Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Iranian Blogger Hoder is Still Imprisoned

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A year ago, the pioneering Iranian-Canadian blogger Hossein Derakhshan - known online as "Hoder" - was taken into custody in Tehran, accused of being an Israeli spy. Over the years, Hoder had helped spark Iran's vibrant blogging community, and along the way he contributed to the Guardian on a number of occasions (here's his profile page) and visited our old offices in Clerkenwell some time back. Aside from the accusations, not a great deal is known about his detention - not least because he appears to have asked for a media blackout on his situation. This post from Cyrus Farivar gives a little further information gleaned from Hossein's brother Hamed - namely that his parents met him in prison last week, where he said he had been "forced to do squats in cold showers and has been repeatedly beaten". Our own Brian Whitaker has some more detail over at Comment is Free, but I think there are still important questions for the rest of us who aren't necessarily so engaged in this field. As Ethan Zuckerman notes in a very well argued post, Hoder's case is complex. That comes because his politics have shifted over the years until he became a supporter of Ahmedinejad (not a position many people feel comfortable with) and because it was not the first time he had fallen foul of the authorities (his blog was censored numerous times, and in 2005 he was banned from entering the US).

But regardless of his views, the question of free speech remains. Should somebody be imprisoned for blogging, however irritating to the government? And if they are, what can we do about it? Human Rights in Iran has been monitoring his situation, but it remains unclear what might happen.

As Zuckerman says:

Circumstances have changed dramatically in Iran since Hoder went into prison. The protests after the July elections helped cement the view of Iranian authorities that online spaces were dangerous ones when used by activists, an interpretation that may explain Hossein's extended detention, as he's widely acknowledged as one of the first Iranian bloggers and a major promoter of blogging tools in Iran. As such, an online campaign for his release, supported by the blogging community, is unlikely to lead directly to his release. And, as Cyrus points out in a story for PRI's The World, it's unclear how many of his old friends are still willing to support him, given his change in views. It's understandable that those who feel betrayed by his change of heart might not want to press for his release - and that Hoder himself could have felt that the regime would have been more sympathetic to them, given his recent support. But regardless of whether you agree with the politics or not, the simple fact is that nobody should be locked up for something they've written.


Winston said...

good.. I hope he rots in jail