That Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei uses the internet is known to all. As we’ve reported in the past, the top cleric has used Twitter – which is, incidentally, still banned in Iran – to disparage the West, among other noble pursuits. Like President Hassan Rouhani and Foreign Minister Javad Zarif, Khamenei has taken to amplifying his social media presence in a universe he once accused of being an American tool to overthrow Iran – a universe the average Iranian still doesn’t have free access to.
This may be why Khamenei’s new social campaign, now trending near you under #letter4u, is geared not towards Iran and Iranians, but towards the West – “To the Youth in Europe and North America,” to be precise – youth who, unlike their Iranian counterparts, can access all the mind-opening, bias-bypassing web content they want.
Khamenei’s open English-language letter to Western millennials (and, apparently, Jeb Bush) about discovering Islam for themselves, without prejudice (write your own letter here) has been vigorously disseminated by a tireless crew of Ayatollah groupies who sound more like (spamalicious) missionaries than savvy social media gurus (“Searching for the truth? Then #Letter4u is what you might want to read first”), although as this nifty slideshow by Al-Monitor suggests, they sure know how to use stock photos.
They also, as Al-Monitor points out, make it “hard to ignore the hypocrisy surrounding Iran’s censorship of the Internet and especially social media.” The irony was not lost on those lives have been affected by Iran’s repressive regime – for example, a man whose father spent 5 years in jail “for just telling the guy who wrote you a letter he is a dictator,” whose tweet appeared on Mashable and was retweeted 21 times; a respectable number, alas, but nowhere near the figures reached by #letter4u.
Incidentally, when measuring #letter4u’s virality, Foreign Policy’s Justine Drennan lamented that Khamenei’s tweets had not been retweeted quite enough and wondered, “Will Western youth actually hear this new appeal?” The Question That Should’ve Been Asked is: will Iranian youth actually get a real chance to make their voices heard – and to hear the (uncensored, unfiltered) voices of others?