The United States government has launched its Virtual Embassy Tehran -- an online website aimed at bringing information and dialogue to Iranian citizens whose government continues to try to control the free flow of information and ideas. The United States has had no formal diplomatic relations with Iran since 1980, after student followers of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini stormed the U.S. embassy and held 52 Americans hostage for 444 days.
At the launch of the virtual embassy, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton spoke directly to the Iranian people:
“This is a platform for us to communicate with each other -– openly and without fear —- about the U.S., about our policies, our culture, and the American people. You can also find information here about opportunities to study in the United States or to obtain a visa to come visit us.”
The virtual embassy is produced in both Persian and English. The web address for Persian is persian.iran.usembassy.gov; and for English is Iran.usembassy.gov.
In keeping with its attempts to keep information away from the Iranian people and to drape an electronic curtain around the country, the Iranian government has started to filter the new site. But the U.S., as Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Wendy Sherman says, has put resources into training web users to circumvent filtering:
“Many people already have private networks, virtual private networks that allow them to go through and around efforts to stop them from getting internet access. So we’ll continue to do whatever we can. We think we have the technical capability to get it back up even if it gets disrupted, and we’re committed to doing everything we can to make sure the information gets through.”
Under Secretary of State Sherman said the virtual embassy is the latest initiative designed to enhance U.S. outreach to the Iranian people and to underscore our clear message to them: “that, notwithstanding our very strong differences with the policies and actions of their government, the United States want a dialogue that builds trust and mutual understanding with the people themselves.”