Ayatollah Khamenei's PR overdrive on Twitter in India

WION New Delhi Aug 11, 2020, 11.00 PM(IST) Edited By: Palki Sharma

File photo of Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. Photograph:( Reuters )

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Ayatollah Khamenei has gone on a PR overdrive on Twitter and has opened accounts in almost every language including Hindi.

Since 1989 Ayatollah Khamenei has maintained a firm grip on all walks of life in Iran. From the civil society to politics to the armed forces.

The word Ayatollah Khamenei is absolute for every Iranian and his decisions are beyond any scrutiny. This supreme leader has turned his position & authority into something the Persian monarchs would have envied and just like the monarchs, Khamenei now wants to expand his realm of influence. 

He wants to influence the minds of Shia Muslims across the world. The tool he is using to achieve this dream is social media.

Ayatollah Khamenei has gone on a PR overdrive on Twitter and has opened accounts in almost every language including Hindi. His Hindi tweet is is an attempt to strengthen the faith of Indian Muslims in him.

'....The incident of Ghadir is not limited to Shias in terms of its factual matrix --- it is also related to the entire Islamic world...Because the event of Ghadir is based on the real soul of Islam...'' he tweeted.  

The event of Ghadir is considered to be of invaluable significance for Shia Muslims. It was this event which separated Muslims into two sects -- Shia and Sunni. Ayatollah Khamenei's message is aimed at encouraging a sense of supremacy among Shia Muslims especially in India where they are lesser in number in comparison to Sunnis.

This tweet was Khamenei's way of reminding the Indian government of the influence he wields on the Shia community. Iran is trying to capitalise the sentiments of Shia Muslims in India. Because Iran did something similar when the US had killed Qasem Soleimani.

Shia Muslims in India had hit the streets after Soleimani's killing. According to a diplomatic cable released by WikiLeaks in 2006 one of India's most famous Shia clerics, Maulana Kalbe Jawad was alleged to be a paid spy for Tehran. He was said to be receiving money and instructions from the Iranian embassy but these accusations are yet to be proven. 

Iran plays a strategically significant role in the approximately 30 million strong Indian Shia community. Most Shia Muslims in India show their religious allegiance towards Iran's clerics. They are said to accept the religious command of Iran, not Saudi Arabia.

What about the Indian government? Its relations with Iran have always been good but the ties are increasingly becoming hostage to US foreign policy.

India is moving closer towards the US due to geopolitical reasons and Iran is feeling left out in the face of American sanctions. Khamenei's Hindi outreach could be seen as a reminder to New Delhi that if it fails the test of friendship. Tehran knows how to use the sectarian fault-lines in India to its benefit. There is more to social media posts than meets the eye.