Anonymous, 28 Aug 2016
Online Journal of the Virtual Middle East
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Vol. 9, Iss. 2, 2015


A Safe Refuge? Minorities and the State in Iranian Cyberspace

The Iranian state has consistently restricted spaces in open society for minorities to express their identities, especially where such identities are construed as representing a threat to the religious, political and sexual orthodoxies promulgated by the clerical establishment. As a result, many members of assorted Iranian minority groups have taken to cyberspace to build communities, articulate self- and group-identities, organise to overcome discriminatory practices, and connect with their allies from across national borders and around the world. This Iran-focused edition of CyberOrient aims to explore how Iranian minority groups have embraced technology to overcome systematised state discrimination, strengthen communities, and at the same time, push back against entrenched societal prejudices.
CyberOrient, Vol. 9, Iss. 2, 2015


Online Social Research in Iran: A Need to Offer a Bigger Picture

Given the limits of in-country and survey research in closed societies, the World Wide Web – in particular online forums - offers an alternative field for observing and understanding these societies and their development. However, the praise given to the Internet’s role in bringing about political change in Arab uprisings and the 2009 elections post protests has resulted in a tendency in the existing literature to focus on very narrow political discussions and behaviors on partisan online forums. Consequently, various areas of interest to Iranian users have been neglected or ignored. The aim of this review is to identify the major online spheres of the Iranian web, the most important online forums in each sphere, the issues being discussed, and the characteristics of the users of each sphere and forum. By doing so it recognizes the theoretical and methodological drawbacks of existing online research on the Iranian Web. This review concludes with some suggestions for further online social research in Iran.
CyberOrient, Vol. 9, Iss. 2, 2015

Arab Iranians and Their Social Media Use

Arab Iranians have a special status in Iran and the Middle East. Due to their Arab origins, they are sometimes viewed as the “other” for being different from ethnic Persians, while many Arab countries regard them as the “other” as well perceiving them as being Iranians more than Arabs. This study investigates the media landscape and conflict that is linked to the Ahwazi Arabs with special attention given to social media use. The study argues that Iranian Arabs are used as pawns by two of the regional players in the Middle East - Iran and Saudi Arabia. Within such an analogy, Ahwaz is regarded as a chessboard where geopolitics is continuously played with the systematic and well-planned use of media channels. The examination of social media outlets that are related to Arab Iranians shows that they are either pro-Sunni or pro-Shiite. The resultsindicate that there are very few followers and fans from Iran especially for the Arab Iranians’ anti-government channels, while Shiite SNS outlets—particularly those originating from Iran—garner more followers from inside Iran.
CyberOrient, Vol. 9, Iss. 2, 2015

A Page and Its Politics: Situating Kullinā Khālid Saʿīd in Egypt’s Ideological Landscape at the Time of Revolution

In discussions concerning the importance of social media in the 25January revolution, a central role is given to the “Kullinā Khālid Saʿīd“ [We’re all Khaled Said] Facebook page. Using an advanced data collection and extraction application called Netvizz, a research team consisting of Arabists and Media studies specialists has collected and analysed all of the posts and comments exchanged through the page. This data set allows for a systematic analysis of the page. This article offers an outline of the ideological nature of “Kullinā Khālid Saʿīd“, with particular emphasis on the “revolutionary” period between 1 January – 11 February 2011. It argues that the page shows no evidence of political bias in the sense of explicit favoring of a political group. Rather, the page constituted a community of users who abstained from using politically factional language. Reflecting the mood and concerns of the revolution’s grassroots masses, it clearly illustrates the disinclination to engage with formal politics.
CyberOrient, Vol. 9, Iss. 2, 2015

2011 Tahrir Square Demonstrations in Egypt: Semantic Structures That Unify And Divide

While literature has focused on political, economic and social indicators to understand the shifts, or rather the fragmentationsof the political scene in Egypt, the role of semiotic constructions was significantly if not totally neglected. This article investigates whether the demands and messages produced by protesters of Tahrir Square in January 2011 have played a role in processes of unification and fragmentation of Egyptians. Following Roland Barthes’ (2006) and Chris Barker’s (2011) methods of linkage to define the meanings suggested by the commentaries that appeared on the banners during the demonstrations of 2011 in Egypt, this article argues that the demands, messages and meanings produced and suggested throughout the demonstrations of 2011 in Egypt have not been responded to accordingly; therefore they have created a complicated transformational process that is replete with polarization. The messages, which brought people to collectively act against authoritarianism, are the same messages that have outflanked them. An Egyptian profound debate to define the signified meanings at Tahrir Square has not occurred in Egypt leaving a tremendous space for interpretations and conflicting perceptions.
CyberOrient, Vol. 9, Iss. 2, 2015