Persian cyberspace report: The bread and milk boycott
News in brief:
- The office of Egypt's president-elect Mohammed Mursi is to take legal action against the semi-official Fars news agency for publishing a fake "exclusive interview" his election victory. Fars, which is owned by Iran’s Revolutionary Guards, has recently come under heavy criticism from other local news agencies for continuously falsifying news and fabricating quotes.
- Baztab-e Emrooz website published a report claiming that IRIB, state-run TV and radio, secretly ordered its staff not to report on the continuously rising price of gold and the dollar.
- A pop concert in the northern Iranian city of Noor was cancelled after local officials’ demanded that men and women be segregated at the venue. Prior to this, two other concerts had also been cancelled after they were raided by the morals police and women with "inappropriate" hejab were arrested.
A campaign was launched last week in the Persian webosphere, primarily on Facebook and Twitter, protesting the exorbitant rise in the price of bread and milk, and the high level of inflation in general. This protest called for Iranians to boycott these products for three days (23-25 June), as the price of bread has increased by 35% and milk is now available for two different prices: 12000 Iranian Rials (IRR) per bottle for the poor (approximately 1USD) and 20000IRR/bottle (approximately 1.60USD) for the rich. This call for boycott, reportedly initiated by a group of Iranian mothers, spread very quickly via text message in Iran and was even covered by the semi-official student news agency ISNA, which reviewed the recent effects of inflation on a variety of products.
A number of popular Facebook pages shared posters of solidarity with this campaign. Born in the 50s (1970s) tried to rally its members: “The Syrian people are all united even if 1000 bullets are showered on them a day, but Iranians search for any excuse not to take part in a 3-day movement, which only involves not buying bread and milk.” The post was reshared nearly 10,000 times, and received more than 1000 ‘likes’.
However, the campaign also had a number of critics. Facebook user Parsys Rayan criticised the method of disseminating the call to boycott: “Our people won’t be united, and your effort to bring them together is useless. How many Iranians use Facebook, or even know what the internet is? It is not even 30% of the population. Thanks for your time!” Twitter user Amir Pouya criticised the logic of the campaign: “Not buying bread and milk because they are expensive is like not breathing because of the pollution. You should think before starting something.”
Some supporters, such as Amir Amirgholi, compared this campaign to the Green Movement and created slogans to that effect: “Boycotting bread and milk on Saturday, Sunday and Monday is the start of the Bread and Freedom Movement. This time, the people’s slogan is ‘where is my bread’ instead of ‘where is my vote?’”
Asad Safari thought the boycott was redundant: “They say it’s an act of civil disobedience to boycott bread and milk, but many people already cannot afford these things. My source is our local supermarket.” Abbas.Reader was upset by the economic conditions: “[In the future] we will have to tell our children that when we were their age, our protest took the form of not buying bread and milk.”
Mamaly predicted how official media outlets would cover the boycott: “Bakeries are over crowded as usual, and the seditious bread and milk boycott has been defeated (TV anchor’s voiceover)”. YarNikan satirically asked how Iranians abroad would contribute to the campaign: “Can Iranians outside Iran participate in this boycott? How? Are only bread and milk enough or should they boycott beer and whiskey too?”
Conservative Friendfeed users, on the other hand, mocked the fledgling campaign. Hossein Mohammadi considered all opposition activities to be foolish: “The story of the opposition outside Iran and their supporters inside is interesting. One day, they say let’s turn on our car lights during the day. Three days later, they plead for people not to buy bread and milk. When will they realise that Iranian citizens don’t pay any attention to them.” Seyyed Mojtaba Navab Safavi posted a cartoon of a bakery being robbed, and indicated that the thieves were boycott supporters: “You’re idiots, why are you stealing? Go and buy bread like a normal person!”