: launch event of world’s largest ice cream comes under intense social criticism
Fighting for ice cream but not for the political prisoners
‘’The ice cream movement’’ The demonstrators carry signs against Choopan Dairy
Protesting for ice cream: launch event of world’s largest ice cream comes under intense social criticism
An Iranian company’s attempt to break the Guinness record for the largest ice cream in the world, which ended in a full-scale riot, has become a subject of intense social criticism in the past several days. Last week, April 1, Choopan Dairy unveiled a 5-ton tub of chocolate-flavored ice cream, claiming that it dethroned the previous record holder, U.S. producer Baskin-Robbins, which made a 4-ton tub of ice cream eight years ago. The tub made by the Iranian dairy measured 2 meters (6’6”) by 1.6 (5’3”) meters.
The launch event of the ice cream, which took place at the Tochal ski resort in north Tehran and attracted tens of thousands of Iranians, ended in a riot when the organizers refused to hand out ice cream from the giant tub to the numerous spectators, saying that the ice cream would be distributed to charities instead. Thousands of angry Iranians who arrived at the event during the Iranian New Year vacation hoping for a taste of the giant ice cream started shouting protests against the dairy and said that they had been cheated.
An announcement released by Choopan Dairy said that the organizers of the event had not anticipated that it would be attended by tens of thousands of people, which made it impossible to contain the riot that broke out at the scene. According to the dairy’s spokesmen, the company did intend to give away ice cream to the spectators; however, the size of the crowd and concerns that the situation could get out of hand led to a decision to distribute the ice cream to charities and hand out normal sized ice cream cones to the masses of people that came to the event. The company categorically denied claims according to which the ice cream wasn’t handed out because it wasn’t fit for human consumption, saying that the company directors and journalists had been documented by the media tasting the ice cream after it was produced at the Choopan Dairy factory. The company’s announcement went on to say that Guinness World Records representatives monitored the production process of the ice cream even though they were not present at the launch event itself.
“From liar Ahmadinejad to liar Choopan”
The incident quickly came under intense criticism from the media and social networks. The criticism was targeted both at the organizers of the event and at the behavior of the citizens who took part in it. Many of the critics said that the riot that broke out during the launch event reflects the value crisis that is gripping the Iranian society. Reports published on various news websites, including Baztab, Tabnak, and Alef, drew numerous comments from readers who expressed their anger and dissatisfaction with the conduct of the company and the behavior of the spectators during the incident.
Some website readers mostly criticized Choopan Dairy, saying the company was a “liar” and even calling to boycott its products. Some readers said that lies and deception have become a commonplace phenomenon in Iran, which can also be seen in government institutions. One reader noted that the conduct of the company shouldn’t come as a surprise, since acts of fraud are also common in the presidency of the Islamic republic. Another reader also associated the launch of the ice cream with political life, drawing a parallel between the Iranian citizens’ vote for “liar Ahmadinejad” in 2009 and eating the ice cream of “liar Choopan” in 2013. One reader cynically defined the incident as a “first manifestation of enthusiasm”, referring to Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei’s announcement that the new Iranian year will be the “year of economic and political enthusiasm”.
Fighting for ice cream but not for the political prisoners
In addition to criticism of the company that organized the event, many news website readers expressed their regret at the behavior displayed by the tens of thousands of spectators during the incident, referring to it as immoral behavior. Some of them expressed their discontent with the fact that the people of Iran are willing to chant slogans and protest for ice cream even as they give up their fundamental rights. One reader wrote that a nation willing to make mockery of itself and suffer just to eat ice cream should be lamented. Another reader wrote that a nation that goes crazy and is willing to humiliate itself for ice cream is a cursed nation. He expressed his regret that the Iranian people, with their ancient historic legacy and such a glorious culture, should behave this way.
In a reference to the common Iranian practice of blaming all the country’s problems on its external enemies, several website readers cynically suggested that this incident, too, should be blamed on Iran’s enemies, including the West, “world arrogance”, the United States, Britain, “world Zionism”, and the Baha’is (readers’ comments were taken from http://www.baztab.net/fa/news/23627).
