11 June 2005
openDemocracy author and famed Iranian blogger Hossein Derakhshan (also my friend) today announced that he is going back to Iran for the presidential elections. It's something he's been considering publicy and debating with himself for a long time. He knows he runs the risk of arrest in spite of a newly acquired Canadian passport, but has decided it would be worth it in order to make a stand. I've been an activist of sorts for many years, but never under threats of imprisonment or torture. I can't pretend to know what I would do in his situation. Among others, Anthony Barnett has encouraged him to jump on the plane, and believes "young people must be brave". Now that he has finally decided to go, I quite admire him. Especially because I know he has good reason to be concerned. Another blogger, Mojtaba Saminejad, just received a two year prison sentence. When Hossein was in London, I met with him and his friend Sina Motallebi who was detained for three weeks last year because of his blog. Sina was jokingly telling stories of how his interrogators asked him whether Hossein (aka Hoder) had sent him articles to post in his blog. He responded with a question and asked them, why on earth Hoder would send him articles, when he was more free to write what he wanted in Canada ("and anyway I'm a better writer than him, ho ho"). The next time they interrogated Sina, they accused him of sending articles to Hoder's blog instead. You can say what you want about the effect blogs may or may not have on the politics of the country, but the Iranian government is certainly taking their influence very seriously. In New York, Hossein showed me a scanned handwritten testimony on the internet, that stated Hossein was linking (shock, horror) to subversive and anti-government websites. He thinks someone probably wrote it under force. His website is filtered by the government in Iran. Join me in wishing him luck on his trip, and if you would like to support him with a little cash there is a Paypal donation link on his website. He has promised to blog, photograph and record his entire journey - in his own blog, as well as in the one he helped create right here on openDemocracy - Iran Scan 1384. In return, he asks that if he gets arrested we all blog, report and raise awareness about it as loudly as we can. Photo: Sina Motallebi, his wife, and Hoder in Covent Garden in May. My hand is in the photo too.