Highlights in the Iranian Press (February 10-15)

Highlights in the Iranian Press (February 10-15)
This week, the Iranian press primarily focused on the celebrations of the 45th anniversary of the Islamic Revolution, marking it as the top agenda item.
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This week, the Iranian press primarily focused on the celebrations of the 45th anniversary of the Islamic Revolution, marking it as the top agenda item. Additionally, with less than 15 days remaining until the elections scheduled for March 1, the election agenda continues to prominently feature, maintaining its relevance and urgency.

Celebrations of the 45th Anniversary of the Islamic Republic of Iran

On February 11 (22nd of Bahman), the Islamic Republic of Iran celebrated its 45th anniversary. People gathered across the country for celebrations, which, with few exceptions, were prominently featured on the front pages of Iranian newspapers. Aftab newspaper headlined with "Together, Strong for 45 Years for Iran," while Jomhoori-e Eslami ran with "The 45th Anniversary of the Islamic Revolution Majestically Celebrated with the March on 22nd Bahman." Similarly, Donya-e-Eqtesad used the title "45th Anniversary Celebration of the Revolution at Azadi Square," and Sharq newspaper stated "The 45th Anniversary of the Revolution Celebrated with Widespread Participation of Citizens." At the events, where President Ebrahim Raisi spoke at Azadi Square, headlines made wordplays with "Azadi," the Persian word for "freedom."

An interesting point in these news contents is that particularly newspapers close to the conservative spectrum have used the imagery of these celebrations as part of their efforts to consolidate the masses and increase participation in the elections. Some publications explicitly emphasized participation, suggesting that the crowds seen in the squares would reflect in election participation as well. For instance, Shahrvand newspaper ran the headline "The Brilliance of Participation," creating a parallel between participation in the events and in the elections through wordplay. Hamshahri newspaper adopted a similar approach, stating "Iran is More Revolutionary Than Ever, with 20% More Participation" in its headline, which, while referring to the attacks in Kerman, interpreted the events as "efforts to diminish participation in the revolution celebrations."

The Election Agenda in the Iranian Press as the Election Date Nears

As the election date approaches, the urgency of the agenda increases. Former President Hassan Rouhani, whose candidacy for the Assembly of Experts was vetoed, did not make an official appeal for the rejection of his candidacy. Instead, he penned an open letter demanding a clear explanation for the veto. Receiving no response to his call, Rouhani wrote a second letter to reiterate his criticisms and request. Meanwhile, within the reformist faction, which has largely lost hope following the vetoes of Rouhani and Larijani, calls for boycotting the election have become increasingly vocal. The Reformist Front, composed of reformist faction parties, had called for a boycott of the elections. Former President and leading reformist figure Mohammad Khatami supported this call. However, this call was not universally accepted within the reformist faction, leading to a counter-statement and thus highlighting the divisions more clearly.

The conservative faction, which frequently calls for participation and expresses concerns about it, greeted this division with great enthusiasm and prominently featured it in their headlines. Etemad newspaper, for example, moved the celebration of the Revolution's 45th anniversary to the side column of the newspaper to prominently feature this news on the front page. The newspaper stated, "110 civil society and political activists, intellectuals, and media members published an analytical declaration addressing those who value development and democracy in Iran. The declaration called for a chance to be created through the support of middle-path, developmentalist, and reformist candidates in the 1402 (2023/2024) legislative term elections." The declaration's concluding section reads, "We, as a group valuing development and democracy in Iran, demand an opening for increasing the diversity of candidates and approving the qualifications of candidates (in response to unjust rejections) in the 1402 elections, and we call for the acceleration of reversing the violations of fundamental rights (including the effective participation of various social groups in determining their collective fate). Furthermore, based on the aforementioned Iran-friendly reasons, we urge middle-path and reformist leaders, political and civil organizations, national figures, reference groups, and intellectuals, as well as influential individuals in online and offline social networks, developmentalist civil and political activists to support the coalition of middle-path candidates in the areas where qualified candidates remain for the 1402 elections, and call on citizens not to abstain from their 'right to vote' and to vote in these areas. Entering the Parliament through protest and opportunity-creating votes can work towards preventing extreme and anti-development candidates, thereby reducing the negative impact of the Parliament on society, enhancing its positive role, and laying the groundwork for greater goods in the coming years." This declaration was headlined by Jam-e Jam newspaper as "The Defeat of Western Coup Plotters to the Election Institution," while Farhikhtegan newspaper featured it as "No to Khatami, Yes to Realism." Similarly, Hemshahri newspaper ran headlines themed "What Happens If We Don't Vote?" throughout the last week. Many press outlets continued their publication uninterrupted, including on the official holiday of Friday.

Another significant topic this week was the publication of the final list of candidates for the Assembly of Experts. After the vetoes and discussions regarding Raisi's candidacy, the list of approved candidates was finalized and published. The importance of the Assembly lies in its authority to elect, dismiss, and oversee the Supreme Leader. Out of 144 candidates whose applications were approved for the Assembly, which consists of 88 members, the Council of Guardians conducted electoral engineering as in all previous elections, favoring a greater number of conservative figures. Almost all influential figures from the reformist faction were vetoed by the Council of Guardians. Of the 144 approved candidates, 86 are members of the conservative clerical organization "Society of Seminary Teachers (Jame'e madrasin)."

Jam-e Jam's Publication of an Anti-President Erdoğan Analysis

Since President Raisi's visit to Türkiye, the Iranian press had not published an article against Türkiye or President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. The analysis, which took on a different tone on the day of Raisi's visit, highlighted bilateral cooperation. However, recently, Jam-e Jam newspaper published an analysis titled "Gaza War Merchant Erdoğan," signed by Mohammad Alizadeh. The article, with its harsh tone, repeats the criticisms familiar since the start of the Al-Aqsa Storm Operation, essentially offering nothing new. It's known that some groups in Iran are uncomfortable with Türkiye's emphasis on the Palestine issue, seeing it as "stealing the role" and have been trying to create perception by organizing meager protest demonstrations in the country and producing similar arguments since Erdoğan's first harsh statements on Gaza. This analysis reiterates those arguments, suggesting that President Erdoğan made superficial condemnations of Israel while actually aiding Israel in the background. The author bases his arguments entirely on Turkish opposition newspapers, thus claiming to derive these arguments from within Türkiye. What makes the article intriguing, aside from its content, is that all references are dated before January 5, leading to speculation that the piece was written before Raisi's visit to Türkiye but was held back due to the heated news cycle and has only now been published.