The tyranny that stands and thrives in various forms – monarchy, theocracy, presidential – does not happen by chance. It feeds on reflexes and practices prevailing in the population. One tradition is snitching, a national sport. From his baby talk till his last breath, the behaviour of the Iranian, consciously or not, is shaped by a maxim attributed to Ali, son of Muhammad: « Amre be ma’aroof / Nahi az monker ». امر به معروف و نهى از منکر
Amre be Ma’aroof
Amre be ma’aroof engages the devotee to exhort his family and close circles to follow the good thoughts and practices of the faith, and to supervise their behaviour. From this stems the antonymous Nahi az Monker, which encourages the devotee to prevent his family and close circles from having bad thoughts and practices contrary to the faith. The practice of advising people based on this maxim is open for all to see and comment on.
The maxim has made its way over the centuries in the collective unconsciousness. It is now part of the culture and daily reflexes of every Iranian, from the devotee to the atheist, anywhere in the world he may reside. The stock phrases of Tâârofs have soaked it up. « It’s good to … » is Amre be Ma’aroof. « It’s bad to … » is Nahi az Monker.
Who updates the register of good or evil? Who judges whether the reading of “Das Kapital” is good or bad? Who says that listening to Lady Gaga’s songs is good or bad?
In the Shiite hierarchy, the ayatollah, Mardja’e taghlid, is responsible for value judgements to set such a register, which means he is considered infallible. When totalitarianism is religious, as it is in the Islamic Republic of Iran, the register of good and evil is modelled on Shiite dogmas, both in the intellectual sphere and in daily life, ranging from foreign policy matters to rites to be observed when visiting the latrine. It is difficult, very difficult, to break free from the maxim, since its practice is so cunning.
Practically what will happen if, in the land of âkhonds, your neighbour has female visitors for tea or more? Or the youth in the neighbourhood sing ‘Born to be Wild’ accompanied by electric guitar and a few beers? … You apply “Amre … / Nahi …”. And in good conscience and faith, you warn the authorities.
With no exception, the books published in the West lately, on daily life in Tehran, narrate the stories of people who were in trouble with the law enforcement agencies. They were arrested, lashed, imprisoned, and fined for having a party, playing music and many other trifles that displease the ayatollahs. With no exception, they are “friends and neighbours” who are the informants.
May the gods keep me from my friends, I’ll take care of my enemies. (Antigonus II, King of Macedonia; c. 319–239 b.c.)
Snitching National Sport
Snitch, blurt, castigate, excoriate … is denunciation a national sport in Iran? Paradoxically, the more repressive the regime becomes, the more discontent grows in the population, and the more denunciation is practised. Consequently, secrecy and lies among friends, neighbours and extended family are commonplace.
Ali’s maxim obliging, the forces of public order facilitate the life of the informant with a pat on his back. In the shambles of social relations in Iran, the message of the agents of law and order is all too simple: Help us uncover our enemies and in turn we owe you a favour.
Snitch, blurt, castigate, excoriate … who does take offence? Hardly anyone. No one dwells on automated deeds.
After exhausting old-fashioned methods, such as anonymous phone call, unsigned message on a piece of paper, courier sent to the nearest police / Ershad / Basij station, now denunciation is done via the Internet. It benefits from the technological advances of Iranian cyberspace, the Halal Internet.
Welcome to the domain [. ir] where you can report anonymously “criminal” sites to the judicial authorities of the theocratic dictatorship, using online forms. Moreover, computer wizards devoted to the cause of totalitarianism even provide “add-ons” for Firefox: you may just download it (along with a filthy virus?) for your web browser. Thus, as it seems, just press the button when you are on a web page you dislike. Automatically, the Iranian authorities will be informed, in total confidentiality, of the “inappropriate” website. Hence, it is much more easy for them to run their formidable machinery of filtering and blocking sites.
The Internet is what it is: a server can be hosted on any geographical point of the earth. For the Halal Internet to be operational, servers scattered in North America or Europe are used. Following the various links on the pages, you are handed over to servers and sites hosted in Iran.
You can follow the Iranian hi-tech snitch, using simple methods. Warning! If you are ill-equipped with robust firewalls for your PC or if you lack experience, the computer wizards of the Islamic Republic will snatch your personal data in no time, even if you’re stationed at the North Pole. Who says the Halal Internet or the other one, what we simply call the Internet, is freedom and a right to cultivate your freewill?
The Islamic Republic of Iran vs the National Security Agency (NSA, USA)? Yuck …