Iran Voices has a mission different than most other Iran-related websites. The new website calls for accountability from local authorities with an online survey of citizens.
Periodically, Iran Voices will publish reports about specific cities based on the surveys and send them to media, local politicians and the municipality itself.
The very first report, in October 2013, was about the city Ahwaz, at the center of the oil rich Khuzestan province. It was based on survey responses from 52 citizens.
According to the report, the main priority of survey respondents was to have more green areas, followed by more jobs, more security, and a solution for air pollution. Among the public institutions, citizens said the judiciary system and security forces provide the least satisfying services, followed by governmental offices, hospitals, banks and the municipality.
Iran Voices acknowledges that a small sample of the population cannot be fully representative of a city as a whole, but says it can be an indicator. To this end, the main idea behind the project is that all voices should be heard.
60% of survey respondents say local representatives have never asked for their opinions, while 90% say they wish their voices were heard.
A local news hub
Iran Voices also aims to compile and highlight Iran’s local news, which is often neglected by the media's Tehran-based news angles and focus on national politics.
Iran Voices hopes to become a platform where Iranian citizens can talk about local issues and problems of their villages, cities, provinces and regions, a platform for citizens and civil activists to exchange ideas and reach out to officials.
A director of Iran Voices says to Global Voices, “Our initiative is a small step to raise awareness, beyond haggles and hassles, about people's daily concerns including the behavior of public authorities.”
“There are millions of topics about Iran which circulate on social media in Farsi on a daily basis, however most of these topics are focused on general policies and capital-related events,” says the director, who wishes to remain anonymous.
“At Iran Voices we believe that issues and events happening in other provinces, cities and villages are no less important than what is going on in Tehran. Therefore our website took a step forward in order to cover these local issues.”
Iran Voices categorizes the news under different headings such as economics, health, culture, sports and education. It also uses the Ushahidi software which enables users to categorize information geographically and place it on a Google Map.
The National Endowment for Democracy (NED) in the United States funds the project.