First Published: 2004-02-19

Iran's reformers boost poll boycott with SMS

'The ballot box will be the coffin of democracy, we will not participate in the funeral of democracy' reads cell phone message.


Middle East Online

By Farhad Pouladi - TEHRAN

Friday we stay home. It will be a referendum to say 'no', reads another SMS

Cell phones have become the latest battlefield in Iran's parliamentary elections with a brisk traffic in electronic messages urging voters to boycott Friday's controversial polls or turn out massively.

If reformers are divided on how to respond to the disqualification of most of their candidates from the election, they have found a common medium to get their ideas across - the Short Messaging System (SMS).

"The ballot box will be the coffin of democracy, we will not participate in the funeral of democracy" read a note that popped up on one cell phone here via SMS. "Send this message to five other people.

Another message carried a clear reference to a drive by dissidents to keep the turnout low Friday as a message to the ruling conservative clergy after the disqualification of most reformist candidates.

"Friday we stay home. It will be a referendum to say 'no.'"

But a group called the "Coalition for Iran," which brings together eight reformist parties, has gone on the SMS counterattack with an appeal to "Go and vote massively Friday" as a slap at the election refuseniks.

The political exhortations are sent by computers equipped with software that can send the same message to several cell phone numbers. The tactic is not without risk.

"You have to pay attention with calls for a boycott because all the messages go through Iranian telecommunications, which can monitor them," according to one local journalist, who asked not to be named.

SMS became available here a few months ago and has been an instant hit in a country where weak cell phone networks make traditional voice communications frequently exasperating.

Iranians can automatically re-dial the same call 10 times, with a digital voice unflaggingly advising for the first nine that "all routes are busy" or "no response to paging."

With SMS, you leave a trace at least each time. Iranian telecommunications also makes good use of the system to send messages of congratulations or condolences for all religious occasions.


UN Security Council lenient to Turkey’s Syria offensive

Washington probes Hezbollah ‘narcoterrorism’

Morocco's king appoints five new ministers

Pence pledges US embassy move by end of 2019 on Jerusalem trip

Iranian woman skydiver looks to break down stereotypes

Turkey arrests dozens accused of ‘terror propaganda’

Russia calls for diplomatic solution to Yemen conflict

Russia invites Kurds to join Syria peace process

Turkey shells Kurdish targets in northern Syria

Closer look at pro-Ankara rebels amassing around Afrin

Pence set for Palestinian snub

Abbas to ask EU to recognise Palestinian state

Saudi-led coalition to give $1.5 bln in Yemen aid

Mattis: Turkey gave US advance warning on Syria operation

Yemen releases budget for first time in three years

Saudi calls for cooperation between OPEC, non-OPEC countries

France presses Turkey to end offensive against Kurds

The changing faces of al-Qaeda in Syria

Kurdish militia fire rockets at Turkish town

Moroccans wary depreciation of dirham could raise cost of living, despite benefits

Deserted streets, terrified civilians after Turkey attacks Afrin

Iraqi, Kurdish leaders hold talks on bitter regional dispute

Russia-led Syria peace congress to be held January 30

Turkey launches new strikes on Kurdish targets in Syria

Egypt's Sisi says will stand for re-election

Pence heads to Mideast despite Muslim, Christian anger

Assad regime says Syria a 'tourist' destination

Journalists arrested while reporting Sudan protests

Aid for millions of Palestinians hostage to politics

Lebanon thwarts holiday attacks using IS informant

Mortar fire wounds 14 in Syria mental hospital

Turkish military fires on Kurdish forces in Syria's Afrin

More than 32,000 Yemenis displaced in intensified fighting

UN warns of "lost generation" in South Sudan's grinding conflict

Saudi's refined oil exports offset crude curbs

US to overtake Saudi as world’s second crude oil producer

Turkey's EU minister rejects any option other than full membership

Sudan clamps down on journalists covering bread protests

Tribal feuds spread fear in Iraq's Basra

Turkey says not reassured by US comments on border force

UN chief wants to revive Syria gas attack probe

US has no intention to build border force in Syria

Lebanese intelligence service may be spying using smartphones worldwide

Egypt's Sisi sacks intelligence chief

Trump dashes Netanyahu’s hope to move US embassy to Jerusalem