April 24, 2003

Not about Sina!

A reporter called to follow up on Sina Motallebi’s situation. He had probably picked up my name from the petition and wrote to get my phone number. He said he had just talked to a relative of Sina’s and they had preferred not to comment at this time or take any further action. Their concern was understandable and probably warranted. The reporter was asking if I planned to withdraw the petition based on the same rationale.... (continued)

I didn’t have to think about it for a second. The answer was no. I also elaborated that if I could do more, I would. Now don’t get me wrong, I can empathize with the predicament Sina’s family is in. There have been other precedents where a simple connection to people abroad or efforts by other “undesirables” on their behalf and support has been used against the accused. Accordingly, could the petition or any other fallout from future actions by us be used against Sina? Nobody can say for certain, but it is definitely possible.

So, why not scarp it and sit back, hoping for the best. Why not cross our fingers and leave it up to the judiciary of the Islamic Republic of Iran to do the right thing for Sina and others before him as well as the ones coming after him. The answer rests with that last part. Without a doubt there will be others. Arrest of Sina Motallebi isn’t the first time someone has been arrested for expressing his opinion in Iran, and it certainly won’t be the last.

This is however part of a new offensive with new targets. It is not the political activists or human rights advocates that are being targeted this time. It’s not even the so called “reformers” or those mildly critical of regime’s tactics or approach. This time it is the youth and the ones who have found new ways of expressing their dissatisfaction with the ruling class that are the new enemy. In particular, freedom of expression via the internet is now being targeted.

I have no doubt that if possible, Hossein Derakhshan (better known as Hoder to the web log community) would have been the prime new target and not Sina Motallebi. But Hoder is safely away in Toronto and anything he does or says is beyond their court’s jurisdictions. The target this time was the highest profile “internet personality” of the new generation they could prosecute and Sina was it. The content of his web log or his writing had very little to do with anything.

Speaking of his web log content, his last few posts before being summoned were (in order) about Iranian newscaster’s inability to pronounce names properly, retirement of the “out of this world champion” Michael Jordan, his son’s teething problems and a reprint of an already published statement by Kambiz Kaheh, a film critic arrested on bogus charges of distributing illegal videos. Hardly risky material.

What Sina represents to them however, is far bigger. He is the symbol of all the young, intellectual, internet and technology savvy new generation this regime has failed to suppress. The latest battleground is the cyberspace and thousands of Persian web logs, from the progressive and politically charged ones to teenager’s sexual experimentations or mundane adolescent babblings is the chosen arena it will be fought in.

In this new confrontation there will be more sacrifices inflicted by the other side. As always, we have a choice; distress and holler as loud as we can or remain unruffled. By choosing the latter, would they even think twice before delivering the next blow? I doubt it. By raising our voice and causing as much uproar as we can manage, they may just be forced to do that.

At the end of the day this struggle is not about Sina or Hoder or Hooman or Simin. This is about their and our right to free speech and in this battle, remaining quiet equals defeat.

Posted by Pedram at April 24, 2003 12:14 AM

Can I be nosy and ask personal questions? I presume you are bloging from within Iran. Are you not putting your own freedom on the line by publicly supporting this blogger whilst running your own weblog under your own name? Why was this Iranian blogger arrested and not others?

Posted by: Ryan at April 24, 2003 07:06 AM

Ryan - Thanks for the "nosy" questions and no, I do not mind them at all.

1 - I am Iranian but do not live in Iran. So, I am in no immediate danger, I hope. I also have a large enough profile already with them that anything they may want to do to me, will not be changed by this.

2 - Read the rest of this post (Not about Sina) to understand why I think he was targetted and not others.

Posted by: Pedram M. at April 24, 2003 10:22 AM

I posted a long message about Sina on my blog (link should be on my name), focusing on two things:

1. Signing the petition in the short term.

2. Thinking about technical things we can do to help Iranians in Iran write safely in their blogs, and read safely as well.

Do the Iranians in Iran do anything that you know of to make their missives more anonymous and harder to track?

Posted by: Pierce T. Wetter III at April 24, 2003 03:34 PM
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