Iran’s president-elect Rowhani says yes to Facebook ‘phenomenon’

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Newly-elected Iranian President Hassan Rowhani is said to have progressive views on the Islamic dress code and freedom of expression - and has now added Facebook to his list of 'likes'.

In an interview on Tuesday with popular Iranian youth magazine Chelcheragh, Rowhani said that social networking sites were “welcome,” in comments quoted by British newspaper The Guardian.

Internet censorship in Iran has increased since 2005, since many users saw it as an easy way to get around Iran’s strict press laws.

But millions of Iranians use the internet, including sites such as Facebook and Twitter, via anti-filtering software or virtual private network (VPN) services.

Rowhani has said he will work to minimize censorship and believes internet filtering is futile.

“There are political reasons [for internet filtering]. They have fears of the freedom people have in [the] online atmosphere, this is why they seek to restrict information. But filtering is incapable of producing any [useful] results,” he said.

“Supporters of internet filtering should explain whether they’ve successfully restricted access to information? Which important piece of news has filtering been able to black out in recent years?”

In March, Iranian authorities took measures to curb internet freedoms by blocking the use of most VPNs.

During last month's presidential elections, the government was slammed over reports it stifled the country's web access, with slower internet connections across the country resulting in many users – including businesses, banks and state organizations – speaking out.

Rowhani said some of the measures taken by the authorities to restrict users’ online access was not done in good faith and was instead politically motivated, The Guardian reported.

When asked about women wearing the hijab, as part of a mandatory religious code, the president-elect said he was against the crackdown against women with loose clothing.

But he did not say whether it should be left as voluntary.

“I’m certainly against these actions,” said Rowhani, saying a women without a hijab is not necessarily without virtue, The Guardian reported.

“If a women or a man does not comply with our rules for clothing, his or her virtue should not come under question… In my view, many women in our society who do not respect our hijab laws are virtuous. Our emphasis should be on the virtue.”

Rowhani, a 64-year-old mid-ranking cleric, won the election on June 14 with more than half the votes, sweeping aside rivals from the conservative camps which have held sway in Iran for the past eight years.

Head of a relatively moderate nuclear negotiating team under reformist President Mohammad Khatami in the early 2000s, Rowhani has pledged greater transparency in the long-running talks with world powers over Iran’s nuclear ambitions.

(With AFP)

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