Last week, in a rare victory for Iran’s relatively moderate president, Hassan Rouhani, the Iranian government granted 3G and 4G licenses to Iran’s two mobile operators. Iranians can now, for the first time, use smartphones to visit websites, make video calls, use social media apps, and send pictures.
When President Rouhani was elected last year, he was hailed as a sign of a more open Iranian future. But despite efforts to allow more, better Internet access, he found opposition in the form of the country’s stricter higher-ups, clerics and commanders alike. They argue that the Internet is poised to spread immorality and impurity.
But in a speech to clerics on Monday, Rouhani made clear, “We cannot shut the gates of the world to our young generation.”
Internet access is just one of many fronts on which Rouhani has fought hardliners, who want the president to reform Iran’s foreign and economic, but not social, policy. But so, too, is it a significant one. Change, or at least symbols thereof, has come in Iran before through technological transition. After the elections of 2009, for example, the Iranian Green Movement took to Twitter to voice dissent both in Iran and through the wider world. And though later analysis made clear that the so-called “Twitter revolution” may have been more of a Western narrative than an Iranian reality, the 140 character communications did, at least to some extent, allow events in Iran to be broadcast far beyond it.
And so, no, the revolution will not be tweeted. But the evolution toward a more progressive Iran? It might be. With a photo attached.