Unmasking the Arzeshi
Fig. 1. Courtesy of Small Media.

Small Media released its interactive report Unmasking the Arzeshi: Iran's Conservative Cyber-Activists and the 2013 Presidential Election that analyzes "the complicated online world of the Arzeshi - the Islamic Republic's most devoted conservative activists", incorporating over a million raw blog and website links, and thousands of social network activities.

Unmasking the Arzeshi
Fig. 2. Courtesy of Small Media.

The report's key findings:

* State claims of a sprawling online network of conservatives are bogus. Although there are tens of thousands of sites and blogs in the wider Arzeshi network, the vast majority were poorly-connected, hardly-read, and contained unoriginal content pasted from other sites.

* The Arzeshi failed to unite around a single presidential candidate. Just as the general population split their votes across a number of conservative candidates in the election, so did the Arzeshi fail to unite around a single figure: they are not a disciplined political force, but a fractious online community like any other.

* The Arzeshi are united in one thing - their utter devotion to Iran’s Supreme Leader. Though we saw plenty of evidence of division amongst the Arzeshi when talking about elected politicians, their loyalty to the Leader and to the political system of the Islamic Republic is unquestionable.

* The Arzeshi have a number of unofficial “leaders”. Although a disparate community, a number of figures have emerged as the most prolific writers and opinion-makers. Journalists such as Vahid Yaminpour, Kobra Asoopar and Taghi Dejakam lead the charge, though other high-profile bloggers include clerical students and full-time cyber activists.

* The Arzeshi represent a genuine community. Although sometimes politically divided, the shared conservatism of the Arzeshi community does seem to bind them together. When not arguing for the necessity of the hijab, or against the legalisation of same-sex marriage in Europe, the Arzeshi share personal stories about their families, tell jokes, and make social connections.

The report is also available for PDF download here.