Blogfather in Iran sentenced to 19.5 years for Dissent

Iran jails blogfather Hussein Derakhshan for nearly 20 years for blogging.

Derakhshan made a lot of enemies when he started justifying the Ahmadinejad regime in 2008. But I remember the excitement in Iranian circles when he figured out how to use blogger.com (founded in 1999) to blog in Persian and then taught others. Blogging became a huge cultural phenomenon in the Iranian youth culture, deployed by young women as well as men because of the anonymity it afforded. He became known as “blogfather” (pedar-i blog) in Persian.

His sentence reminds us that the internet is just a communications medium. Just as people have been jailed by authoritarian regimes for pamphleteering, so they have been jailed for blogging.

Whatever the fickle character of his politics, he did not deserve this, for mere speech.

As speech is increasingly criminalized in the United States (see for instance this report about ‘material support’), we should be vigilant or we American bloggers will end up like blogfather. Like Derakhshan, who was jailed in part for ‘unsavory’ foreign contacts, an American blogger who went to Lebanon and advised Hizbullah to adopt nonviolent tactics could be jailed, according to the US Supreme Court, especially the weaselly John Roberts– who is not very different from his Iranian counterpart.

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12 Responses

  1. My wifes Cousin was here from Iran a few weeks ago. She complained about how some of her relatives were beaten by police during the upheaval and they were not even demonstrating. Well a few days ago I saw news footage of a demonstration in Europe.
    I think that it was Spain. The unarmed demonstrators were on one side of the street.
    Police in full riot gear on the other side of the street. 4 policemen at a time would charge the demonstrators and pull someone out of their line. The unlucky demonstrator was then carried behind police lines were they were then given a beating by the police with their clubs. Wow those Iranians are so backwards by comparison.

  2. Not on topic just a little needle in the eye for Obama supporters who should be revolutionaries. Defense “President” Gates said at a Dinner with Afghan Pres. Karzai that the US military is not ever leaving Afghanistan, as reported by Anti war.com. Now let me see who does Obama work for?
    Hahahahahahahahahhahahahahahhahahahahahahahahahahah

  3. Somebody in the judiciary must have really hated him, since his sentence is much harsher than those of reformist figures convicted for the recent disturbances. His trip to Israel seems to have raised the suspicions of espionage, and there is no lack of paranoid conspiracy-theorists in Iran’s intelligence services. His self-avowed atheism wouldn’t have endeared him to the judiciary either. The sentence is an incredible travesty. I only hope that it will be cut down upon appeal. The sad thing about all this is that politically he was practically a nobody. Many reformists hated him and called him a spy of the regime and worse, while the conservatives were not fond of him either. This is yet another sign of the closing of the Iranian society and politics during this last year and the strengthening of the radical fringe within the conservative camp. PS I don’t believe “Blogfather” is the translation of پدر بلاگ but I’ve forgotten the original epithet. Whatever it was, people stopped calling him that when his politics changed!

  4. I think his big mistake was he traveled to Israel and blogged openly about it. If I recall he was quite critical of Iran at the same time. When I later read he had gone to Iran I thought he was mad for going to Iran after so very publicly blogging about having gone to Israel. Iran is not a country of laws like the US were your freedom of speech is determined by the judicial branch and the government has to convince the judicial branch. We are dealing with a bunch of mullah who have no logic and who have not seen the world to know what is out there. I feel really really bad that Hossein is in jail but frankly I feel he was a bit naive to go back to Iran after what he wrote on his blog about visiting Israel(see link to en.wikipedia.org). If I was his friend I would have done everything to stop him from going…no I would have absolutely stopped him because anyone who knows anything about the clerics in Iran would tell you they are idiots who are ruining the country and Hossein’s blog post is enough for them to through you into the dungeons. People have disappeared for far less.

  5. Dr. Cole, the Obama administration is prosecuting peace activists. Those activists may get off with a wrist-slap this time, but I doubt that they will the next time and there will be a next time. Most governments find “mere speech” that is contrary to their policy dangerous.

  6. Bloggers in Morocco have been jailed for criticizing members of the king’s family.

    Funny how I haven’t seen any brouhaha about it in the corporate media!

  7. He was sentenced for “dissent” was he?

    That sound awfully similar to the claim of the sentence being for “the crimes of blogging about the government and encouraging others to do so” put forth by the Charlotte Allen of that neocon outfit the Manhattan Institute.

    This is really sloppy. At least you could have outlined the real charges laid out against him whether legitimate or not, including travel to Israel which is illegal for Iranians. On at least one charge he clearly broke the law.

  8. It is illegal for Iranians to travel to Israel. It would not surprise me although I had heard that Jews travel back and forth between Iran and Israel frequently. That was several years ago though that I had heard that. Anyways it is illegal for Americans to travel to Cuba.
    When I am in power I will give any American who calls for an American or Israeli attack on Iran 40 and and 1/4 years in prison just to show that I can be precise too.
    I agree Hossein was naive. Iran is not the 21st century Ottoman Empire. The US is.
    If a person wants to live in Iran they should follow one of the following strategies.
    A.) Keep your mouth shut and stay out of politics
    B.) Work with in the Islamic System to make small changes.
    C.) Work outside the system using non violent measures to achieve your goals and do not be surprised when you get your head bashed in, get tortured, and so forth.
    D.) Work from outside the system using violence to change the system always saving your last bullet for yourself so that you are never taken prisoner.
    It is a tough choice.

  9. Hussein Derakhshan is a Canadian citizen .
    I think that the Iranian regime is worried about the ideas people learn when they live in a free country .
    Also , I suspect they are still p.o.’ed about the Canadian caper, when diplomats who were not caught in the US embassy hostage “incident” (outrage?) were smuggled out of the country using Canadian passports .
    This complicates things .

  10. More on Hossein Derakhshan

    link to moriab.blogspot.com

    Hoder writes in 2007:

    …Cut the bias Someone should remind Reporters Without Borders to remove Arash Sigarchi’s name from the list of Iranian cyberdissidents in jail. It’s been over three months since he was cleared …His main charge was working with the American government-funded Radio Farda …But since he also had a blog … the entire human rights machine (western media, watchdogs, and NGOs) started to spread numerous reports, showcasing him as an innocent victim of a brutal regime with a formulated policy for imprisoning bloggers who dare to write a word of criticism against the government. As a matter of fact, the Iranian government has not had any such policy toward bloggers…Obviously the Islamic Republic cannot be as tolerant against criticism as, say, Norway….
    link to guardian.co.uk

  11. Updated 29 Sep 2010 Iran’s Prisoners of Conscience 633 Names
    LISSNUP
    01-Oct-2010
    This list will quickly get out of date – please visit the rhairan.biz or rhairan.us or rhairan.org website for current status. Note: I have given 3 alternative links because Iran House of Human Rights website is regularly blocked or hacked by the Iranian regime’s so-called “cyber army”.

    >>>

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