This is only superficially funny:
A video scandal has hit the Iranian Internet scene. Like many online scandals in the West, it involves a model. Not Paris Hilton, but a supposed model of virtue: a cleric.
In the video—for weeks voted the top story on Balatarin.com (an Iranian version of Digg.com)—a robed cleric is caught on a hidden camera in a private room. He walks to the door to let a chador-clad woman enter.
The cleric was apparently a member of the government-run Friday Prayers Committee in Hamadan province. Semi-official news sites tried to downplay the impact of the video, which leaked out of an Intelligence Ministry investigation. But their reports did acknowledge that the man involved was a married cleric, and that the video depicts the consummation of an unlawful affair.
…because, as Telmah Parsa reminds us – that’s a pseudonym, by the way, and it’s there for the author’s safety – it happened in a country whose ruling regime murders women for holding hands in public. For that matter, it happened in a country whose ruling regime thinks that announcing that the cleric found in the video above has been sentenced to 100 lashes and reassignment (and you can believe as much of that as you like) fixes the problem. And, of course, it happened in a country where the ruling regime criticizes us for not taking out homosexual teenagers and hanging them.
And I notice that the fate of the woman in that video has not been reported.
The good news in all of this – which is more like the possibility of good news, but when it comes to the Iranian regime you take what you can get – is that it’s 2009:
Such scandals have always existed, but until recently there was no means to expose them so efficiently. Somewhat belatedly and in stilted form, digital citizens’ journalism has come to Iran. Scandals that would once have been hushed up by official censorship now circulate in living color online. Thanks to video clips circulating on web forums accessed via anti-filtering software, myths are being exposed and a new open discussion is taking place. Blogs and social networking sites have provided the Iranians with safe blinds behind which they can peep at these scandals and whisper about them with one another.
Like the author, I don’t know if this will spark a transformation from dissatisfaction to activism soon, or even at all. I’ve been publicly hoping that the Iranian people would get rid of their frankly immoral and corrupt regime for over half a decade. But despair is the worst of sins.