Iranian.com

Iranian.com, known also as The Iranian and the Iranian Times[1] is an online English and Persian language magazine, blog and discussion forum founded in July 1995 by the journalist Jahanshah Javid, who remains its current publisher/editor/moderator.[2] The founder and editor of the site has previously admitted that Iranian.com is funded by U.S. and Israeli military advertising revenue (Archive of founder Jahanshah Javid stating: “They have paid us directly for the U.S. military ads.”).[3][4][5]

The practice of supporting Iranian.com in this manner has also elicited complaints directly on Iranian.com in relation to an Israeli military advertisement entitled “Stand with Israel” due to “money [Jahanshah Javid] will be pocketing from Iranian.com’s support for advocating war against the people of Iran.”[6]

The site claims, “Iranian.com is the largest online community for Iranians residing in North America. With more than 620,000 unique visitors and nearly 6.5 million page views per month (March 2007 stats).”[7]

Contents

Conflicting claims about censorship and impartial journalistic standards

Iranian.com shows that the accounts of many users have been banned on ideological grounds, with members often protesting the decision and requesting uniform standards in moderation of the site; other site users state that they are abused and harassed simply for expressing unwelcome viewpoints, ordinarily those that criticize the Baha’i Faith or Israeli policy vis-à-vis Palestinians, Armenians, or Iranians. For example, the site itself shows that it has permitted users for as long as three years to engage in a practice of overtly threatening violence against columnists critical of the activities of members of the Baha’i Faith and Israeli policies. The moderation choices of the site show that threats of violence are permitted by Iranian.com against users: “If you ever had the guts to show yourself to me I would slap the daylights out of you until you renounce your citizenship. Wed Apr 04, 2012 12:48 PM PDT.”[8] “Keep on writing; unless you are in Iran a midnight knock is coming to your door. If you happen to be in Iran, it will be a midnight bang!” Sat Apr 14, 2012 10:31 AM PDT.[9]

The site evidences that users have claimed that intimidation aimed at chilling alternative viewpoints is actively fostered by the administrators of Iranian.com, who summarily block people whose viewpoints they do not share while permitting intimidation to continue.

A few of the complaints, are noted:

  • “I learned today several other members were banned.”[10]
  • The Admin is responsible for letting bogus members harass people.”[11]
  • This site is Israeli.com: I have been blocked and deleted on every occasion I posted any thing to do with Israel or Zionism (Fri Sep 18, 2009 06:53 AM PDT).”[12]
  • The first attack on me at IC came in 1998 when someone who did not like my views called my place of employment and complained about me.” (Wed Mar 21, 2012 10:18 PM PDT).[13]
  • “Iranian.com has become a site for insults and baseless allegations. Disrespect for people is prevalent. A person went so far as to threaten to beat me to a pulp. Moderation is totally subjective and does not follow any predictable form. [There are] a non stop stream of blogs calling for bombing Iran.” (20-Sep-2011 ).[14]

Iranian.com founder suggests that he would assist intelligence services hostile to Iran and that some previously featured stories on Iranian.com have been featured based on payments to him

On Iranian.com the founder of the site, Jahanshah Javid, states the following:[15]

  • “Are you an agent of CIA, British Intelligence or MOSSAD? Unfortunately not. If they’re reading this, I’m available.”
  • “How much do you charge to publish a feature? You can’t afford it.”

“Profanity” is utilized as a pretext for banning content: Iranian.com shows liberal use of profanity, while banned content generally applies to political viewpoints not endorsed by the site

