On Sept. 26, while speaking at the Council on Foreign Relations in NYC, Iran’s new president, Hassan Rouhani, claimed that “in Iran everyone has easy access to satellite networks.” Two days later, however, the “Revolutionary Guards (IRGC) in the Iranian city of Shiraz used military vehicles to crush 800 satellite dishes and receivers. IRGC described it as a “valuable measure to confront the cultural offensive staged by the enemies of the revolution and establishment”.
We were unable to find any report of Rouhani’s gaffe on the Guardian’s Iran page.
On Oct. 4, Israeli prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu gave an interview with BBC Persian. Though Netanyahu spoke mostly about the Iranian nuclear issue, there also was a brief exchange in which Bibi said “If the people of Iran were free, they could wear jeans, listen to Western music and have free elections.”
Bibi was of course correct that there aren’t free elections in Iran, and his characterization of Iran’s ban on most Western music was also largely accurate. However, while there are indeed dress codes in Iran which, for instance, forbid women from wearing short sleeves (or, oddly, even leggings) and forbids men or women from wearing shorts, he erred in his “Jeans” comment. His little faux pas naturally set off the Guardian’s anti-Israel Schadenfreude sensors, and the paper published no less than three stories on Oct. 7 on the ‘blue jeans row’.
So, whilst cultural repression in the Islamic Republic includes government control and censorship over all books; censorship over all television and radio broadcasting; censorship of the internet; the detention of academics who express undesirable political views; the prosecution of journalists for offenses such as “mutiny against Islam; and Iranian “morality police” patrolling cities, cracking down on the scourge of unvirtuous or immodestly dressed women, the Guardian wants their readers to be clear that Iranians can nonetheless freely wear their Levi’s.
Finally, in a perfect synthesis of the competing ‘gaffes’, here’s a photo we found of Iranians proudly wearing their fashionable blue jeans while simultaneously watching an Iranian military vehicle crush dozens of counter-revolutionary satellite dishes:
Ah, the sweet smell of freedom!