Why the Iranian blogfather deserves your support

When I’m tootling about on the blogs of an evening I’m aware of the possibility of embarrassing myself – ie I could fire off a poorly thought out comment that immediately gets jumped on by other commentators.

Or, when I rattle off an Amnesty blog post from the office, it’s always uncomfortable to re-read it when I’m less busy to find that … er, it’s a load of rubbish. Or it’s a pompous statement of the obvious. Or it’s unclear, or it’s not funny where it was meant to be.

But, though I may be a dodgy blogger at times (or always!), I’m never actually looking over my shoulder thinking: “You know what, I could get myself arrested for saying this about Gordon Brown”. (As we always used to hear from our parents back in the 70s: “well at least we live in a free country”. Yeah, free to watch racist television and run down foreigners back in the day, but ok, basically free).

So the UK might have pulled off some pretty diabolical stunts with terrorism legislation and the mistreatment of asylum-seekers recently, but it hasn’t actually gone after bloggers (or has it?: I’m willing to stand corrected).

In Iran, though, it’s a different kettle of pilchards. On the one hand blogging is big – as the BBC this week has been showing. But it’s also risky. The so-called Iranian “blogfather” Hossein (aka “Hoder”) Derakhshan – he’s been blogging since 2001 apparently! – is the latest victim. Derakhshan’s been in secret detention since the beginning of November and has only been able to make four one-minute phone calls to his family since then.

It’s a tangled web actually (no pun intended). Derakhshan’s a Canadian-Iranian dual-national who’s currently vehemently pro-regime. He famously said that President Ahmadinejad’s detractors in the US “don’t know how big this man’s balls are”. (Actually, nor do I but I bet they’re about the testicular average).

But he’s apparently too outspoken for the Iranian authorities – and has had to be silenced. The case is extremely murky. The Times reckon he’s facing accusations of spying for Israel. Amnesty fears it could end up with charges of “insulting religion”, which in Iran can earn you 1-5 years in prison or even a death sentence.

The blogfather might be a bit of a windbag, but (unlike you and me) he’s at real risk for daring to be outspoken online. Send an appeal for him - there’s an email address you can use for appeals here.

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Our blogs are written by Amnesty International staff, volunteers and other interested individuals, to encourage debate around human rights issues. They do not necessarily represent the views of Amnesty International.
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