Iran’s president signals softer line on web censorship and Islamic dress code

Hassan Rouhani

Newly elected Hassan Rouhani, an opponent of segregation by gender, says Iranians’ freedoms and rights have been ignored

Two weeks after his sensational victory Iran’s president-elect, Hassan Rouhani, has expressed relatively progressive views about civil liberties, freedom of expression and the internet.

Social networking sites such as Facebook were, he said, a welcome phenomenon.

In his most outspoken interview in the Iranian media, Rouhani told Chelcheragh – a popular youth magazine – that he is opposed to segregation of sexes in society, would work to minimise censorship and believes internet filtering is futile.

“In the age of digital revolution, one cannot live or govern in a quarantine,” he said as he made clear he is opposed to the authorities’ harsh crackdown on Iranians owning satellite dishes, which millions have installed on rooftops for access to foreign-based TV channels illegal in the country.

Rouhani, who has promised to put the Islamic republic back on the path of moderation after eight acrimonious years under the outgoing president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, warned that citizens’ rights had been neglected.

He said he stood in the June presidential election as a candidate critical of the current situation and also because he felt the country was at peril.

“Today the republican [nature] of our country is overshadowed by a specific interpretation of its Islamic [character],” he said.

Rouhani’s reference to the republican character of Iran’s ruling system is a hint that the Islamic republic’s legitimacy is meant to come from the popular vote. Rouhani is scheduled to be sworn into office in early August.