Net censorship in Iran: myth or reality?
December 9, 2003 12:59 PM   Subscribe

Net censorship in Iran: myth or reality? Over hundred Iranians have the answer on the, official blog of the World Summit on the Information Society. Would this be enough to embarass the big Iranian delegate in Geneva in front of the world--and the press?
posted by hoder (22 comments total)
Umm, big issue here, folks. State sponsored censorship. Freedom of speech. Shouldn't there be at least an agreement that it should be condemned?

Why no comments? Nobody wants to think about it? Or is it because it can't be blamed on George Bush or Halliburton?

(flame away, but the silence in this thread is telling)
posted by swerdloff at 3:07 PM on December 9, 2003

Swerdloff- I had the exact same thoughts, but you beat me to it. I suppose few MeFites want to talk/ponder/protest about Iran because there's no way to spin the oppression there into something that could conceivably be the fault of the U.S. or turned into a cudgel against Bush. Oppression and the crushing of dissent are apparently only worth mentioning if they can be blamed on Ashcroft.

Meanwhile, the brave and intrepid Hoder (who posted this thread) needs campaign donations for his in absentia run for the Iranian parliament! Woooo! Send him money! Hoder in '04!

Alas, he can't leave Canada to actually campaign within Iran, since there's a decent possibility the Republic would have him killed.
posted by Asparagirl at 5:02 PM on December 9, 2003

It's really quite pathetic to me that people who claim to be "liberals" stay silent when this sort of thing comes up.

What's sadder still is that I'm creative enough to come up with ways to make this a cudgel against Bush, and they're not.

Like - that Bush didn't support the student uprising when he had the chance. Like that Bush isn't speaking out more frequently against this awful regime. That we're in Iraq, a tin-pot-dictatorship instead of Iran whose people have been begging to throw off the Mullocracy. Like that Bush didn't go into Iran because Iraq has more oil (does it? I don't know)

Hell, even the easy pot shots like Bush is taking away our free speech at home why should we give a damn about Iran would be preferable to the stunning silence of the MeFites, so bold in their attacks on an administration that has never done a single one of them harm, but so craven in the face of Mullahs who would rather see them dead than alive.

Sometimes I wonder why I come here. Then I remember. Friday Flash Fun. And people like Hoder and Asparagirl.

Of course, I'm just screaming into the wilderness here, since all you brave MeFites don't have a damn thing to say. It's gotten pretty disgusting around here. If you can't bash bush it's not worth doing, apparently. Sick sick sick.

Iran has a large and growing blog presence (thanks to Hoder) and I'm personally learning a lot about Iran that way. I've seen photos, for cripes sake, of people at a picnic in Iran. Does anyone have any idea how revolutionary that is?

Well, obviously the Mullahs do, since they're trying to shut everything down and censor it.

I wonder if MeFi is available in Iran. I wonder why no one here seems to care.
posted by swerdloff at 6:02 PM on December 9, 2003

I wonder if MeFi is available in Iran

Good question. We already know that the mullahs censor a huge number of blogs, the websites of opposition groups (some ex-pat, some not), and even the good ole Google cache. They've even thrown Iranian bloggers in jail for saying fairly innocuous things.

But for MeFi to make their shitlist, it probably would have to be similarly agitating for democracy in Iran, or highlighting abuses of the theocracy, or denouncing the mass murders of political dissidents, or talking about the ongoing student protests (in the hundreds of thousands) or the simulataneous protests in the US (I was at the one in NYC in front of the UN in July), or mentioning the explosive and positive nature of the Internet as a pro-democracy tool among Iranian dissidents, or some such.

In other words, MeFi likely ain't censored in Iran.

Salutations to all those trapped in Tehran (like my friend Pejman's family, who he hasn't been able to see in years, or my college roommate Sara's family) who may be reading this.
posted by Asparagirl at 7:36 PM on December 9, 2003

Good point.

Wouldn't expect MeFites to actually give a damn about an oppressed people, unless they're Palestinians or Iraqis. Silly me.

(Prove me wrong, if you can...)
posted by swerdloff at 7:40 PM on December 9, 2003

swerdloff, are you bush's advance man now? telling us who and where we should look at any given moment? "Hey look, oppression!" (reminds me of the leadup to Iraq, and the failures in Afghanistan)

There are many cases of oppression in the world. Why aren't you paying attention to the "killings, rape and the burning and looting of entire villages" in Sudan, huh? or any of the many other places on earth where horrible shit goes on?...Don't tell us what to pay attention to, and then insult us if we don't, sweetie. Go feel superior elsewhere while you accuse us of the same thing.
posted by amberglow at 7:57 PM on December 9, 2003

What a load of bullshit.
Nice masturbatory rant there, swerd. The reason most mefi's are more pissed about Iraq/Pal is because it's in our name: our country, our bullets, our kids, our responsibility. Does it suck that the Iranian people are being oppressed? Hell yes. Have we done something that we should feel responsible for, something to directly make their lives worse? No.

