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Monday, November 22, 2010

Iran's involvement in a Nazi website

Last week, Barry Rubin had a scoop:
Is Iran’s government sponsoring an Internet site that extols the German Nazis, their history and achievements, including the antisemitism that the current Iranian regime also supports? Or is it merely permitting one to operate in its highly censored communications' system?

Here are the facts. There is a discussion group site entitled IranNazi that has an Iranian internet URL. It is written in Persian and seems to have begun on August 24. All the material on the site is pro-Nazi and features pictures of Adolph Hitler, the swastika, and goose-stepping German soldiers. There is an English-language part as well.

This site pretends to be an association for the research of Nazism and to be "completely historical and scientific."

کاملا پژوهشی و علمی تاریخی است

It includes such topics as claims that The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, the well-known antisemitic forgery is true; insistence that the mass murder of Jews by the Nazis never happened and is in fact a lie; makes the prediction that Israel will collapse in five years; and highlights cartoons and satire ridiculing the Holocaust. All four of these positions are also taken by the Iranian government and official media.

The main page includes the following message:

این تارنما طبق قوانین جمهوری اسلامی ایران و تحت نظارت کارگروه رسانه های دیجیتال وزارت فرهنگ و ارشاد جمهوری اسلامی فعالیت می کند .

In English it means: "This website is under Islamic Republic of Iran laws and it is under the supervision of the working committee on Digital Media of the Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance."

Iran does not have freedom of speech and certainly not freedom of the Internet. Given the tight censorship in Iran and the fact that all sites are closely monitored, permission to publish--especially to claim government sponsorship--is evidence of state backing.

So is this, then, a state-backed site, showing just how far the regime has gone in boosting Nazism historically and antisemitism or a private initiative by some Iranian immigrants in the United States who are supporters of the Iranian regime? Is the statement on the site, which has not been suppressed by the government, accurate? It isn't completely clear.

A very well-informed and highly credible Iranian notes that the fact that it isn't blocked "is a significant indication that the government at least does not have problem with it." The deputy minister of Culture and Islamic Guidance is Muhammad Ali Ramin, who was President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's advisor on Holocaust issue and founder of Holocaust Institute in Tehran and the president of the conference of Holocaust; A Global Perspective, which denied that the mass murder of Jews never took place.
I was skeptical. I did a little digging; the server of the group is physically in Arizona and the other websites on the same Iranian host were the usual assortment of random Internet sites: one selling videos, one apparently selling perfume. The IranNazi.ir site seemed to be just another site set up by some Jew-hater.

Al-Arabiya, however, seems to be taking it as seriously as Rubin did, as the site was specifically allowed by Iran:
Iran’s Ministry of Culture and Islamic guidance lifted the block it had imposed on a pro-Nazi and anti-Jewish website, amid concerns by both conservatives and reformists.

While it blocks around five million political, cultural, religious, and “indecent” websites, the Iranian Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance permitted the operation of a website called irannazi.ir, also called the Center for Historical Studies on World War I and Nazism.” The website is run by a group called the Center for Nazi Iranian Studies.

The re-opening of the website was met with objections in Iranian political circles, which was shown in the reactions of both the pro-government website Tabnak and the pro-reformist Rooz Online.

Tabnak demanded that the Iranian government provides an explanation for allowing the website to operate while Rooz Online accused deputy minister of Culture and Islamic Guidance is Muhammad Ali Ramin of being behind lifting the ban on the website.

Rooz reported that Ramin had connections with neo-Nazis when he lived in Europe and that he is known for his support for Nazi ideas.

Ramin is also the founder of the Holocaust Institute in Tehran and was the president of a conference called Holocaust: A Global Perspective, which denied the extermination of Jews by the German Third Reich.

The website published a statement about the previous ban imposed on it after its administrators were accused of insulting religious minorities. After the re-launch, they called on visitors to use the word “Zionist” instead of “Jew.”

The website has several chat rooms that are categorized according to the topics users want to discuss like Third Reich, Second World War, principles of Nazism, and the ideas of Adolf Hitler.
It is indeed significant that the Iranian regime specifically unbanned this site while it continues to censore millions of others.