The Blanket

The Blanket - A Journal of Protest & Dissent
Iran’s Web Log Quandary
Sign the petition for Sina

Pedram MoallemianMay 4, 2003

“When 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…When we were finished, I didn’t 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.

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.

However, 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 as Hoder 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.

The 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.

Sina, 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 His last few posts before being summoned were (in order) about Iranian newscaster’s inability to pronounce names properly, retirement of the “superhuman champion” Michael Jordan, his son’s 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.

No 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.

He 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.

A petition 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.

But 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.

Bringing 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 generated.

There 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 Sina’s dilemma, this would be it.

The 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 Shah’s 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.

Pedram Moallemian is a political and human rights activist based in California. He welcomes your feedback at Pedram’s new web log can be found at


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The Blanket - A Journal of Protest & Dissent



"The freedom of the press is one of the great bulwarks of liberty, and can never be restrained but by despotic governments."
- George Mason, Virginia Bill of Rights, June 12, 1776

Index: Current Articles

4 May 2003


Other Articles From This Issue:


Official Secrets and Official Lies
Carrie Twomey


Iran's Weblog Quandry

Pedram Moallemian


For A Free Press


Tutored, Managed and Castrated
Anthony McIntyre


Forgetting Eric Honniker
Eoghan O’Suilleabhain


Lukacs After Communism
Liam O Ruairc


How's It Goin'?
Brian Mór


Swept Clean

Annie Higgins


1 May 2003


Northern Ireland's War of Words
Brendan O'Neill


No Respite

Anthony McIntyre


Foreign Investors
Liam O Ruairc


Crowd Control American Style
Caoimhe Butterly


On Cuba
Douglas Hamilton


Hearts and Flowers

Annie Higgins




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