It's amazing how easily you win arguments with yourself, isn't it?
posted by Espoo2 at 8:04 PM on December 9, 2003


Palestine is in your name?

You're Israeli?

Wow. I had no idea. Or is it that Sharon dictates US policy? Or that the US sells weapons (the same weapons sold to Egypt and Jordan) to Israel?

Amberglow, save your breath. You only came here once you saw a link over in the Iraq item. You can be righteously indignant all you want, but your actions spoke louder than your words.

Have we done anything to make the Iranians lives worse... well, there was the Shah. And there was Carter backing down in the face of the student revolt. And there was the Iran Contra thing where we helped the Iranian Government obtain weapons which were then used in a war against Saddam, and likely (although I'm not an Iran scholar and would have to turn to Hoder for followup...?) against Iranians.

So, to answer your question, Espoo2, yes, we _have_ done things to the Iranians. But don't let the facts get in the way of your world view.

"There are many cases of oppression in the world." - that's true, AG, but you miss the point - they weren't brought up here and then ignored by the "righteous."
posted by swerdloff at 8:40 PM on December 9, 2003

Amberglow, save your breath. You only came here once you saw a link over in the Iraq item. You can be righteously indignant all you want, but your actions spoke louder than your words.
Isn't that what you wanted, hon? Just doing my part. Why don't you post about this thread in some others, or was it just to insult and belittle? There's a charity thread, and Rwanda (hmm...Rwanda), and a flash game and a Munch post ahead, spread the joy. Why just rant in the Iraq thread?
posted by amberglow at 8:46 PM on December 9, 2003

Because the point was that everyone likes to carp about Iraq because it's a good way to snipe at Bush. Note the very limited posts in the Rwanda item. The things that make a splash here are Friday Flash Fun and recapitulating lame arguments about why Bush is Hitler, Ashcroft is Satan, and Sharon rules them both. With the one ring. It's stupid.


That's the whole point.
posted by swerdloff at 8:51 PM on December 9, 2003

Even Newt Gingrich is carping about Iraq--what's your point? That we shouldn't pay attention to how our money's being spent? Or where over a hundred thousand of our soldiers are at this very minute? What do you expect? Ok, you're right--censorship in Iran is horrible, just horrible--and??? Worse than in China? or a million other places on Earth?
posted by amberglow at 9:03 PM on December 9, 2003


Palestine is in your name?

Yes. The U.S. government gives the Israeli military billions of dollars a year in aid. The Israeli dominance of the occupied territories is funded in part by my tax dollars.
posted by Mars Saxman at 9:11 PM on December 9, 2003

Thanks for posting this, hoder. For parties who are interested, there are more updates on hoder's excellent blog.

I liked this entry.
It's time for educated Iranians men and women to start shaping the public opinions of Western people and politicians by creating debates themselves, and not leaving it to not-necessarily knowledgeable Western journalists. The big heads in the Western press might resist it for a while, but not very long. Aren't we now strong enough not to be ignored?
posted by madamjujujive at 10:03 PM on December 9, 2003

I think there aren't a lot of comments here because there isn't much to say. It's fucked up that people in Iran are being censored by gov't officials, I think both the "right" and "left" members of mefi can agree. You read about stuff like Iran and China censoring the net and keeping big sections of it offline, but I'm sitting here in America feeling totally powerless to help anyone.

What can anyone do to stop it?
posted by mathowie at 10:21 PM on December 9, 2003

[this is good], thanks hoder.

Does being asleep when the link was posted count as an excuse not to comment? ;)

I think there aren't a lot of comments here because there isn't much to say. It's fucked up that people in Iran are being censored by gov't officials, I think both the "right" and "left" members of mefi can agree.

Agreed. Mathowie :- these hypertext Amnesty letters covering the full geographical range may be a good place to start.
posted by plep at 11:21 PM on December 9, 2003

Matt: What can we do?

I know how vulnerable are the Iranian officials when it comes to Western press. It makes them divided on important issues, and in the end will affect their decision.

