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The View From Iran Of Syria's Protests

Syrians shout slogans during a pro-government rally outside the Umayyad Mosque in the old city of Damascus on March 25.
Syrians shout slogans during a pro-government rally outside the Umayyad Mosque in the old city of Damascus on March 25.
"Limited" protests have taken place in a few cities in Syria, while reports indicate that Israel has incited Syrians to take to the streets by sending them text messages and also by using the Internet. That's according to a short report by Iran's official news agency, IRNA, which fails to mention the deaths in Syria or the chants for freedom and against corruption.

In reality, what has been very "limited" is the coverage Iranian news agencies have given to the unrest that has rocked Syria in recent days.

Most agencies have either largely ignored the protests or posted reports that suggest foreign countries have a hand in the protests in Iran's main ally in the region.

The protests in Syria have put Tehran in a difficult position, which would seem to be one of the major reasons for the silence. Iranian media have been giving ample coverage to the Arab revolts and protests -- except for Syria. Iranian officials, who have been describing the uprisings as an Islamic awakening and claimed that protesters have been inspired by Iran's 1979 revolution, must now employ different rhetoric to explain the events in Syria.

For now, officials have remained silent. But if or when they decide to comment, they would likely claim that foreign elements and foreign countries are behind the unrest in Syria. They've done the same while talking about the mass street demonstrations that took place in Iran following President Mahmud Ahmadinejad's disputed reelection in 2009 and also the more recent opposition protests in Tehran and other cities.

The opposition "Kaleme" website, which has also noted the lack of coverage by Iranian state media of the antigovernment protests in Syria, quotes a report by a pro-government Mashregh website:

"Western circles had recently tried through Facebook to create a day of rage in Syria but the failure of the conspiracy and the lack of welcome by Syrians turned into another disgrace for the US and its allies in the region."

The scant coverage of events in Syria by Iran's state-controlled media has not gone unnoticed among citizens.

"Alef," a website close to conservative lawmaker Ahmad Tavakoli, who is an Ahmadinejad critic, says it has received complaints from some of its readers about the lack of coverage of the protests in Syria in domestic media.

"Alef" says the readers are right to ask, yet it adds: "If the protests in Syria were really by people and without any foreign instigation, then domestic should have covered them as they did for the protests in Yemen, Egypt, and in Bahrain."

The website says maybe one of the reasons why Iranian media have not taken the Syrian protests "seriously" is that the sources reporting the protests are "doubtful."

"Alef" says Western media that don't have reporters in Daraa and other cities where protests have taken place get their news only from those opposed to the Syrian government.

"Western media have demonstrated that they're not objective at all in the selection of the news, they select the news and amplify it based on their interests; therefore sometimes they practice heavy censorship or they make big mistakes" in their coverage.

"Alef" then accuses Western news agencies of turning a blind eye to the protests and unrest in Bahrain while devoting excessive time to events in Syria.

"Let us remind you that between March 14 and March 20, Reuters and Associated Press had more than 39 news items from unrest in Syria but these two news agencies had during the same time only nine news items about the unrest in Yemen and Bahrain!!! In these conditions, aren't we right to be suspicious about the reports of these two news agencies?"

"Alef" continues by saying that it appears protests in Syria have been "serious" but not the way "Western and Wahhabi media" have reported. "Yet the very deaths of several [people] in Syria is important and a cause for regret."

Meanwhile, the pro-Ahmadinejad Fars news agency says that Western agencies have tried to portray the situation in Syria as critical by exaggerating the number of death and inciting Syrians to take to the streets.

Ahmadinejad is set to speak about regional developments and other issues during his first press conference in the new Iranian year, which will be held in Tehran next week. Syria is likely to come up.

-- Golnaz Esfandiari

About This Blog

Persian Letters is a blog that offers a window into Iranian politics and society. Written primarily by Golnaz Esfandiari, Persian Letters brings you under-reported stories, insight and analysis, as well as guest Iranian bloggers -- from clerics, anarchists, feminists, Basij members, to bus drivers.


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