Last year's unprecedented
election protests in Iran
, would never have been possible if it hadn't been for the pioneering efforts of their country's "Blogfather," (Metafilter's own) Hossein "hoder"
literally founded the Persian blogging movement in 2001 ("Weblogistan
") that gave Iranians a way to speak out about their government on the internet and eventually would provide a global voice to the protesters. But for the last 600 days, Hoder has been imprisoned
, interrogated and tortured by the Iranian government, ostensibly on charges he was spying for Israel
. In reality his arrest was probably retaliation for "remarks he allegedly made on his blog about a key Shiite cleric and the third infallible Imam of Shiism."
Yesterday, he had
his first trial
. But his plight is not unique
In November, 2001, a young Canadian-based Persian journalist named Hossein Derakhshan created the first bilingual blog about Iran, "Sardabir: khodam," or "Editor: Myself," which encouraged Iranians to speak freely online, giving them a guide to creating a simple blog in ten minutes. He then singlehandedly designed software which allowed Iranians to blog in their native Farsi, without resorting to transliteration in the Roman alphabet. By 2005, his pioneering efforts had sparked a genuine movement: more than 100,000 Persian bloggers, self-nicknamed "Weblogistan", were using the internet to circumvent their country's censorship efforts. Several Persian writers, journalists and politicians became bloggers, and the movement routinely published photos and news items before the government's official, filtered news media could do so
. It was this ever-expanding group of tens of thousands
of Persians, who had embraced
blogging, texting, Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube, that helped last June's protesters get their message to the outside world.
Hoder was a loud critic of both the Iranian regime and the Bush administration, although in recent years he had become more moderate with regard to Ahmadinejad, and more harshly critical of Israel. Between 2001 and 2008, he became a blogger correspondent for the Washington Post's Global Section
, The Guardian
and the Huffington Post
. In 2003 he founded Stop Censoring Us
(which no longer exists.) In 2004, he led protests online
when the Iranian government increased
their censorship of blogs and news sites
. His blog
(which has also expired) was then filtered by the Iranian government. In 2005, he was detained and forced to sign an apology over his blog posts before being allowed to leave Iran. He had even traveled to Israel as a peace activist.
In November 2008, he again traveled to Iran and was arrested
. The HRA reports that he has been tortured
Video Q&A with Hoder, before he returned to Iran: 1
. All from his YouTube Channel
"The evidence is scant but, as Newsweek reported in December, he is believed to be the "arrested spy" who is providing information being used by government prosecutors in court to concoct a conspiracy theory where outside forces are using antigovernment demonstrators as pawns to destroy Iran. Some think he is being coerced into helping authorities. Others speculate he has changed his political stripes and is now a willing supporter of the Iranian regime's efforts to crack down on its opponents.
But at this point, no one really seems to know."
From today's New York Times
Cyrus Farivar, an Iranian-American journalist and blogger, pointed out that the start of Mr. Derakhshan’s trial was also reported on the Web site of an Iranian human rights group. Mr. Farivar added:
Iranian Political Prisoners
"Very little new information has been released beyond this fact, although I managed to get this quote via email from an source close to Derakhshan’s family:
“One trial session was held and although no family members were allowed in, but the family remains optimistic that no serious issues exist in his case. Plus, considering the fact that he has already served a long time in prison, most of which has been in solitary confinement, the family doesn’t expect a longer jail sentence. There are more court sessions to be held before the final verdict is out.”
Unfortunately, Hoder's situation is not unique. Amnesty International lists a number of Iranians who were jailed for dissent in 2009
. The Iranian political prisoners who aren't lucky enough to be summarily executed are typically subjected to torture, rape, beatings, forced labor, starvation diets and politically-motivated trials based on unfounded evidence.
. The Iranian Political Prisoners Association has more
On the 12th of June, (one year after the election protests,) rallies were held in 87 countries around the world, to raise awareness.
See photos and videos, here