Peers v. Commons

‘Blogging’ Stirs Controversy in Iran,” VOA News, http://english.chosun.com/w21data/html/news/200501/200501170008.html, 17 January 2005.

Ayatollah revives the death fatwa on Salman Rushdie,” by Philip Webster, Ben Hoyle and Ramita Navai, The Times, http://www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,2-1448279,00.html, 20 January 2005 (from Fark).

Iran is a lot like Britain a century ago. An out of touch elite controls one body of council (The House of Lords / The Guardian Council) while everyone else wants to live their lives.

A fatwa against the author Salman Rushdie was reaffirmed by Iran’s spiritual leader last night in a message to Muslim pilgrims.

The Foreign Office said: “The key thing from our point of view is that the Iranian Government formally withdrew their support for the fatwa on Salman Rushdie in 1998 which is when Britain and Iran formally upgraded their relationship to the level of ambassador.” A senior official said: “The original fatwa was issued by Ayatollah Khomeini shortly before he died. It can only be rescinded by the man who issued it or a higher authority so in practice it will hold indefinitely.

“Almost every time that the current supreme leader, Ayatollah Khamenei, gives a sermon he mentions Salman Rushdie in these terms and denounces him as a man who has insulted the name of the Prophet and who can therefore be killed. It’s just the standard rhetoric.

Kill Rushdie again? Oh Grandpa…

Meanwhile, in the realit-based community

A battle is raging within Iran’s political leadership over a form of Internet communication known as a blog, a “weblog” that combines a publicly accessible online personal diary and a guide to other links on the World Wide Web. Some elements of the Iranian government have been supportive of the free and rapid development of blogging in Iran, while hard-liners in the Judiciary are trying to figure out how to control it.

Hossein Derakhshan, 30, is an Iranian who emigrated to Canada four-years ago. In 2002, he developed a simple way for people to use Persian language on the Internet, which led to the creation of an independent service in Tehran called Persianblog.com.

“After few months, Persianblog.com launched its service and started with a fully Persian interface, in very simple language, to help Iranian people to start blogging. And it was a turning point for the Iranian blogosphere because, thanks to the ease of service and the easy interface of Persianblog.com, many, many people who were not very familiar with technical issues on the Net were able to start blogging.”

Persianblog.com estimates there are now as many as 70,000 active Persian language blogs, both inside and outside Iran. These sites had basically been allowed to operate freely, until Iran’s Judiciary began an Internet crackdown several-months ago.

The apparent targets, according to Mr. Derakhshan, are blogs and websites with political content. But he says most of the Persian language blogs did not start out focusing on political issues.

A lot of them are just tools to facilitate dating, which is very important now in Iran, because there are not official dating services, or any official easy way for young people to socialize and to find new friends, new dates, and stuff like that,” he noted.

Mr. Derakhshan says the Judiciary’s attempt to block access to several of the main blogging services used by Iranians, such as Persianblogger.com, blogspot.com and blogger.com, means that many of the existing blogs are turning political, even when they did not start out that way.

The Iranian Judiciary sounds a lot like Ashcroft’s Justice Department. Authoritarian? Yup. Way more strict in their religion than almost anyone else? Yup. Nightmarish goons like Saddam or Kim? Not by a long shot.

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