Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Interview 2: Covering the Iranian Blogosphere

Interview with Hamid Tehrani:

Hamid Tehrani is the Persian Editor of Harvard Global Voices. He is the founder of “Sounds Iranian,” a community for researchers on Iranian blogs. He has published widely in various Persian, English, French, and Italian magazines.

For years, I have depended on Global Voices to give me a window into the world of Iranian bloggers. Even though I can speak Farsi, it takes me about one-day to read a page. So I have to thank you for that. That said, I am more interested in your story. Why did you choose to leave Iran?

Thanks for your kind comment on GV.I have left Iran because simply, like millions of Iranians , I would like to live in an open society or in a place where you can have more freedom than Iran. I have done my studies in Political Sciences in Europe (MA) and I have been active in anti racist movements in Europe.

You write on Persian Impediment that:
"Failure of Islamic Republic to control Iranian society can not be considered as a sign of tolerance but its inability to sustain its repressive policies." From your review of the Iranian blogosphere, do you see any evidence of an increase in repression in Iran since Ahmadinejad took office? If yes, how does that manifest itself? If no, are we simply seeing an increase in attention paid to Iran?

Yes. Absolutely. By reading Iranian blogosphere you can see information about jailed worker activists, students, women activists and intellectuals. By reading news sites such as BBC Persian or even Iran based reformists ones you can find out that the situation has become really bad in the country. A recent example is the story about student activists who got jailed and say that they were tortured. American-Iranian scholars such as Haleh Esfandyari or Kian Tajbakhsh are in jail and have no access to lawyers. I believe the same violations happened during Khatami's period too but now it really worse. Nothing comparable.

Ordinary citizens are under pressure about what they wear or so on. I think the key point is that Ahmadinejad has promised to bring back Iran to first years of revolution.

3. I know that Ahmadinejad promised a return to the values of the revolution, but I never got the sense that the current crackdown was what he had in mind. Do Iranian bloggers think that he is directly responsible for the changes? Or is there a sense that other forces are at work?

I think, according to what I have read so far, many believe that there is a conservative or military force behind the repression and Ahmadinejad is one of these people. Some talk about Ayatollah Mesbah, Shariatmedari, Keyhan's editor and so on. Ahmadinejad is another "brick in the wall."

On a different note, many immigrants from Islamic countries have difficulties being accepted into European society. Have you found this to be difficult?

Yes. I think racism is a fact in Europe but it really depends on countries too. Things get worse after 11 September, London and Madrid bombings. Many say that Moslems do not want to be involved in western societies but when westerners reject them, they do not have many options.

What do you miss most about Iran?

What missed? family and friends. Last time that I was in Iran I got really shocked to learn about some of my friends who got addicted to drugs. I remember somebody told me "Thank God I am not get trapped by drugs...I just consume my Opium!!"

Which blogs or websites do you enjoy the most?

There are many! Jomhour, Abthai, Kamangir, View from Iran, Faryade Bi Seda, Iranian Truth, Kosoof, and Forever under construction.

Sites: Global voices, BBC, CNN, Guardian and Huffington Post.


When I was posting the interview, I realized that I wanted more information from Mr. Tehrani, so I asked three more questions. Here are his responses:

1. Can you tell us a little more about your work with anti-racist movements in Europe?

I have been involved in different classic activities such as getting signatures for petitions,organizing conferences,participating in demonstrations and making a cultural bridge.

2. What kind of effect do you think the Iranian blogosphere has on Iranian society? and outside of Iran?

Inside the country, it plays a very important role in informing people,in organizing events such as strikes or demonstrations and helps discussion.I remember a martyrdom seeker who asked several bloggers to share their ideas about martyrdom. These kinds of discussions do not happen in the non virtual world.

For people outside Iran, it is a great dynamic bridge.

3. Who do you think is reading the Iranian and "about Iran" blogs outside of Iran?

Everybody who is interested about Iran can not ignore blogs.From NGOs to governments, from academics to artists. There are blogs for any taste!


Kamangir said...

I have always admired Hamid for all his work. Thanks for this interview.

Anonymous said...

One observation, is the missing element in the society that isn't spoken of, "faith", Regarding the ultimate questions one has about one's life and relationship to the Unknown. If all you can talk about are politics, then you are in danger of being like the guy who comes up to a richly dressed, handsome stranger on his hands and knees searching around on the street, looking for something very very intently. The guy, thinks, "Hey, maybe I should get involved because this guy may benefit me in some way." So he first asks the handsome stranger, "What are you doing out here on the street at night, don't you know its dangerous here?" The handsome stranger looks up and says with perhaps a hint of desperation in his voice, "Im looking for something I lost and I've got to find it!" Well, the other guy, thinks, "What luck, if I help him I am sure to get some kind of recognition or reward for my effort." So he says, "Let me help you!" The other guy says, "IF you want to that's fine with me."
So the guy bends down and says, "So what are we looking for?" The handsome stranger says, "A car key."
They keep on looking along the street gutter first one way and then another. Next on the sidewalk back and forth. After an hour or so, the guy asks, "Well, are you sure you lost it here? And the other answers, "No, I didn't." At this the guy asks, "Well why are we spending time looking here? Where did you lose it?"
"I lost it over there." pointing off into the darkness to the left of the side walk in a front yard. "But, its too dark over there, can't see a think. Thought it would be much easier to search over here under the street light."

There might be some advantage searching for answers in trying to decipher Ahmadinejad motives. After all that is where most of the light of attention is focused. But really, how helpful is it? Perhaps it isn't really a case of looking for something lost, but seeking benefit from the companionship with the well connected, established, validated.

I mean for alot of people talking about the Unknown inside the Self, is like looking in the grass of someone elses' yard in the darkness. There's all kinds of rationally irration fears of trespassing, guard dogs, etc. So I can sympathize with your justifications.

However you won't find the keys.
The keys to the car are real. The car being the engine of society.

Edo River rising.