Iranian.com states that it selectively censors for the use of “profanity” (Iranian.com: “The reason for closing any account on Iranian.com is simple: Profanity”).[16] However, the site has previously hosted videos of sexual acts filmed without the consent of the persons depicted, and often features stories about nudity and sex (including by the publisher) with frequent cursing permitted.[17] This type of material has included content about the publisher Jahanshah Javid’s own experiences with prostitition (“As I got out of bed, I noticed I was wearing a condom. Sandy had slipped it on without me noticing. … A pornographic video was playing on the TV. Sandy was naked in two seconds. … She pulled down her skirt, unbuttoned her short-sleeved shirt and went under the cover. … I didn’t know prostitutes usually don’t kiss clients. …” – Subsequent notation added to article by the publisher: “The author is also known as Jahanshah Javid. Here’s the original page before this note was added on October 4, 2002 “).[18] Iranian.com claims it censors on the basis of “profanity,” but it has featured articles encouraging women to participate in prostitution and with the following type of content: “I could feel his massive tool was coming out of my cunt.”[19] The standards employed by Iranian.com in censoring some content and not others are not entirely transparent on the site, and banning users based on the use of “profanity” appears to be nothing more than a pretext for censoring viewpoints the publisher does not agree with; anecdotal evidence indicates criticism of Israel, Zionism, and the activities of the Baha’i Faith dramatically increase the likelihood of being banned from the site.

Iranian.com also has a complaint page showing that site users complained due to the site’s attempt to censor information about a public figure that had been reported by many mainstream news outlets for his affiliations with Israel’s security and spy agencies; Iranian.com claimed discussion of the individual’s connections to those agencies amounted to “slander” [sic] and tried to delete the content. [20] The Iranian Student Alliance in America (ISAA) at the University of California, Berkeley criticized the conduct.[21]

Iranian.com has also been criticized in several blogs and on the site itself for pandering to and being affiliated with the Baha’i Faith in a manner that impacts upon neutral and impartial journalism.[22]

  • The Baha’is and the rest of you pseudo-Iranian AIPAC lobbyists are cashing in, which is why I call you and this site black flag operation with Israeli help.”[23] See also, Scribd Archive: “Pro-Baha’i censorship and the double standards of Iranian.com.”[24]
  • This is the second time I have had an account blocked by the pro-Baha’i censor of Iranian.com; without warning, and with the typical hypocritical double standards that is the whole guiding standard of this site.”[25]
  • Absolutely Unacceptable: I would like an explanation about the censorship too. I demand an explanation for this party bazi style editorship that takes place here, over and over. If insults are not allowed, then let’s be fair and remove all of them.”[26]

Founder and editor Jahanshah Javid claims the site’s motto, “Nothing is Sacred” is ” to a great extent, a response to the situation in Iran. In Iran you cannot write an article saying Ayatollah Khomeini was a hateful man who brought misery to millions, for instance. You cannot say Velayate Faqih is incompatible with democracy. You cannot demand the separation of mosque and state. You cannot defend the rights of Bahais to practice their faith.”[27] With respect to his gender viewpoints, and how they affect his journalism, Jahanshah Javid states, ““I don’t like men. I get a negative vibe from men. I blame men.”[28]

Referring to the content of the site, Jahanshah Javid states that “There are no taboos or sacred cows, as far as I’m concerned. You want to say how great the Shah was? Go ahead. You want to make fun of Reza Pahlavi? Okay. You want to say Khatami is a fraud? Fine. You want to say the Bahai faith is better than Islam? Sure. You want to say the Bahai faith is just like any other organized religion? Sure. You want to write about sex? I have no problem with that.”[29] He further states, “I’m just fascinated by the fact that we — nearly every non-Bahai Iranian — do not really consider Bahais as Iranian … This is an important issue just by the fact that non-Bahais don’t think it’s an important issue … Bab or Bahaulla should be recognized as a very significant (if not great) historic figure ….”[30]

The Baha’i Internet Agency (BIA), is also on record as retracting labeling an Iranian.com user as a member of foreign militia (‘“[BIA] will not be accusing you of that again.”)[31]The issue of Baha’i influence on Iranian.com has been the subject of heated discussions on the site, which have led to criticism of the site on that basis;[32] The criticism are embodied by the following types of complaints:[33]

  • Deleting Baha’i criticism: So I get- you generally keep the pro-Baha’i comments, and delete other ones. Obviously some things are sacred. (Mon Apr 06, 2009 01:33 AM PD).”
  • “Iranian.com where only Baha’is are sacred! (Mon Apr 06, 2009 02:49 AM PDT).”

