Morteza Tala’i, chairman of the Tehran municipality Culture Committee, called upon Iran’s authorities last week to take measures against the phenomenon of writing political slogans on money bills, which has become widespread in recent months.
Tala’i called upon Iran’s Central Bank to issue a regulation prohibiting citizens from accepting bills with “anti-revolutionary” political slogans and messages, and to put those bills out of circulation. In an interview to government-controlled IRNA news agency, Tala’i said that writing slogans on walls and bills had no effect on the Iranian public, and that it served no purpose whatsoever. He noted, however, that both the citizens and the various institutions had to take measures against that phenomenon, and not to allow an insignificant minority to discredit the Islamic regime and the citizens of Iran. Tala’i, who formerly served as the internal security forces chief in Tehran, said that the Iranian public expected the authorities to do whatever was necessary against those who engaged in such activities (IRNA, October 11). Tala’i’s call was also taken up last week by several conservative Majles members (E’temad, October 12).
In recent months, writing political slogans on bills and walls of public buildings across Iran has become one of the forms of protest against the authorities in the wake of the last presidential elections. Those slogans include messages against senior regime officials and in favor of the reformist opposition.
Tala’i’s statement was criticized by Asr-e Iran, a news website affiliated with the conservative pragmatic bloc. The website states that Tala’i’s proposal to put the slogan-bearing bills out of circulation is impractical, since the phenomenon is widespread and cannot be monitored. Taxi cab drivers, for example, cannot be expected to check every bill they receive from their passengers for political slogans. If realized, Tala’i’s proposal could lead to an endless and highly expensive circle of writing slogans on bills, collecting the “prohibited” bills, taking them out of circulation, and producing new ones, according to the website.
Asr-e Iran further claims that in Iranian society, which has no respect for those who criticize senior state officials, it is only natural that people should recourse to such means as writing slogans on money bills to express their protest. Those willing to tackle the phenomenon would do better to call on the authorities to fully implement the principles of freedom of expression and peaceful protest, as stated in Iran’s constitution. If Iran allowed lawful, orderly freedom of expression, there would be no need for some Iranians to express their protest in bizarre ways.