Iran has written to Mark Zuckerberg, chief of Facebook’s and Instagram’s owners, asking why the platforms had removed posts about general Qasem Soleimani.
In a letter Reza Fazel, legal director at the telecommunications ministry, called on Zuckerberg as chief executive of Meta Platforms “to end extensive censorship” over Soleimani, who was killed alongside nine others by a United States drone attack in Baghdad on January 3, 2000.
The letter coincided with the anniversary of the general’s death, who was Iran’s top military and intelligence operator outside its borders and was in charge of supporting and organizing militant proxy forces throughout the Middle East.
A statement from the telecommunications ministry said copies of the letter had been sent to Adam Mosseri, head of Instagram, and Jessica Rosenworcel, chairwoman of the US Federal Communications Commission.
Iran itself has one of the world’s worse internet censorships, with tens of thousands of websites blocked since the early 2000s and social media platforms such as Twitter and Facebook banned.
In April 2019, Instagram deleted accounts of many current and previous Iranian Revolutionary Guards (IRGC) commanders, including Soleimani, after the US designated the IRGC a ‘foreign terrorist organization.’ When Soleimani was killed, Instagram removed photos and texts posted in praise of the Qods (Quds) Force commander.
The ministry’s letter called Soleimani “a hero in the fight against terrorism” and “eradicator of Daesh [the Arabic acronym for Isis] terrorist group.” It claimed that the deletions did not conform to any international norm and that Instagram should “respect the millions of users who hold dear this hero of the fight against terrorism, and put an end to this extensive censorship.”
The letter suggested the move had “been part of the Trump administration’s psychological war against Iran,” referring to former president Donald Trump, who took the decision to kill Soleimani and those travelling with him. Fazel demanded an explanation for the continuing ‘censorship’ and called for the restoration of suspended accounts and deleted posts.
President Ebrahim Raisi (Raeesi) said Monday in a televised speech that unless Trump and former secretary of state Mike Pompeo were put in trial in a “fair court” for Soleimani’s killing – which then United Nations special rapporteur Agnes Callamard dubbed unlawful – “Muslims will take our martyr’s revenge.”
Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei said Saturday that “Trump and others like him” would “be forgotten and lost in the dustbin of history, albeit after paying for their crimes in this world.”
Instagram, the only major social network not blocked, has around 45 million users in Iran, with a recent surveyby the Iranian Students Polling Agency (ISPA) finding 45 percent of Iranians aged 19 or older had accounts. Facebook , which is blocked in Iran, has millions of subscribers who use anti-filtering software and VPNs.
Iran’s Parliament dominated by hardliners is reviewing a bill to further restrict internet access by requiring foreign social networks and messaging applications to agree to rules set by a regulator. Those not complying would remain blocked.