularity of satellite channels on a number of occasions and warned against what they see as the negative impact of foreign channels.

In July 2011, hard-line Iranian cleric Ahmad Khatami called satellite programs part of the "soft war" that Iran's enemies have launched against the country.

"Fighting against Islam, the Islamic Revolution, and the great Iranian nation" are among the major goals of satellite channels, Khatami said during an appearance at Tehran's Friday Prayers.

For many Iranians, satellite channels are the only source of uncensored news, as well as quality entertainment, which is also a rare commodity on state television.

One woman in the Iranian capital, whose satellite dish was demolished by the police several months ago, told "Persian Letters" that the first thing she did the day after her apartment complex was raided was order a new dish and receiver.

"That's the only fun we have here. There's nothing worth watching on [state television]," she said. "They can come and take my dish away. I will get a new one."

Copyright (c) 2012 RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036.

An Iranian police trying to dismantle a satellite dish (October 2011).

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