The Iranian President and Pope Francis are two figures that could not be more different. However, lately their public relations campaigns have been running similar tracks. Both leaders have been bending over backwards in an attempt to soften the image of Iran and The Vatican.
Twenty-four-year-old Shirin Gerami is Iran's first female triathlete to have taken part in the London’s world championship.
The gesture is amazing coming from the leader of a country not known to support its women in public. In fact the opposite is true in many cases.
Here he tweets about women again.
These are not the only surprising tweet sent out by Iran’s newly elected leader. Just last week, he tweeted his well-wishes for the Jewish New Year. The latter was particularly shocking because of Iran’s historical hard-lined stance towards Israel. The relationship between the two countries has been defined by hostility since the Iranian Revolution in 1979 and Iran has yet to acknowledge the existence of the Jewish state (despite the thousands of Jews that live in Iran).
Despite the fact that it is commonly understood that Ayatollah Ali Khamenei remains Iran’s ‘Supreme Leader’ and is the driving force of Iranian policy, these statements show a significant shift in post-Ahmedinejad Iran. At least with respect to how the current regime wants to present itself to its people and the rest of the world.
Here is a list of Rouhani’s tweets over the last few weeks:
Congratulations to the Iranian women's volleyball team who defeated Philippines 3-1 in Asian Championship in Thailand pic.twitter.com/RsTVrsiwUf— Hassan Rouhani (@HassanRouhani) September 14, 2013
Congratulations to our women’s futsal team for their unprecedented achievement at Asian games - winning silver medal pic.twitter.com/Oi7jm3Af5J— Hassan Rouhani (@HassanRouhani) July 5, 2013
Congratulations to our women’s futsal team for defeating Hong Kong 5-0. Will be making history at Asian semi-finals pic.twitter.com/9NraUddelY— Hassan Rouhani (@HassanRouhani) July 2, 2013
Dr Christian Emery, a lecturer at the University of Plymouth, puts Rouhani’s tweeting rampage into perspective.
"Not only is he reasonable and highly intelligent, but he also has a large public mandate to moderate both the tone and substance of Iran's international relations.”Emory’s point is well taken, as the whole world heard Rouhani’s proclamation that "The Iranian people voted 'yes' to moderation," during his inauguration speech. It was reported as a momentous occasion for the country and many foreign dignitaries were present – a first for the hard-lined state.
This is the first time that foreign officials have been invited to Iranian president’s inauguration ceremony. #Rouhani— Dr. Hassan Rouhani (@drRouhani) July 29, 2013
It is now obvious that Iran is going through some sort of makeover.
Here are two men who are working hard on changing their image, or rather the image of their respective leadership.
Who would ever have thought it possible for a Pope to tweet at all, let alone this:
On another occasion the Pope promised to Babtize a woman’s illegitimate childa.
Earlier, he had publicly stated, “Who am I to judge gay people?”
These public statements and gestures make him more relatable for those groups who the Vatican previously isolated, such as the youth as well as ‘sinners’ or those who practice immoral behavior in the eyes of The Church.
His PR campaign has not left out the underprivileged.
The Vatican's garbage collectors were the first employees the new pope invited to early morning mass, followed by security personnel, gardeners, nuns and even Vatican Bank advisors.
It can safely be said that both Rouhani and Pope Francis have their work cut out for them if they wish to wipe the slate clean in terms of their had-lined image.
Shall we wish them luck?