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Iran flag

Have we heard the last of the Iran flag tweet row?

Iran flag

Have we heard the last of the Iran flag tweet row?

Amid the excitement of the England vs. Wales match last night, it might have escaped some people’s attention that the US joined England in the next round, eliminating Iran.

For the neutral, this was perhaps the more interesting of the two fixtures – a politically charged clash between two huge nations that have rarely seen eye to eye. And while the animosity started long before social media, a tweet from the US Soccer Federation (USSF) last weekend seems to have reignited a bitter relationship.

The now deleted tweet displayed the Iranian flag, but without the Islamic emblem in the centre. The USSF says it did this in support of women’s rights in Iran, with ongoing protects putting the country under the global spotlight. But officials in Iran have reacted angrily, with the Football Federation Islamic Republic of Iran even calling for the US to be expelled from the World Cup, citing section 13 of FIFA’s rules and a reference to “offending the dignity” of a nation.

It will be interesting to see whether this appeal gains any traction now that Iran’s elimination at the hands of the US has been confirmed, but while some may see it as an opportunist attempt to progress in the tournament at another nation’s expense, the well-intentioned but perhaps poorly judged American tweet highlights the care and sensitivity needed when making political or social statements online.

Like when Kellogg’s found itself in trouble for its “1 RT = 1 breakfast for a vulnerable child” campaign, this could be an example of an organisation thinking it is doing good, but lacking the required understanding or sensitivity towards the cause.

It’s difficult to protest on another country’s behalf. When Iran’s players refused to sing their national anthem before their game against England, it was widely seen as a brave statement, but if England were to host Iran and refused to play it, would that be seen as disrespectful? Similarly, the US doctoring the Iranian flag – even if many Iranians are doing the same – could be seen as Western powers meddling with cultures and customs they don’t understand and that are none of their business. One could ask what the American reaction would be if, for whatever reason, another country decided to take a few stars or stripes off the US flag.

It’s great to use social media to raise awareness of causes, but this should always be backed up with sincerity and tact. To learn more about how to put together an effective content and social media campaign, speak to our friendly team at Engage Web.

John Murray

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