The active presence of Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif on Facebook and Twitter has been a great tool and venue for Iran’s public diplomacy with Western journalists. It has also served as an unfiltered source of direct interaction between Zarif and the Iranian Internet-savvy youth.
Three recent comments by young Iranians on the foreign minister’s Facebook page has caught the attention of Iranians on social media, and even Iranian domestic media.
On Oct. 9 David Keyes of The Daily Beast published what he called an “exchange” between himself and Iran’s foreign minister in which he quoted the foreign minister denying that he knew who imprisoned student activist Majid Tavakoli was. The Daily Beast article was shared widely by Iranians, who were shocked that the foreign minister did not recognize the name of one of Iran’s most high profile political prisoners.
Many Iranians took to Zarif’s Facebook page and wrote the name Majid Tavakoli in Persian dozens of times in the comments section of the foreign minister’s Facebook posts. One Facebook user even caught Zarif’s attention.
The Facebook user wrote:
Do you now know who Majid Tavakoli is Dr., or no?
Hello dear friend, to use your style, do you now know who this Israeli writer is that presented this claim, or no?
I clicked on the profile of this comment and indeed in led to the foreign minister’s Facebook page.
Another comment that was not only shared by many Iranian Facebook users but also picked up by the website of Reformist newspaper Bahar, and other domestic Iranian websites, was by a 26-year-old woman who complained of the hardships she and her husband were enduring. Although it’s unclear who wrote the comment, it appears to have touched on a common and shared struggle that many Iranian youth are currently experiencing.
Parts of the comment have been translated below:
“I am married. It has been three years since we’ve been legally married but because of financial troubles we have not been able to have a wedding. My husband is a PhD student and he is not able to find work … and poverty and unemployment has destroyed us. My father is retired and does not want to pay a dowry.
Recently I was accepted into a master’s program, one of Tehran’s best schools, one of the best majors, I come to Tehran 3 times a week. Maybe you wouldn’t believe it but I cannot even pay my bus ticket to Tehran… My husband is unable to support me and I cannot take money from my father. My student loans will not get me far and I still have not even received them. Many times I have thought of quitting my education but I get choked up thinking about it because I put in a lot of effort to be accepted.
I am an Iranian, why is it that in my own country where we gave so many martyrs and veterans that we do not have welfare(comfort)? Why am I unemployed? Why don’t I have good food? Why don’t we have money? Why is it that with this GPA and resume I am treated like scum? Where is this nuclear energy? Where is it? What part of it has come to me? Will they hire me in the nuclear program? Or my husband and all of his talents? Our bills are constantly increasing and becoming more expensive. In summers electricity is constantly cut, so where is this secured energy? Even if it is good for the future of our country why are we being sacrificed for it? Why does the development of future generations have to be over our ashes?
I am telling you this because I want you to know that there are people like me who are only living but time and time again dream of dying.
Do something to end the sanctions. Do something to bring down expenses, lessen the expenses for food, create job growth, make medicine not worth the cost of the person, for us to have security and welfare. Do something that someone like me, who studies, who has done nothing but worked hard, been patient, didn’t cut corners, not to have so much mental illness due to the economic pressure… Do something so the youth can marry with more ease, this way corruption(immorality) will decrease. But be quick… I am afraid to it will not come about in our lifetime.”
Another comment left for the foreign minister received more than 9,000 “Likes” by the time the screenshot was taken. Many Iranian officials have used the term “inalienable right” when discussing Iran’s nuclear program and one particular Facebook user took that term and applied to other demands of his generation.
The user wrote:
Nuclear energy is our last inalienable right, before that…
Living with dignity is our inalienable right.
A peaceful life is our inalienable right.
Living without conflict or stress is our inalienable right.
Healthy food and healthy air is our inalienable right.
Appropriate jobs and adequate wages is our inalienable right.
Psychological and social security is our inalienable right.
Freedom of speech is our inalienable right.
A safe and peaceful nuclear energy which follows all safety matters is our last inalienable right.
I wish the best for you and the negotiating team, be happy, successful and victorious.