As to the issue of Baha’i influence on Iranian.com’s editorial and content decisions, the writings of Professor Juan Cole, Mitchell Collegiate Professor of History at the University of Michigan, have extensively been discussed on the site and in relation to it on other web sites.[34] Professor Cole is on record in giving his opinion as to what the issues are in relation to the unique status afforded to Baha’is on news sites such as Iranian.com: “With non-Baha’is or with ex-Baha’is, they [Baha’is] deal with their speech about the 
faith by backbiting, slandering and libelling the speaker. … No one fights
 dirtier than they when they discover a voice they cannot silence and cannot 
refute.”[35]

A two-year study of the site indicated that users that do not outwardly express views supportive of Israeli policies are subject to physical threats, personal character attacks, threats to have “the department of homeland security investigate” such persons and threatened with “deportation,” in a consistent and organized manner indicating coordination of activities that have the outward effect of intending to chill participation on the site – For example: “[D]on’t post any more videos about Palestine / Israel.” (Mon Mar 26, 2012 10:43 AM PDT); “Only a paid Islamist mercenary is capable of possessing the crudeness displayed in such blogs.” (Sun Mar 25, 2012 03:33 PM PDT); “Viva Zionism.” (Thu Mar 29, 2012 03:45 PM PDT); “Nazi Islamists!” (Mon Mar 26, 2012 03:54 AM PDT); “Israel can credibly war-monger against Iran” (Sat Mar 24, 2012 10:15 PM PDT); “Mossad should track you down and put a bullet in you.” (Mon Mar 26, 2012 03:45 PM PDT).[36][37] Despite objections made on the site by several users to the persistence and repetitiveness of the aforementioned methods of impeding content and dialogue, none of the user accounts engaging in the above-described activity showed to have been blocked, while 43% of the accounts objecting to the tactics were blocked within 72 hours of objecting and approximately 17% more were blocked within 144 hours of objecting. (Ibid.)

Despite censorship of certain viewpoints on Iranian.com, the site has featured articles and members advocating the use of nuclear weapons against Iran & shown support to terror and separatist groups

  • Promoting Content Calling for a Nuclear Attack on Iran:

Iranian.com admittedly censors some content and points of view, yet the site has given front page exposure to articles by Larry Klayman who is a former U.S. Justice Department prosecutor. Klayman, an Iranian.com member, featured an article on the front page of Iranian.com, which was approved by the site’s editorial staff and given prime coverage, entitled,“Time to nuke Iran” in which Klayman writes “if there ever were a time to use nuclear weapons [against Iran], … now is the moment.”[38]

  • Mojāhedin-e khalq / People’s Mujahedin (a/k/a MEK, PMOI, MKO):

Concerning Saddam Hussein’s private army (known as Mojāhedin-e khalq) that assisted Saddam in an eight-year war against Iran and participated in chemical weapons attacks on Iranians and Iraqi-Kurds, the publisher of Iranian.com writes: “[America] must ensure current and ex-Mojahedin members can take refuge in other countries.”[39]

  • Repeated promotion of an admitted separatist group on Iranian.com:

Iranian.com immediately banned a site-user that exposed that the site was promoting separatist movements:[40]

As noted in the corresponding footnote above, Iranian.com has long featured and promoted a group that calls for the separation of Northern Iran on its site. In response to site-user complaints about the exposure and support that were provided to the separatist group by the publisher of Iranian.com, the publisher of Iranian.com wrote, “Separatist? If someone has FACTS, let’s see it.” After a User produced screenshots of the group stating “Persians get out” and glorifying when the USSR seized Northern Iran by the direct orders of Stalin and set up an ‘autonomous’ puppet regime in Northern Iran, the User that produced the screenshots the “FACTS” was immediately banned from Iranian.com. Approximately two weeks later Iranian.com returned to posting separatist content and propaganda videos by the same separatist movement, which elicited new complaints, as exemplified by the complaint below:[41]

