Thursday, June 07, 2007

Blogging in Iran is censored

Bloggers in Iran are facing a crackdown. The government now requires all bloggers to register with the government. Unregistered blogs are blocked. Not only that but search engines are filtered so that access to many blogs and other web sites is denied.

Blogging has become an important vehicle for voicing dissent as well as establishing online communities. This is as true in the Middle East as it is in the United States. According the article below, there are one million known blogs in Iran alone. Even the right-wing ruler, President Ahmadinejad, has a blog available in Farsi, English, French and Arabic.

This from today’s Guardian:
Want to start a blog in Iran? Then you'll have to register it with the government - which has recently begun to require that all bloggers register at, a site established by the ministry of culture of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's government.

All you need do is give your personal information, including your blog's username and password - otherwise it will be filtered and blocked so that nobody in Iran, and perhaps outside too, will be able to access it. This has led to an outcry among many Iranian bloggers who consider the net an independent and free forum for expression.

You might think that's only going to inconvenience a few people - but you'd be wrong: Iran has nearly a million bloggers, around 10% of whom are active, according to Mehdi Boutorabi, manager of the Persianblog free blog hosting service.

His company, the first such service founded in Iran, now hosts more than 780,000 Persian blogs; and the blog search engine Technorati now lists Farsi, Iran's native language, among the top 10 languages used online.

And not everyone is going along. Parastoo Dokouhaki, a renowned blogger who writes on womens' rights, has put a banner on her blog at which reads: "I will not register my site!" (It's been made available for others to copy).

Consequently, her blog is filtered in Iran. Many bloggers who have fallen foul of the government clampdowns have subsequently put the same banner in their web pages.

But censorship isn't just for blogs. Most of Iran's reformist newspapers have been shut down, rooftop satellite dishes are banned, books are censored and relationships between boys and girls are limited. Yet blogs also play a major - even growing - role in modern Iranian society. This is why almost all the leading candidates for Iran's last presidential election ran their own blogs.

Blogging's influence in Iran is undeniable. Recently, when Seyed Reza Shokrollahi found that his friend Yaghoub Yadali, an Iranian writer, had been held illegally in jail for 40 days, he blogged it (at; he got 5,000 hits. The next day the link had been spread through the Iranian blogosphere and into newspapers' headlines. Finally, the government was forced to release him.

Blogging in Iran is not confined to particular groups. Even clergymen and hardliners who once viewed it as an "opposition" activity today have blogs of their own - along with gays and lesbians, who have their own communities online.

"In Iran there is no place to talk about your homosexuality except in your blog. Now I have hundreds of Iranian gay friends who are bloggers. When I read about their feelings in their blogs I'm healed that I'm not alone in the country," says one Iranian gay blogger writing at

And blogs also give a space for dissent - as happened when the British sailors were taken captive earlier this year. "Fifteen British sailors were captured, so what? Then sanctions are increased, Iran Industrial Ministry prohibited, domestic banks' relations with foreigners ceased, we were condemned in UN and the next vessel came to the Persian Gulf again in result of that," wrote Omid Valinasab, an Iranian blogger at, denouncing the government for the detainment.

But the biggest problem most Iranian bloggers face is filtering. Using a search engine in Iran usually means being confronted again and again with a screen saying: "Dear customer, access to this site is forbidden."
You can read the entire article here.

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