Casual photos of Iranian President Hassan Rouhani on social media site Instagram have caused a bit of a stir.
The photos, which were posted to his account on Friday, show Rouhani in a track suit and a baseball cap, a far cry from his formal cleric’s attire.
Being photographed in casual attire might not be a big deal for presidents of other countries, but for Rouhani, being so is seen as another effort in crafting an approachable image, having already made progress on nuclear talks with the P5+1 powers in November and taken steps to ease some visa requirements to Iran.
Rouhani even penned an op-ed for the Washington Post calling or “constructive engagement” prior to his appearance at the UN General Assembly in September (after which US President Barack Obama called Rouhani). The choice was seen as an interesting one, as foreign media is often seen as the enemy in Iran.
During the heated June 2013 presidential race, all candidates used social media to reach Iranians inside the country as well as expat voters, even though sites such as Facebook and Twitter are verboten in Iran and accessible via virtual personal networks.
Rouhani’s campaign was especially prolific on Twitter, notably tweeting in English, even providing subtitles to YouTube videos it shared of Rouhani’s speeches and rallies.
Although Instagram is accessible in Iran, and a number of high-level officials are pushing for free access to social media, Twitter remains blocked.
Rouhani, however, continues to have an account, from which he tweeted out one of his photos on Friday, showing him hiking and taking in a “beautiful” view of Tehran, to comments noting his athleticism and one even saying, “Oh, what style he’s got, Haj Hassan”.