“Iranian.com is promoting separatists agenda: Separatists are hard at work. Everything has become (an) issue of Azeri vs. Persian. Don’t mix issues. Iranian.com has no problem featuring anti-Iranian or Persian articles/videos. There should be a word similar to anti-Semitic to use when this is done against Iran’s heritage.” Sun Apr 15, 2012 08:18 PM PDT.[42]

United States Central Command (CENTCOM): an active member of Iranian.com for more than 2 years

The United States Central Command (USCENTCOM) is a theater-level Unified Combatant Command unit of the U.S. armed forces, established in 1983 under the operational control of the U.S. Secretary of Defense. It was originally conceived of as the Rapid Deployment Joint Task Force (RDJTF).[43] Centcom’s area of operation includes Iran and the Persian Gulf region.[44]

Centcom’s Admitted Role in Manipulating Social Media:

The Guardian, a British news outlet, reports that the United States Central Command manipulates social media for propaganda purposes and has contracted specialized software for that purpose:

“ A Californian corporation has been awarded a contract with United States Central Command (Centcom), which oversees US armed operations in the Middle East and Central Asia, to develop what is described as an ‘online persona management service’ that will allow one US serviceman or woman to control up to 10 separate identities based all over the world. … The Centcom contract stipulates that each fake online persona must have a convincing background, history and supporting details, and that up to 50 US-based controllers should be able to operate false identities from their workstations ‘without fear of being discovered by sophisticated adversaries.’ … Centcom spokesman Commander Bill Speaks said: ‘The technology supports classified blogging activities on foreign-language websites to enable Centcom to counter violent extremist and enemy propaganda outside the US.’ “[45]

Centcom has at least one verified user profile on Iranian.com:

As of April 5, 2012, the United States Central Command (CENTCOM) has been an “Iranian.com Member for 2 years 19 weeks.”[46]

Centcom views participation on Iranian.com as an “obligation”:

United States Central Command (CENTCOM): “We view this form of direct communication [on Iranian.com] as an obligation, and have established a presence on a number of online forums, such as Facebook, Maktoob, Al Jazeera Talk, and Iranclubs.”[47]

Staff Members

“Born in Abadan, Iran, Javid began his journalism career as a translator for the Iranian state news agency IRNA in 1981. His experience spans the print media to television and radio, including serving as the BBC Persian Service Correspondent in Washington, DC. Jahanshah has a B.A. in Communications and Media Studies from Hunter College in New York City. He recently moved from the San Francisco Bay Area where he lived for more than ten years and is currently traveling.”[48]

“Bianca is currently an ERISA and Employee Benefits Consultant and Lecturer. She has written extensively on ERISA and retirement matters and is a frequent contributor to various publications. She served as the Chief Financial Officer at International Alliance in Service and Education in the San Francisco Bay Area from 2000-2008. She holds a Juris Doctorate degree from Thomas Jefferson School of Law, a Masters of Arts in International Relations and Public Policy and a Bachelor of Arts degree in Legal Studies from University of California, Berkeley.”[49]

“Based in Northern California, Foaad is a veteran software engineer and is currently pursuing a Ph.D. in Computer Science. He’s also a writer, peace organizer and a former campaign manager. He serves on the US Board of Campaign Against Sanctions and Military Intervention in Iran (CASMII).”[50]

Based in San Francisco, CA, Ardalan is a designer/art director at Tact Design (founded by Ardalan in 2000) providing services ranging from logo and identity design to websites and promotional collateral. He has also co-founded (with Shadi Yousefian) a video production company specializing in music videos.[51]