They badly need Europe as a business partner, if nothing else, and they've done everything to keep the relationship. For example even the hardliners suspended the horrible law of "stoning" a while ago, because EU asked them.

So if we can only spread the word out and get some press, especially in Europe on it, the EU and other countries can step up the pressure and insist on the freedom of information during their negotiations.

So please link to these kind of news, talk about them in your blogs, or contact your journalist friends. Blogosphere has once helped an Iranian blogger, Sina Motallebi, released from the prison, and it can be effective again. Silence is what dictators love the most.
posted by hoder at 12:10 AM on December 10, 2003

Iran Uncovered: Inside the Hidden Revolution

I recently watched this documenatry which was broadcast on British television. What I saw truly shocked me, the repression and fear engendered in students not much younger than myself was appalling. I must say I did admire their tremendous bravery in speaking out and demonstrating knowing the severe ramifications of such actions. One interview in particular struck me, in it a student appealed to europe and north america to bring some diplomatic pressure to bare upon the Iranian regime in order to effect change, possibly even democracy. The hypocrisy displayed by the west is almost laughable, we are prepared to trade with such countries and then decry the lack of human rights afforded to the population, a modicum of consistency is required.
posted by johnnyboy at 2:47 AM on December 10, 2003

What can anyone do to stop it?

I believe you do have this thing called a blog, yes? :-) Well, use it! Make your voice known--and use it to raise the visibility of this issue. Link to articles about the ongoing protests, or to the websites of opposition groups. Put photos of any protest you attend on your blog. Put "Reading Lolita in Tehran" or "Not Without My Daughter" on your blog's booklist. Spreading information--simply informing people of what's going on--is a great start, seriously. If mere information about the mullahs and the regime's behavior weren't so dangerous, they wouldn't be going through all this work to censor it in the first place.

And, since you asked, there are actually two ways I can think of that *lefty* folks, in particular, can help out:

1) Stick it to Bush and any other politician who wants to play kissy-face with the mullahs in exchange for vague promises to consider stopping their nuclear program, or in exchange for amorphous help in fighting the war on terror. Those mullahs *are* the terror, at least against their own people, and certainly in their funding of other groups like Hizballah. (The protest I went to in July featured chants of "down with Hizballah!") I understand the policy of "one at a time" that Bush & Co. seem to want to practice with regards to terrorist regimes (e.g. recent, stepped up, but long-overdue inquiries into Saudi Arabia). But anything we do to lend legitimacy to the mullahs is both hypocritical (vis-a-vis supporting democratic movements in the Middle East) and seriously not in our best interests (vis-a-vis an Iran with nukes). Lefty folks (and candidates) in particular need to nail Bush to the wall on this one, because he sure ain't listening to all the whining the right has been doing over this (or similar whining over Bush's ties to Saudi Arabia). I'm a righty, but given a choice between Bush in a second term and a free (or free-er) Middle East, including both Iraq and Iran, I'd definitely pick the latter.

2) Lefty folks could make an effort to devote even a fraction of much coverage to the massive anti-theocracy/pro-American (!) protests in Iran (and in the ex-pat community) as they do to the ongoing low-level pro-theocracy/anti-American protests in Iraq. The Iraq comparison keeps coming up and is far more relevant than, say, Rwanada, because the common issue here isn't "countries that are bad to their people"--that list would be rilly big. The common thread here is radical militant Islamic fundamentalism, our actual enemy in the war on terror, which found both funding and bases in Iraq from Saddam (and possibly WMD's), and which forms the entire basis of Iran's government. And yeah, they're next door to each other, and the mullahs are supposedly giving sanctuary to various Iraqi bad guys who snuck out during the war.
posted by Asparagirl at 10:51 AM on December 10, 2003

One more book recommendation: if you or a friend like graphic novels (which are bound collections of comic books), there's "Persepolis : The Story of a Childhood", which has been called the Iranian version of Art Spiegelman's "Maus".
posted by Asparagirl at 10:57 AM on December 10, 2003

Nobel winner blasts rights abuses
posted by homunculus at 11:01 AM on December 10, 2003

Asparagirl :- That book is excellent (and incidentally, I found a copy with links to the Socialist Alliance :) ).

Another way lefty types can help (and I consider myself to be one such) is to join an organisation such as Amnesty International, which campaigns for human rights in all countries, including Iran. Leftwing and liberal concepts such as social justice are universal, not limited to one people or culture.
posted by plep at 10:13 AM on December 11, 2003

The BBC has noticed: Iranian bloggers rally against censorship
posted by homunculus at 2:10 PM on December 11, 2003

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