Hate speech may start with words but it can end in more than just tears – it can end with violence and even death. IranWire’s “Iran’s Week in Hate Speech” series tracks Persian-language social media posts and articles targeting religious groups in Iran with derogatory language, conspiracy theories and calls for violence. Our tracking is not exhaustive: we focus on influencers and websites with large followings and wide reach. The series is designed to inform the general public and to help social media companies exercise their responsibility to monitor and remove hate speech on their channels.
The new year began in a tired old way in January – at least with respect to the ongoing spread of online Persian-language hate speech targeting Iran’s religious minority communities.
IranWire adjusted its methodology over January to measure all hate speech, not just items shared by influential larger social media accounts, and found that hate speech against religious minorities increased in volume by 20% over December.
Antisemitic material continued to command a majority share of all Persian hate speech over the month.
Our analysis through the Meltwater trends tracking platform found that 78% of all Iran-related online hate speech targeted Jews and Israelis – which was also a 20% increase over the December total volume.
Anti-Zoroastrian content, meanwhile, made up for 2% of all hate speech but increased by a shocking 48% over last month.
The spike in anti-Baha’i content was notable for IranWire’s social media analysis team. Our lead analyst, an Iranian outside the country whose name must be withheld for security purposes, said that hate content against Baha’is needed to receive special attention by social media platforms and observers because it targeted a community living inside the country. And while antisemitic content spread of Iranian government outlets and supporters online was obviously appalling, the analyst said, much of it attacked the Israeli government.
“We have Baha’is inside Iran, who are always threatened and endangered in the country, so when this hate speech content and especially conspiracy theories is spread against them, including accusations of infiltrating the Iranian government and undermining the economy, it puts members of this community in danger,” the analyst said.
Using Meltwater, IranWire’s analyst measured more than 8,000 total mentions of anti-Baha’i hate speech in January, with an average of 259 posts and reposts per day. Anti-Baha’i content increased by 39% over the month.
The anti-Baha’i content was concentrated around two dates, the analyst said. The first date, January 10, was the anniversary of the 1852 death of Iran’s Qajar-era chief minister Amir Kabir.
The government-affiliated media outlets ISNA News Agency and Young Journalists Club published an article on Amir Kabir on January 10 in which both outlets praised the role the minister played in suppressing Baha’is during the faith’s emergence in the 19th century.
“Amir Kabir suppressed the Baha’is and their leaders, which made Naser al-Din Shah [the king of that period] gain more trust in him and strengthen his position among scholars and spiritual elders,” the articles read.
One anti-Baha’i social media user posted: “On the martyrdom anniversary of Amir Kabir, I kiss the hand of Amir Kabir before anyone else, who suppressed the Baha’is in such a way that they will never forget.”
IranWire’s tracking found that these mentions of Amir Kabir and his attacks on the Baha’is resulted in a new wave of anti-Baha’i content today – 171 years later.
Our analyst said that anti-Baha’i material exploded by 100% over previous days.
The second date during which anti-Baha’i material was concentrated was January 30 – the day the independent Persian-language satellite broadcaster Manoto television left the airwaves.
Government-linked social media influencers and other media outlets had long accused Manoto of being a “Baha’i” broadcaster – without offering any proof – and its closure led to celebrations among Islamic Republic supporters as well as another 100% jump in anti-Baha’i hate speech on online platforms.
Iran’s government-linked ISNA news agency was among those that accused Manoto of being a secret “Baha’i” channel when it closed.
The Javan and Mashreq outlets posted similar content when they covered a tweet by former government minister Ata’ollah Mohajerani who called Manoto a “Baha’i network”.
Fars news agecny asked in an article if Hamas “caused the closure of Manoto” and claimed the channel was started with “Pentagon money” and then sustained with funding from Jews and Baha’is.
Other anti-Baha’i conspiracy theories and accusations – which, like hate speech by Iran’s government in general, is not new – disseminated yet again certain dangerous claims about Baha’i women and business owners in the country.
“Fars news [agency] and other government media outlets have started to spread new lies and conspiracies against Baha’is,” IranWire’s analyst said, “saying they had a network of pharmacies across Iran and that they mismanaged them and hoarded medicines or sold illegal drugs.”
Fars also published an alleged wiretapped conversation portraying Iranian Baha’is conspiring to smuggle medicines, launder money, and evade taxes.
The Young Journalists Club also published similar stories and accused the international Baha’i governing body, which sits in Israel, of acting to “disrupt” Iran’s economy. (The governing body sits in Israel because Iran’s 19th century government exiled the founders of the Baha’i faith to Ottoman Palestine – where they died and were buried.)
The analyst added that such claims were designed to incite Iranians against the Baha’i community.
And an outlandish report also by the Young Journalists Club accuses Iranian Baha’i women of being “kind” as a way to convert Muslim Iranian men and of marrying their brothers.
IranWire has also begun to track a group of Iranian social media users called “Restart,” whose members may be both inside and outside Iran, which appears to be trying to link the Baha’i community to dissident political groups while also spreading hate speech against Baha’is.
One Restart member wrote on Instagram that: “Makarem Shirazi, Hashemi Rafsanjani and Farah Diba are Baha’is, and Qasem Soleimani was a religious (Zoroastrian) spy and killed as many Shias and Sunnis as she could.”
Other posts try to claim that the Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting, a pro-government outlet, is under the control of Baha’is and Zoroastrians.
Source » iranwire