Skip to main content

Fatwa Issued Against 3G Internet Operator in Iran

Iranian grand ayatollahs and conservative parliamentarians are moving to shut down a new 3G mobile Internet operator because of its video capability, reports David Jones from Iran.
A man looks at the new Apple Iphone 3G in a computer centre in northern Tehran November 1, 2008. The unlocked Apple Iphone 3G retails from $900 to $1200. REUTERS/Morteza Nikoubazl (IRAN) - RTXA5AF

A new Iranian 3G mobile Internet operator that has brought video-calling to Iran is flouting a fatwa issued by four grand ayatollahs.

Rightel, Iran’s third mobile-phone operator, provides Iranians with their first ever 3G Internet services, allowing customers to use both video-call and multi-media messaging functions. The firm, which sponsored Iran’s recent International Fajr Film Festival, has a slick new website and accepts customers who register with their national card details. Rightel offers pay-and-go, contact and data-card packages.

Word of the service has spread fast among young Iranians who are buying SIM cards en masse. “The Internet is so fast,” says one new customer in Tehran, “But it uses a lot of battery, so when you‘re not browsing you need to turn off the 3G function.”

“This is great. I am studying in Tehran and it is a great way to keep in touch with my mum in Shiraz,” says a student in Tehran, “It will be like I am home for her.”

But the-video service function has piqued the ire of both Iran’s clerical establishment and its political hard-liners. Four grand ayatollahs — Nasser Makarem-Shirazi, Hossein Nouri Hamedani , Jafar Sohbhani and Seyyed Sajjad Alavi Gorgani — have issued fatwas banning Rightel.

"The decadence and corruption associated with [Rightel’s] use outweighs its benefits,” decreed Grand Ayatollah Makarem-Shirazi. “It will cause new deviances in our society, which is unfortunately already plagued with deviances.” Ayatollah Alavi Gorghani said that the video-call service would “jeopardize the public chastity” and “inflicts numerous damages” on Iran’s religion and political system.

An anti-Rightel website called "Rightel mirage" has been set up by Iran’s hard-liners. “Providing everyone with opium and then advising them to use it wisely,” reads an op-ed on the site, cautioning against the risks video calls pose to family life.

A petition against Rightel was signed by residents of the religious city of Qom on Feb. 10, the 34th anniversary of the foundation of the Islamic Republic. It said the service would “facilitate access to sin and decadence” and called for “countering widespread infiltration of enemy culture.”

Five days ago, 17 MPs wrote a letter to President Ahmadinejad and the Intelligence Ministry calling on them to stop Rightel’s operations.

Live video calling has clear applications for citizen journalism in Iran. Young Iranians are suspicious that the move against video calls will serve to limit communications during the country’s presidential election this summer.

“The truth is that if Iranians can access a portable way to shoot video in a protest, the world will be able to see what is going on as it happens,” said an Iranian who declined to be named.

David Jones is a pseudonym for a writer in Iran.

Join hundreds of Middle East professionals with Al-Monitor PRO.

Business and policy professionals use PRO to monitor the regional economy and improve their reports, memos and presentations. Try it for free and cancel anytime.

Free

The Middle East's Best Newsletters

Join over 50,000 readers who access our journalists dedicated newsletters, covering the top political, security, business and tech issues across the region each week.
Delivered straight to your inbox.

Free

What's included:
Our Expertise

Free newsletters available:

  • The Takeaway & Week in Review
  • Middle East Minute (AM)
  • Daily Briefing (PM)
  • Business & Tech Briefing
  • Security Briefing
  • Gulf Briefing
  • Israel Briefing
  • Palestine Briefing
  • Turkey Briefing
  • Iraq Briefing
Expert

Premium Membership

Join the Middle East's most notable experts for premium memos, trend reports, live video Q&A, and intimate in-person events, each detailing exclusive insights on business and geopolitical trends shaping the region.

$25.00 / month
billed annually

Become Member Start with 1-week free trial

We also offer team plans. Please send an email to pro.support@al-monitor.com and we'll onboard your team.

What's included:
Our Expertise AI-driven

Memos - premium analytical writing: actionable insights on markets and geopolitics.

Live Video Q&A - Hear from our top journalists and regional experts.

Special Events - Intimate in-person events with business & political VIPs.

Trend Reports - Deep dive analysis on market updates.

All premium Industry Newsletters - Monitor the Middle East's most important industries. Prioritize your target industries for weekly review:

  • Capital Markets & Private Equity
  • Venture Capital & Startups
  • Green Energy
  • Supply Chain
  • Sustainable Development
  • Leading Edge Technology
  • Oil & Gas
  • Real Estate & Construction
  • Banking

Already a Member? Sign in

Start your PRO membership today.

Join the Middle East's top business and policy professionals to access exclusive PRO insights today.

Join Al-Monitor PRO Start with 1-week free trial