“I would like to vomit, burst, explode”

Not to be defeated: weblogs in iran. Part 1

The 2004 nitle blog census counted more than 64000 weblogs in farsi, the native language of most iranians. This puts the country well ahead of germany, italy and russia in terms of the number of bloggers. The internet "has grown faster in no other country in the middle east since 2000 than in iran", adds a report from "reporters without borders". What is the reason? Nasrin alavi names five reasons in her book, which has been circulating on the net for a long time and has now been published in german "we are the [email protected] Revolt against the mullahs – the young persian weblog scene".

The first reason is the rigid press censorship: iran is regarded as the "the worst prison for journalists in the middle east (reporters without" (reporters without borders – cf. "The roughest prison in the middle east"). It is mainly print journalists who are persecuted, but recently more and more often net journalists as well. Especially in times of crisis, such as the student protests in 2003, iranian blogs are almost overflowing with political rhetoric and have overtaken cabs as the favorite venue for political discussions; alavi goes into detail:

In the last six years, 100 printed publications, including 41 dailies, have been taken out of circulation by the iranian judiciary. In april 2003, the iranian government became the first state power in the world to take direct action against bloggers. Sina motallebi, a journalist who had written a popular weblog, was imprisoned. His arrest was just the beginning.

In october 2004, new laws against cybercrime were passed in the islamic republic "cybercrimes" which provide for prison sentences of up to 14 years, were passed and immediately applied. Amnesty international wrote just a month later:

The arbitrary arrest of some 25 internet journalists and civil society campaigners in recent weeks indicates an alarming rise in human rights abuses in iran.

Since the beginning of this year, the regime has stepped up its attack on the blogosphere and online journalists – almost half of the websites are now heavily filtered, bloggers have been repeatedly arrested. Since then, the number of pseudonyms in blogs has increased dramatically. Nevertheless, according to the iranian students news agency, many iranians "the internet more than other media". Arrests are always followed by online protests, which have long been popular in iran.

Two years ago, when hossein derakhshan, the exiled founder of the iranian blogosphere, encouraged bloggers in iran to send their complaints about censorship and repression to the website of the un world summit on the information society, a lot was made of it. Other bloggers find direct protest too dangerous; like journalist roya sadr, they resort to satirical means and parody the conspiracy theories popular (not only) in iran. Strict censorship has also caused numerous bloggers to go into exile, including.A. The former intelligence officer amir-farshad ebrahimi, who is on goftaniha.Com reveals insider knowledge.

Reformers at the end

The election victories of the so-called reformers around then-president mohammad khatami in 1997 and 2001 did little for large sections of the population. Although 80 percent voted for change at the ballot box, as alavi writes, by 2003 many "in 2003, many iranians had the impression that their president was in office, but not in power. Parliament had degenerated into a place where powerless people complained inconsequentially about everything possible."

Many bloggers are generally disenchanted with elections, according to reports before the last presidential election:

So many election posters everywhere in tehran … I want to vomit and nowhere to find a place for it … I want to puke, burst, explode.

Iranian birth certificates officially state who voted, a missing election stamp is considered a stigma. Nevertheless, in view of the failure of the reformers, individual bloggers have declared that they will no longer vote or petition parliament, but will instead seek a referendum on the foundations of society. The fact that, despite the democratic weblog awakening, the hardliner mahmoud ahmadinejad won the presidential elections should come as no surprise: the alternative defeated hashemi rafsanjani and stood for decades of terror and corruption. One entry sums up the election dilemma:

I only wished that the circumstances were different and that i didn’t have to make a choice between bad and horrible.

Young population

Seven out of ten iranians are younger than 30. In this context, alavi points out a gentle contradiction:

Iran’s young generation has been completely transformed by the islamic republic’s education policy, thanks to free education for everyone and the state’s campaign against illiteracy. Paradoxically, this has produced a well-educated, politically-minded youth who can vote at the age of 16.

Although iran has nine percent of the world’s oil and 15 percent of the world’s natural gas, according to official figures, 15 percent of the population lives below the poverty line, including many under 30, as unemployment is widespread among them. Few young people, however, are recruited by the state to join the fanatical hezbollah or basij militias. On the contrary, these paramilitary hit squads seem to be particularly hated, as one comment makes vividly clear:

I shit on the entire hezbollah … And to your distorted islam and its ideology, which you use to degrade human beings through torture.

More sympathy, on the other hand, seems to be given to what the regime calls only "the gross satan" the usa. A posting draws attention to this:

It is strange that after decades of religious education and indoctrination, iran’s youth is completely apathetic towards religion. However, they show the most interest in the ‘american way’ socially and culturally in the entire islamic world.

It is not surprising, then, that in july 1999 there was the worst student unrest since the beginning of the revolution, and since then there have been repeated expressions of discontent from the universities. Incidentally, more than half of all students in the country are women.

In the second part: "virtually unveiled women" and the "cultural invasion".

Nasrin alavi: we are the [email protected] Revolt against the mullahs – the young persian weblog scene. Translated from english by violeta topalova and karin schuler. Kiepenheuer witsch, koln 2005. 224 s., 9,90 euro

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