he said his parents were not home, I knew this will
be the night. He had brought some weed and two ecstasy
pills, but I was too nervous to enjoy either
we were finished, I didnt feel dirty or guilty.
I wondered what all the fuss was about. These
are the musings of an average teenager posted on her
web log. In this case however, the teenager lives
under restrains of the theocratic government of Iran.
is a young country, with 60% of the population being
under 25 years old. Iranian youth were introduced
to potentials of the internet almost by accident.
After election of President Khatami in 1997, the new
generation of Iran saw a small crack opening at the
gates that had held them back for over two decades
and kicked it wide open. Hundreds of new newspapers
and magazines came to existence virtually overnight,
books banned before were now published and new voices
initiated a dialogue about personal freedoms and democracy.
as the hard-liners within the government
found new way to silence the new voices in the media,
they retreated to more private means to spread their
message and internet became their primary arena. Much
credit goes to one man. Hossein Derakhshan (knows
on the net) was an entertainment and technology writer
for a chain of now banned newspapers. He used his
printed column as well as his web log to provide instructions
in building sites and web logs. Suddenly, thousands
of Iranian youth had their own on-line publications.
There are an estimated 50,000 active web logs currently
written in Persian. An astonishing number considering
web access is still rather limited in Iran.
Iranian web logs are rarely political. They contain
information you would find on most other logs around
the world. Entertainment news, personal diaries, satire
sites and those promoting precarious drug use and
promiscuous sex. Then again, regardless of their content,
they are all used politically. This is even more accurate,
since Sina Motallebi a known blogger was arrested
on April 20th, based on the content of his web log.
an ex-colleague of Hoder was also a regular columnist
for the banned papers. His expertise was cinema and
he mostly wrote as a movie critique. After the closure
of papers, he started his own web log at rooznegar.com.
His last few posts
before being summoned were (in order) about Iranian
newscasters inability to pronounce names properly,
retirement of the superhuman champion
Michael Jordan, his sons teething problems and
a reprint of an already published statement by Kambiz
Kaheh, another film critic arrested on bogus charges
of distributing illegal videos. Hardly risky material.
official charges have been announced on his arrest,
but the judge referred to content of his site
and interviews with foreign press during
his initial hearing. The arrest of Sina Motallebi
is clearly not only about Sina.
was arrested for being the most visible blogger, the
one with the highest profile. This was a signal to
others that not only their blogs have gained the attention
of the authorities, but that they could also be used
against them. Sina is used as an icon to teach them
a lesson. This is why the Iranian blogger community
has risen to his defense.
for his immediate released has quickly gathered over
3,000 signatures. Banners and buttons on numerous
sites point to updates on his case as well as the
petition. Even the BBC
has been obligated to cover his story. In the flood
of war news and regional stories about Shiite clergies
and American generals bullying one another, Iranian
bloggers have not allowed the media to forget Sina,
their comrade and fellow blogger.
this is just the first step. Much more needs to be
done, even if Sina is freed. The safety of blog owners
and their visitors is under question now. New ways
for them to safely express their opinions need to
be implemented. Support networks also need to be set
up that could establish alternative ways for information
to get through. As a certain faction within the current
U.S. administration pushes for a confrontation with
Iran, this could become an even bigger priority.
international attention to the matter is also vital.
We all saw how the Chinese government backed off after
the publicity arrest of a blogger in that country
is also a need for the more progressive voices outside
the country to intensify their mission to speak for
their comrades who can not express themselves freely.
As web logs inside Iran choose to adopt a more cautious
approach, the ones abroad should pick up the slack.
This has already started and if there are any silver
linings to Sinas dilemma, this would be it.
tugs of the Iranian government extend their muscle
to keep the people under their thumb. The hawks in
Washington are busy planning their next target and
creating a new puppet to take over Iran in the form
of deposed Shahs son, Reza Pahlavi. The more
progressive Iranians need to speak now and build their
democratic alternatives or get overrun in the battle
between the ruthless and the atrocious.
Moallemian is a political and human rights activist
based in California. He welcomes your feedback at
Pedrams new web log can be found at www.eyeranian.net
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