There are fewer people demonstrating on the streets of Tehran but despite what the likes of idiots like Galloway predicted, the protests haven’t quite fizzled out. According to yesterday’s Guardian It seems that the protestors are using their economic muscle and boycotting companies deemed to be sympathetic to the Iranian regime.
Wholesale vendors in the capital report that demand for Nokia handsets has fallen by as much as half in the wake of calls to boycott Nokia Siemens Networks (NSN) for selling communications monitoring systems to Iran.
In addition it seems that consumers are shunning SMS messaging in protest at the perceived complicity with the regime by the state telecoms company, while TCI. Iran's state-run broadcaster has been hit by a collapse in advertising as companies fear being blacklisted. There is also anecdotal evidence that people are moving money out of state banks and into private banks.
Nokia is the most prominent western company to suffer from its dealings with the Iranian authorities. Its NSN joint venture with Siemens provided Iran with a monitoring system as it expanded a mobile network last year. Siemens is also accused of providing Iran with an internet filtering system called Webwasher.
Some Tehran shops have removed Nokia phones from their window displays. Hashem, a mobile phone vendor, said: "I don't like to lose my customers and now people don't feel happy seeing Nokia's products. We even had customers who wanted to refund their new Nokia cell phones or change them with just another cell phone from any other companies. It’s not just a limited case to my shop – I'm also a wholesaler to small shops in provincial markets, and I can say that there is half the demand for Nokia's product these days in comparison with just one month ago, and it's really unprecedented. People feel ashamed of having Nokia cell phones," he added.
The Iranian authorities are believed to have used Nokia's mobile phone monitoring system to target dissidents. One Iranian journalist who has just been released from detention said:
"I always had this impression that monitoring calls is just a rumour for threatening us from continuing our job properly, but the nightmare became real when they had my phone calls – conversations in my case. And the most unbelievable thing for me is that Nokia sold this system to our government. It would be a reasonable excuse for Nokia if they had sold the monitoring technology to a democratic country for controlling child abuse or other uses, but selling it to the Iranian government with a very clear background of human rights violence and suppression of dissent, it's just inexcusable for me. I'd like to tell Nokia that I'm tortured because they had sold this damn technology to our government."
State-run TV has also been targeted by protesters who have listed products advertised on its channels and urged supporters to join a boycott. Companies are running scared, and viewers have noticed the number of commercials plummet.
"We don't have many choices to show and continue our protests. "They don't let us go out, they have killed many, we are threatened to text people or distribute emails, they have summoned people who shout Allahu Akbar ['God is great'] on rooftops at nights, so we need to look for new ways," said Shahla, a 26-year-old Iranian student. "I can obviously see on the TV that they are facing an advertising crisis. This at least shows them how angry people are," she added.
The SMS boycott, meanwhile, has apparently forced TCI into drastic price hikes. The cost of an SMS has doubled in recent days. Protesters view the move as a victory.
The intercept and monitoring technology provided by Nokia is pretty much a worldwide standard. Our mobile systems in the UK have exactly the same facilities which are used by our authorities too. Still the combined economic muscle of the Iranian people may well make companies think twice about getting into bed with the Iranian regime.