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Iranian State Radio Tries Playing Catch-Up With RFE/RL's 'Pas Farda'

They want what he's got.
They want what he's got.
“What's in a name?” wondered Juliet in Shakespeare’s epic tragedy.

The very same question may be directed to the minds behind Iran’s new state media political satire show, Radio Pariruz, Farsi for "The Day Before Yesterday," a show started in response to Radio Farda’s popular satirical show, “Pas Farda,” or “The Day After Tomorrow.” Radio Pariruz launched on January 24.

Modeled after “Pas Farda,” Radio Pariruz is the second recent attempt by Iranian authorities to counter what “Pas Farda” has been providing Iranians for the past two years: a platform to challenge the limits of political discourse in Iran through satire. Last May, RFE/RL’s senior correspondent Golnaz Esfandiari reported on the launch of a new website called “Radio Dirooz,” Farsi for “Radio Yesterday,” that summarizes Radio Farda’s reports and reposts them, adding their own spin.

So far, though, it seems that Pariruz is having a tough time recasting its shrill message in the playful language of satire. Pezhman Karimi, the writer and editor of the program, recently told the Iranian Student News Agency (ISNA) that his goal is to address “the documents of the enemies of the Revolution and Iranian nation, paradoxes in speech and acts and also the ridiculous points of views of so-called anti-revolutionary political personalities and American spies.”

If all that doesn’t say “irreverence,” nothing does.

The man whom the Iranian authorities are trying to challenge is sanguine about it all. “These days, satire is unfortunately the reality of daily life in Iran. It is a bitter satire,” Farshid Manafi says. The host of “Pas Farda” since its inception in 2010, Manafi broadcasts his eye-poking take on the drab ironies of Iranian life every weeknight at 9pm local time.

Manafi was once the host of a similar political satire show on Iranian state radio. But the program was shuttered in 2006 for political reasons, forcing Manafi to find a new outlet for his heterodox thinking. The move to RFE/RL in Prague has paid off for the 32-year old: in addition to his sizable radio audience, some 1.2 million Iranians now go online every month to download his award-winning podcasts.

Pas Farda: A Forum For Iranians Of All Stripes

“Pas Farda” receives thousands of daily emails, SMS messages and voicemails from its devoted listenership, which spans nearly every sector of Iran’s 77 million-person population. Some write in just to express their appreciation for the show; others, to make critical suggestions. One recent letter even credited “Pas Farda” with helping to overcome a drug addiction. “Before, I didn’t think that a radio program could save people’s lives,” Ebrahim, a 28-year old ethnic Kurd from Tehran wrote. “But, trust me, you and your colleagues are unique.”

Officials within the Islamic Republic’s halls of power may not agree with Ebrahim, but they’ve nonetheless paid “Pas Farda” a high compliment of their own by launching “Pariruz.” Whether the regime’s answer to Manafi’s satire gains any traction at all remains to be seen, but Manafi remains skeptical. “The people of Iran want to listen to the truth these days,” he says.

-- Deana Kjuka