Iran: Why are protesters risking jail to tweet about meat patties?

Iran: Why are protesters risking jail to tweet about meat patties?

Protesters in Iran are risking arrest and jail time for posting pictures of food.

Hundreds of people have been uploading pictures of traditional "kotlets" -- Persian meat patties -- to their social media accounts over the course of the last week, and the country's hardline Islamists authorities are not amused.

That's because kotlet is also a word that's been co-opted by protesters to describe the body of Qassem Soleimani, Iran's former spy chief, who was killed in a precision strike by the US in Baghdad in January 2020.

Some Iranians joked that Soleimani had been so badly 'smashed' in the explosion that he looked like the minced meat they traditionally use to make the kotlets.

This week marks the third anniversary of this death and while Iran's government has been remembering Soleimani as a martyr, he is also being mocked online.

His assassination is still a source of anger and grief for the Iranian leadership, and although Soleimani’s image has become a symbol of Iran’s regime, it has also been a target of recent anti-government protests that have rocked the country since September.

Protesters in Iran's capital Tehran have reportedly been seen tearing down pictures of the former military leader, while a banner of Soleimani was set on fire ahead of the anniversary -- and numerous pictures showing plates of freshly-cooked kotlets were posted by social media users.

In the clearest example of authorities cracking down on this type of social media dissent, police arrested a famous Iranian chef Navab Ebrahimi this week.

He has 2.7 million followers on Instagram and posted a video with a kotlet recipe to his account, on the anniversary of Soleimani's assassination.

Just hours after the video went live, security forces detained Ebrahimi.

His instagram account has been taken offline.