Affiliated Persons

  • Wayne Willis, Iranian.com also lists Wayne Willis[52][53]as an individual involved with the site. His profile indicates that he is involved with NodalPartners.com and wilco-consulting.com. His business address is listed as 507 Mariani Lane
 San Jose, CA 95112. Nodal Partners states its business is to “advise, and make private investments in, early-stage and emerging growth companies.” He describes himself as the “business manager” for Iranian.com, and has written three blogs indicating how data is collected and kept from people participating on the site.[54]
  • Kayvan Alikhani, Kayvan Alikhani is listed as being affiliated with Iranian.com in an unstated capacity.[55]
  • Saïd Amin / World Singles LLC, The publisher of Iranian.com describes Saïd Amin as, “my biggest sponsor” and states that Amin “wanted to collaborate with iranian.com” since at least 2004.[56] Saïd Amin is the CEO behind World Singles LLC, which runs internet dating portals, such as Iranianpersonals.com, and others including: AfricanLove.com, AlbanianPersonals.com, ArabLounge.com, EligibleGreeks.com, EthiopianPersonals.com, HaitiDating.com, HyeSingles.com, ItalianoSingles.com, JamaicanDating.com, SalaamLove.com, PakistaniLounge.com, RomaniaKiss.com, SoulSingles.com, TurkishPersonals.com, and VietVibe.com.[57] World Singles LLC is listed at the following address: “World Singles, LLC, 5 Holland, Irvine, CA 92618-2572, United States.”[58]
  • Nazy Kaviani Contributed much of the content to Iranian.com according to former site owner Jahanshah Javid (see quotation under “Handover” section).

Site Usage Statistics and Demographics

According to the site, “Users are spread across the globe, though 75%-80% live in North America. There is a healthy mix of male and female users (55:45), primarily in the 25 – 44 years age group.”[60]

  • 200,000+ unique users a month
  • 80% US/Canadian
  • 40% Age 25-35
  • 70% male
  • 40% Age 25-35
  • 50% income above $60K
  • More than 90% Iranian
  • 90,000 page views per day.[61]

Handover

On 28 April 2012 Jahanshah Javid publicly announced on his facebook as well as on a separate blog on Iranian.com that he sold his shares in the website to his partner Saïd Amin and would no longer be involved in the management of the site as of May 2012 [62] Jahanshah Javid posted the following about leaving the website: “iranian.com has been through many changes in its nearly 17 years of existence. The only constant has been my editorship. That too is about to change. Starting next month I will no longer be having a role in management. I have sold my shares to my partner Saïd Amin and will be pursuing a new project. For the next few months I will stay on as a caretaker editor until a replacement is found… I want to express special thanks to my dear friend Nazy Kaviani for contributing much of the best content in the past few years and being a tremendous help in maintaining the site as a volunteer.”

Pro-Bahai Censorship Continues Under Saïd Amin’s Ownership of Iranian.com

Even after Saïd Amin’s purchase of Iranian.com discriminatory practices against Muslims and selective-censorship policies favoring the Bahai faith have continued. For example, a blog ridiculing Muslims in Iran using profanity (which the site claims is forbidden) was permitted wherein the text of the blog equated members of the faith to “life’s large penis [and] Golshifteh’s [an actresse’s] tits” and called for the “farty demise of the Imam.”[63] In contrast to the content ridiculing Muslims permitted by Iranian.com, a different user was immediately banned for penning two blogs critical of the Bahá’í faith titled “Bahá’u’lláh’s Birthday Party: How I became the New Messiah[64] and “Fun Facts About Bahais: Baha’u’llah suffered from Dwarfism & Brother was a Killer & Drug Smuggler.”[65] Regarding one of the blogs critical of the Bahai faith, a user listed as “Anahid Hojjati” openly states”I wish I could flag [censor] blogs … If I could, I would flag this one,”[66] which seems to indicate that the user previously employed the practice of seeking to censor comments (as opposed to blogs) that criticize the Bahai faith.

Site Advertisers

Awards

In 2006 the site was nominated for the “Award of Excellence in Media Electronic Magazine (Best Contribution to Freedom of Speech) in the 2nd Annual Persian “Persian Golden Lioness Award” category from the International Further Studies Institute(IFSI) at The World Academy of Arts, Literature, and Media (WAALM)[70]

Contacts

Resources and articles

Related Sourcewatch articles

References

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