The first day of spring is also the first day on the Iranian calendar, and on that day Iran celebrates the holiday of Nowruz. With families in Iran coming together today, the White House has released a video aimed at speaking directly with those Iranian citizens.
The speech begins with quaint greetings and an invitation to friendship with the Iranian people, but quickly segues into harsh criticism of Iran's internet and nuclear policies.
"Technologies that should empower citizens, are being used to repress them," said Obama. "And from Facebook to Twitter, from cell phones to the internet, our people use the same tools to talk to one another and to enrich our lives. Yet, increasingly, the Iranian people are denied the basic freedom to access the information that they want."
A post on the White House blog by Deputy National Security Advisor Ben Rhodes details the administration's criticisms of Iran. Among those criticisms are the claims that the Iranian government routinely blocks social sites including Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube; that Iran slows internet speeds during elections or times of public unrest; and that SSL connections have been banned in the country. The blog post goes on to say that Iran has created a "Cyber Army" of internet "enforcers" who sometimes police the social network accounts of Iranian citizens who arrive at Tehran International Airport.
"...an electronic curtain has fallen around Iran. A barrier that stops the free flow of information and ideas into the country and denies the rest of the world the benefit of interacting with the Iranian people, who have so much to offer," Obama said. The President went to to say the U.S. is now using the Farsi language on Facebook, Twitter, and Google+.
The blog post went even further into how the U.S. government is reaching out to Iranians. The U.S. Office of Foreign Asset Control issued guidelines today making it clear that the transfer of most communications and social networking software to Iranians is legal, and is, in fact, encouraged.
Are you Iranian or know someone in Iran? Leave a comment and let me know how Iranian citizens might respond to such a message.