By Coilin O'Connor, RFE/RL
Iran has been prominent recently on the popular Reddit social news site thanks to the fact that self-styled presidential candidate Hooshang Amirahmadi made himself available to the site's users on February 7 under the subject line "I am running for President of Iran. My name is Dr. Hooshang Amirahmadi, ask me anything!"
Many of the site's users duly obliged and Amirahmadi was quickly bombarded with questions about the situation in his homeland.
The liberal, conciliatory tone of his answers certainly seemed to strike a chord with the bulletin-board's hipster community and his posting's rating among "Redditors" quickly soared.
As chairman of the American-Iranian Council, Amirahmadi was quick to put himself forward as a president who would strive to improve the current frosty relations between Washington and Tehran.
"The biggest problem for Iran is a lack of trust between the U.S. [and] Iran. I have lived 40 years in the U.S. I understand both cultures and languages," he told one Redditor, who asked him how he would handle international relations. "I can easily build trust between the two countries, particularly because I have never been part of the problem between the U.S. and Iran. I have tried to be part of the solution for 25 years."
Among other things, Amirahmadi also boldly claimed that he would abolish censorship in Iran were he to be elected president (while conveniently sidestepping the fact that such a decision would ultimately rest with Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei).
"I believe in freedom of press, freedom of media, including social media," he declared. "In my administration there will be no restriction on any type of media. I believe in free speech."
Although Amirahmadi's comments were certainly a hit with freethinking Reddit users, it is almost certain he won't be approved as a presidential candidate by Iran's Guardians Council, which has the final say on who gets to run for the country's top political post.
It already rejected him once before when he registered for the presidential poll in 2005, and it is not expected to give him the green light this time around either.
Considering how he has also been living in the United States for decades, Amirahmadi doesn't really have much of a support base in his native country, and many serious Iran watchers don't consider him a serious contender.
Amirahmadi seemed to tacitly acknowledge this fact himself, by implying that he was primarily interested in waging "a truly international campaign that is trying to bring in the global community behind a set of peaceful ideas and prescriptions for legal reform."
"My hope is that you all will support me in whatever way you can," he added, before posting links to a donation website for his "campaign," as well as some press articles and interviews about his political activities.
In this sense, although he has barely registered as a blip on most Iranians' radar, Amirahmadi's Reddit appearance has certainly boosted his profile and may even help him raise some funds.
Copyright (c) 2013 RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036. www.rferl.org
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