Iranians Tweet On: ISIS

Jun 4, 2015 · 5 min read

As the conflict in Iraq and Syria grinds on, Iranians on Twitter turn to cartoons and cheap gags as their weapons of choice in the battle against ISIS.

In May, Iran hosted the first International ISIS Cartoon and Caricature Contest, inviting the world’s cartoonists to submit pieces mocking ISIS, their activities, and their ‘secret’ allies (the usual line-up of Western imperial boogeymen).

Although the event attracted a good deal of publicity in the Western media, some commentators couldn’t help but point out the contradiction between the Iranian government’s support for such an event, and its harsh treatment of political cartoonists.

Iran has become increasingly entangled in the conflict in Iraq in recent weeks. After the seizure of the Iraqi city of Ramadi by ISIS, Iran was asked by the Iraqi government to send troops to help retake key Iraqi oil refineries. Iran’s Interior Minister Abdolreza Rahmani Fazli has warned that ISIS could advance to the Iranian border, in which case the Iranian Armed Forces are prepared to step in.

“If ISIS advances to around 40 kilometres of our borders and intends on commiting an act of sabotage, Iran will definitely intervene.” PressTV

Iranians generally don’t seem all that concerned by the possibility of an ISIS advance — users on Twitter have been spending their time cracking jokes about ISIS, rather than fretting.

This week we’ve gathered the five most re-shared tweets about ISIS between May 24 and June 1, including Game of Thrones gags, satirical poems, and your weekly dose of MEK spambot propaganda.

White Walkers Under the Black Flag

@sizdah42 is an Iranian journalist working for Shargh, a reformist Iranian newspaper.

“Before attacking Iran, the White Walkers (ISIS) will have to get past the Wall and Castle Black (Iraqi Kurdistan). I think it’s unlikely they’ll succeed.”

What does it mean?

@sizdah42 reckons that ISIS wouldn’t be too out of place in HBO’s Game of Thrones, likening them to the malevolent race of dead-raising, baby-snatching creatures responsible for various evil deeds north of the Wall. A fair comparison?

White Walker, or Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi? Source: Uproxx

In this analogy, Iraqi Kurdistan takes the place of the Night’s Watch. Does that make Masoud Barzani our world’s Jon Snow?

Kurdish Autonomous Region President Masoud Barzani (L), and Lord Commander Jon Snow (R). Uncanny, eh?

The Godfather

@shimamyracy is an account that seems to have been created on the mere purpose of NCRI’s propaganda.

“#Maryam_Rajavi #Iran #Congress Maryam Riajavi declares the clerical regime of Iran to be the godfather of ISIS.”

What does it mean?

On April 29 the leader of the controversial Mujahideen-e Khalq (MEK), Maryam Rajavi, presented testimony to the U.S. Congress Sub-Committee on Terrorism’s panel on ISIS. The invitation triggered a debate about the disputed legitimacy of the group, and the justification for including them on a panel about ISIS. During the hearing, Maryam Rajavi described Iran as the ‘godfather’ of ISIS, owing to Iran’s system of Islamic governance.

We’ve previously seen Maryam Rajavi’s supporters making waves in previous articles. Although their posts are retweeted frequently, most of the retweeting users in question appear to be spambots, rather than genuine users.

Shifting Borders

@AghBahman is a very popular account among Farsi speaker on Twitter.

“Minister of the Interior: ‘When ISIS gets within 40 km of our borders we’ll take the necessary measures’. They’ll move our borders 40 km inside the country to keep their distance!”

What does it mean?

This is a joke directly responding to the Interior Minister’s declaration that Iran will intervene against ISIS if they approach the border with Iraq. @AghBahman accuses Iran of looking for excuses to put off and delay an intervention.

Iraq’s crisis reminds Iranian people of the Iran-Iraq War of the 1980s. Commentators have suggested that there is a growing appetite for intervention within Iranian society.

Reading too much into the polls?

@SadraMohaqeq is an Iran-based journalist working for the reformist newspaper Shargh @SharghDaily.

What did they say?

“A poll conducted by al-Jazeera asking its audience whether they support or reject #ISIS: 81.7% — over 35,000 people — expressed their support for ISIS, while 18.3% rejected it.”

What does it mean?

The tweet shows a screenshot of the results of an online poll conducted by the Arabic TV channel Al-Jazeera, asking: “Do you support the victories of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria?” The responses are overwhelingly ‘Yes’, though it is likely that this came as the result of the efforts of devoted pro-ISIS online activists, rather than Al-Jazeera’s viewers.

Sadraa Mohaqeq translated the results of the poll into Persian. A number of Iranian users have reshared the tweet, implying that they’ve taken at face value the notion that ISIS enjoys popular support in the Arab World — a dangerous trap to fall into.

Painful Poetry

@idinsayyar1 is a satirist who writes on journals and magazines.

What did they say?

“Hey Dandelion!” … “Yeah?” … “What news do you bring?”

“ISIS killed 700 people in a mass slaughter, and North Korea executed 10 people…”

“Hey Dandelion!” … “Yeah?”… “Please stop, don’t tell me any more news.”

What does it mean?

Poetry remains immensely popular and culturally resonant in Iranian society — it’s perhaps unsurprising that it crops up on social media, too.

This tweet mocks a poem by Mehdi Akhvan Sales called Dandelion (قاصدک). In Iranian poetry, dandelions are generally considered as bearers of good news. The author dares to ask the dandelion what news it brings — sadly, it can only muster gloomy tidings about atrocities in ISIS and North Korea. What a world we live in when even the dandelions are turned into war reporters, eh?

Small Media

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Small Media is a non-profit based in London that aims to increase the flow of information in Iran and other closed societies.

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