The launch event of the ice cream also drew critical remarks from a number of Iranian bloggers, one of whom posted sarcastic comments about the incident. In a post published on his personal blog, the blogger said that the thousands of Iranians shown by the media crowding and protesting were not calling for the release of political prisoners, protesting against the regime for violating their legal rights, fighting for equal rights for men and women, demanding knowledge or scientific research, or fighting for the freedom of expression, freedom of press, and democracy. Instead, they were demanding to be fed ice cream. When one sees the thousands of Iranians who came to the event organized by Choopan Dairy to eat ice cream, one understands, the blogger wrote, why the Iranian authorities continue raising the prices of products while the public keeps purchasing them (http://saeidpersian.blogspot.dk/2013/04/blog-post.html).
Another blogger published a post titled “Ice cream or Dr. Mehdi Khazali: which one do the citizens find more important?” In his post, the blogger wrote that, at a time when Dr. Mehdi Khazali’s supporters are marking 100 days since his arrest, the citizens of Tehran took to the streets not to protest for him but to watch the largest ice cream in the world. When they didn’t receive the ice cream that they wanted, they started shouting protests just a small distance away from the place where Khazali—who is fighting for his life—is imprisoned. Ice cream is more important for Iranians than the fate of Khazali, who has stopped eating and drinking. The reformists believe that Facebook “likes” are enough to show their support for the political prisoner, while the citizens find ice cream more important (http://zareh-bin.blogspot.ca/2013/04/blog-post_4.html).
Journalist Farvartish Rezvaniyeh also took advantage of the reports on the launch of the largest ice cream in the world to complain about the bleak situation of the Iranian society. In a post published on his Facebook page, the journalist wrote that he does not understand why it is that the Iranian people are always after the largest things: the largest sandwich, the largest cake, the largest soup, the largest bread, and the largest ice cream, and why they think that the largest things are also the best.
Rezvaniyeh wrote that even though the Iranians take pride in their glorious cultural legacy and the remnants of the ancient Persian Empire, Iran has contributed nothing to mankind in the past 500 years. Even Iranians who have achieved senior positions, such as NASA and Google directors, left their homeland when they were young. Had they stayed in Iran, they would not have been able to make the achievements that they have.
The journalist strongly criticized the Iranian society for the greed and materialism that have come to characterize it. He argued that the Iranians do nothing but eat, drink, and produce garbage, since they don’t know what they want from their lives and their country. The only thing they pursue is money, and anyone walking in the streets of Tehran and listening to what the people are saying into their cell phones will only hear conversations about money, checks, dollars, property, and lawyers.
The Iranians deposit millions of tomans into the charity funds scattered across the country, but those Iranians who are ill pass away since they are unable to purchase expensive drugs. The Iranians are willing to drive into incoming traffic to make a shortcut, they think that only those who live in Tehran are actual human beings, and they ignore people living in other cities. A person who smiles to another is considered insane, and a person who tells the truth is accused of being a liar. The Iranians believe that the only way they can be happy is through song and dance, think that heaven was made just for them, and are waiting for miracles (http://www.facebook.com/farvartish.rezvaniyeh).
The Iranian society: lack of solidarity and escapism
The claims brought up about the citizens’ behavior during the launch event of the ice cream are a reflection of sweeping social criticism made in recent years by Iranian intellectuals and journalists about the decline of values in the Iranian society, the lack of social solidarity, and the increasing tendency for individualism and escapism.
For instance, in March 2010 an Iranian journalist published an article on the “double lives” led by the Iranian middle class, who take advantage of every opportunity to “have fun, drink alcohol, and party”. Just one year after the 2009 riots, the journalist discussed the claim on the lack of social commitment among the people of Iran. A veteran of the Iran-Iraq War shared his sentiments with the journalist: “Soldiers were proud to lose an organ during the war, because they believed they were fighting for something holy. Children these days don’t feel this way. They don’t know what they are fighting for” (http://iwpr.net/report-news/double-lives-tehrans-middle-class).
In an article posted on the www.bamdadkhabar.com website on October 16, 2012, the reformist activist Alborz Zahedi also argued that the people of Iran, particularly the middle class, are unwilling to assume social responsibility and take to the streets to achieve their rights, and that they are not even willing to perform such simple tasks as cleaning the streets around their homes and show basic social solidarity. They only act for their own good, not for the good of others.
A reformist blogger and journalist detained in November 2012 for his activity against the government, currently on a hunger strike at the Evin prison.