Tuesday, January 24, 2006

DaralHayat:They See What They Want to See

DarAlHayat:The experts say that there are 700,000 blogs in Iran, but I've also read that there are only 100,000. The huge difference, as estimated by internet sites specialized in the blogging phenomenon, shows how shaky the information is and how much we need to be careful about dealing with information, analyzing it, and taking positions based on such information.
We can be certain that Iran's President, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, heads a hard-line, or extremist regime, and that successive Iranian governments have sought to control or muzzle the media. Then the blogs arrived, free of the control that exists on the traditional press. We also know that there are 70 million people in Iran, that the level of education is 90%, that 70% of people are under 30, and that the majority of bloggers are from this segment of society.
It's an undisputed fact that there is no legislation or law in Iran against blogging, although bloggers are held accountable if they deal with forbidden material, which is considerable - from western music to local politics.
If all of the above is true, then it follows that out of 100,000 active blogs (I'm not going to use the 700,000 figure), only 4 bloggers have been imprisoned thus far, and only a few dozen have been detained. This means that the government's campaign against blogs might not be as fierce as hostile western sources maintain. Or, perhaps the government has failed to suppress blogs, especially since bloggers can conceal their names if they want to. Or, perhaps the explanation is a mix of these two elements.
I'm not forgetting that I'm a journalist whose mission is to publish, not conceal. Therefore, I insist on the right of every Iranian to freedom of speech, even if it is critical. In fact, I insist on the idea that someone should criticize if he or she wants to, and I take no offense at republishing articles from the western press that criticize the Iranian regime, or express an admiration for western music. Nevertheless, I understand that the Iranian regime, or any regime in a conservative country, would like to conceal sites that promote excessive sexual openness, or insult Islam and Muslims. I'm completely convinced that the great majority of Iranians, and every people in the region, would support their governments' campaigns in these two areas.
Of course, such a campaign could cover a wider project, which is to go after political opponents under the slogan of protecting the Constitution, or safeguarding independence. This isn't acceptable at all, especially in Iran, where there is no danger to the regime from the inside. The President, with his well-known policies, won a vast majority of votes; if another democratic election were held tomorrow the result wouldn't be much different.
In other words, a regime that it is in a position of strength should tolerate any domestic opposition, and allow various things on Iranian websites. If it does so, it robs the enemies of Iran of a weapon that they always use to slander the regime, namely that freedom of speech is restricted, and that the conservatives punish such activities. In reality, this might take place, giving the accusation a kind of credibility, even if 20 people out of 100,000 or 700,000 are arrested.
I'll leave the discussion to the experts. Recently, a book by Nasrin Alavi on Iranian blogs was published, entitled "We are Iran: Persian Blogs"; it is a critical sphere but it offers useful information to interested readers. On the Global Voices Online website, Farid Pouya wrote an article last month entitled "Iranian Hezbollah Goes Blogging," in which he said that among the thousands of Iranian blogs, there are many sites pro-Hezbollah, so it's not true that every blog is run by a liberal democratic who wants regime change.
Most pro-Hezbollah bloggers use the party's name on their blogs. Pouya says that "If we like them or not they are a part of blogosphere and represent a faction of population." He notes that the term Hezbollah in the Iranian context is quite different from the Lebanese Hezbollah. "In Iran, from beginning of the revolution, pro-Islamic Republic forces called themselves Hezbollah without organizing a political party."

It appears that Hezbollah (in the Iranian sense) blogs are increasing noticeably, to the degree that their authors have organized themselves into a "Muslim Bloggers Committee," to promote their ideas and defend them against secular bloggers. Islamic blogs are responding to blogs that they consider agents of the enemies of Islam. Many women are listed among partisans of Hezbollah.
I believe that the above provides an objective picture of the state of Iranian blogs, so I find the accusations made by Iran's enemies fabricated, for the obvious reasons, even though I admit that the government in Tehran is trying to block some opposition blogs, and foreign sites through which they are relayed. The enemies of Iran, from the neoconservatives and Israeli apologists, have made Iranian blogs a sign that there is opposition to the government of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, and there should be. However, it's not as big as the enemies of this government want it to be. All of the blogs aren't against the government, and the fact that they are mostly authored by young people means that they don't represent all Iranians.
The enemies of the Iranian regime who hear the President talk about wiping Israel off the map and returning the Jews to Europe, or Alaska, or about exaggerations in the Holocaust, see what they want to see, and are blind to the fact that computers are available to all Iranians, and that there are 1,500 internet cafes in Tehran alone.


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