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The Blogfather of Iran

June 28, 2009

Hossein-Hoder-Derakhshan

“Iranian weblogs are like bridges,” Derkhshan said, “linking men and women, young and old, politicians and people, Iranians and the world.”

Found in Alternet, 2005

Hossein “Hoder” Derakhshan, the imprisoned Canadian-Iranian “Blogfather,” is the pioneering journalist responsible for creating a phenomenal blogging and social media proliferation in Iran and amongst Persians worldwide.

Since microblogging has emerged to be so important to the opposition support in Iran, I wanted recognize Derakshan. The ongoing Twitter revolution has dramatically demonstrated how a seemingly inane technology can be used to communicate and mobilize a social force and to direct the world’s attention toward a cause. The preeminence of this tradition amongst Iranians can be credited largely to Derakhshan.

When he lived in Toronto in 2000, Derakhshan created  the “Editor: Myself,” blog initially using Unicode and then subsequently moving it to Blogger. He created a step-by-step guide on how to create blogs and to publish them in Farsi. As a result of his direction, Iran has become a powerhouse blogging nation with writers of all political stripes and stations, from dissidents to conservatives writing. This has provided an opportunity for the world to glimpse into Iran’s culture beyond the official press.

Derakshan is himself an established journalist, having written for the Washington Post, The Guardian, Iranian reformist papers Asr-e Azadegan and Hayat-e No. He also spoke at Wikimania in Frankfurt in 2005 about the use of wikis and blogs promote reform and build democracy.

He has stirred controversy in both the US and Iran,  calling for reform and   criticizing the regime. At other times however, he has praised Ahmadinejad, criticized the US, and stated that he would not hesitate to fight for Iran if the US ever attacked.

Derakhshan made a widely publicized  trip to Israel in 2006 stating his intentino to humanize of image of each countries’ people to the populations of the other. Unfortunately, traveling to Israel is illegal under Iranian law, and though he had used his Canadian passport, he was arrested without charge in Tehran in 2008. He was eventually charged with spying for Israel; he could face the death penalty.

Journalist and blogger groups have petitioned for Derakhshan’s release, and I encourage Canadians to bring this case to their MPs’ attention and to visit the dedicated “Free Hoder” site. After journalist Zahra Kazemi’s brutal death in Iranian custody, neglecting to pursue freedom for other Canadian/Iranian journalists is not an option.

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