'God has liberated SMS,' but targets satellite dishes
02 Jul 2009 17:31
Dispatch from Tehran | 2 July 2009
[TEHRAN BUREAU] Government officials are asking residents in north and northwest Tehran to choose: either keep their much prized -- but illegal -- satellite dishes, or continue chanting, "Allah o Akbar!" or "God is Great," the revolutionary slogan piercing the capital every night, but not both.
Since the brutal crackdown on protesters after the June 12 presidential election and the information blackout that followed, electronic signals have been in high demand. More than ever, Iranians want their Internet, text messaging, BBC and Voice of America, which come flowing through satellite dishes strategically located on rooftops across the city.
"Though officially banned, unofficially everyone has them," one resident said.
Tehran's high-rises, which dominate the skyline, are particularly well suited to house central satellite systems and provide coverage from up high. In recent weeks, officials have struggled to come up with new ways to cope with unwanted signals beaming news from Britain's BBC Persian Service and the U.S.-funded VOA.
In central parts of the city, officials have simply entered residential buildings, hiked up the stairs and removed satellite dishes. As soon as they leave, however, building managers have reported calling their "dish guy to come and install a new one and also to give them an upgrade," according to a resident in Tehran, who spoke to several of them.
To cover the cost, building managers have posted notes in their buildings explaining the situation and asking residents to chip in to cover fee hikes.
In yet other parts of town, officers have shown more initiative: bargaining with residents. In north and northwest Tehran some residents have been ordered to choose between keeping their satellite dishes or taking part in the "Allah o Akbar" chant that takes place every night from city rooftops and windows.
The message is simple: "We'll let you watch your CNN, your BBC, and your favorite entertainment shows, as long as you do not join the 10 p.m. chorus!"
"People will probably say they want their satellite television, but continue shouting 'Allah o Akbar,' anyway," remarked an Iranian expat who lived through the revolution.
For now, the SMS text message ban has been lifted and is back in service. One of the first one-liners to circulate: "God has liberated SMS," a play on the well known, "God liberated Khorramshahr," banner headline celebrating the return of the largest Iranian city from Iraqi occupation during the war in the 1980s.
For now anyway, the dishes remain in place. Many continue to watch and listen to different television and radio programs. And for now, committed to good customer service, the dish guys rush from home to home, building to building, and high-rise to high-rise responding to their calling customers.
Politics has certainly been good for business.
Copyright (c) 2009 Tehran Bureau
Basij militiaman to driver: "Your breath smells of Allah o Akbar." The chant of Alloh o Akbar, which helped bring down the Shah 30 years ago, is now being chanted every night in protest of the current government. Cartoon by Nik Kowsar, Roozonline.com