Representing the Arab Spring in the Iranian press: Islamic awakening or foreign-sponsored terror?

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The Islamic Republic of Iran, the largest non-Arab country in the region, has sought to play an influential role in regional politics since its establishment in 1979, and the Arab Spring protests have provided the prime opportunity for doing so. The Iranian government has vocally supported the revolutions in Egypt, Tunisia, and Libya, but has also remained defiantly supportive of the Syrian president despite popular opposition to his government. The Iranian media have been pivotal in communicating the position of the Islamic Republic of Iran. Using qualitative thematic analysis and Social Representations Theory, this article examines emerging media representations of the Arab Spring in two major English-language Iranian newspapers, The Tehran Times and Press TV. The following two themes are discussed: (1) “Islamic Awakening”: Islamicizing the Arab Spring, and (2) “Bashar Al-Assad is not Muammar Al-Gaddafi”: Compartmentalizing the Syrian Ally. Islamic identity and ingroup–outgroup dynamics are mobilized in order to increase the political influence of Iran and to undermine that of its foes. It is argued that there is a systematic “instrumentalization” of the Arab Spring in the Iranian press – it is employed to validate and accentuate tenets of the Islamic Republic of Iran's revolutionary ideology and to support its political interests in the region.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)422-442
JournalPolitics, Groups, and Identities
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 3 Jul 2014


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