chapter  13
19 Pages

The Internet in Iran: The Battle Over an Emerging Virtual Public Sphere

ByGHOLAM KHIABANY, ANNABELLE SREBERNY

Iran’s Islamic Republic was established in 1979 after a short, popular, but not overly bloody revolution. Thus, all developments in relation to the Internet and cyberspace have occurred in a postrevolutionary and highly politicized environment, in which Shiite Islam became the ideology of the dominant theocratic state. Yet, the central issue is not the obvious and crude divide between a “traditional” and a “religious” state and a “modern,” even “secular” technology, since that very state has-and many individual clergy have-adopted new information technologies. There are two more subtle lines of tension running through Internet development in Iran that drive this chapter. The fi rst is the centralizing state’s desire to control expression in a “new technology” environment that is highly conducive to widespread and popular participation. The second is the centralizing state’s desire to orchestrate and manage the slow development of the private sector and the inhibitions placed on entrepreneurial ICT activity in a fi eld that has made Internet millionaires in other parts of the world.