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Iran State TV to Air Anti-IS Version of Popular Show During Norooz


The crew of "Paytakht-5" comedy show is seen in Islamic State uniforms.

In an attempt to sway public opinion in favor of Iran's military involvement in Syria and Iraq, the country's state television will air a mini-series during the Iranian New Year known as Norooz, glorifying its fight against Islamic State in those countries.

The 14-part comedy series titled Paytakht-5 (Capital-5) will air for two weeks, corresponding with the traditional two-week celebration in Iran.

The family parody show will be aired on Iran's official TV channel, IRIB 1.

"Veneered by top cinematographic special effects and starring popular stars, this parody is going to narrate some characteristics of the real life of an Iranian family regarding the recent conflicts in the region," said the show's director, Siroos Moghadam.

Using well-known characters and actors in movies and television shows to promote a political agenda has been a popular method for Iranian authorities since the beginning of the Iranian revolution in 1979, some experts say.

"Authorities in state TV have always used different methods to convince writers, directors and actors — directly or indirectly — to convoy their political propaganda," said Majid Beheshti, a prominent U.K.-based Iranian filmmaker.

Norooz shows have a large viewership. Experts say that by airing a program during the holiday, Tehran guarantees that the intended message reaches the most people.

"Schools and most organizations are closed for almost two weeks in Iran for Norooz, and TV shows have always been a big part of [the holiday] historically," Beheshti said.

Paytakht-5 is in its fifth season. The show's plot involves an accidental encounter between a well-known Iranian family and IS terrorists in an unidentified location.

The show is produced by state TV in coordination with Owj media, a broadcasting organization with close ties to the elite Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC).

State TV traditionally airs satire and parody shows that highlight Norooz festivals and stories about Iranian families. This year marks a break with that tradition.

Political unrest

Iran has been trying to justify the legitimacy of IRGC's presence in Syria and win domestic support for its continued involvement in the conflict on behalf of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

Nevertheless, the outbreak of political unrest in Iran in early January has presented an unforeseen challenge to Tehran's increasing involvement beyond its borders. Motivated by a lack of financial resources, angry protesters chanted "Leave Syria alone. Think about us," a reference to Tehran's support for Assad's regime.

Iran claims its forces are in Syria only to protect its sovereignty against IS.

"Islamic Republic authorities have always glorified their military involvement in Syria," said Rasool Nafisi, a Washington-based expert on Middle East affairs. "Withstanding the opposition expressed during the recent uprisings, decision makers in Iran are inclined to use indirect approaches to make sure that people buy their narration of national interest."

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