Talk Islam and City of Brass seem to have been the first to report on Iranian blogfather Hossein Derakshan’s arrest in Tehran last week, but the A-list bloggers are now awakening to the story, as are some of the journalist bloggers, which bodes well. There’s a great short piece in the IHT about Derakshan, also known as Hoder (amalgam of his first/last names), that provides more detail on Derakshan’s views – excerpt:
Derakhshan also favored a nuclear-armed Iran. “We need it as a
deterrent,” he argued, not against Israel, but against the United
States, which organized a coup in Iran in 1953 and which still
maintained a strong military presence in the region. (But he opposed,
on environmental grounds, Iran developing nuclear power plants.) If war
were to break out between Iran and the United Statse, he said, he would
fly home to fight for his country.
Derakhshan had first visited Israel the previous year and had been
invited back to address a conference on “Reform and Resistance in the
Middle East” at Ben-Gurion University. For Iran, he favored reform, not
resistance: “The system is democratic enough to permit change through
elections. We can gradually change Iran. We are already doing it.”
It is not clear why Derakhshan flew home this time, despite being
warned in the past that he might be arrested for his blogs. However,
those blogs have in the past year turned sharply pro-Iranian government
In the interview in Jerusalem two years ago, he said Ahmadinejad did
not have the intellect to convince people who can think. “He’s street
smart and has good social communication skills. But he can’t respond to
sophisticated questions,” he said.
But in a blog posted two months ago, he wrote: “Ahmadinejad’s
brilliant strategy of dismissing Israel and smiling to the U.S. has
divided the U.S. at all levels and that’s a big achievement compared to
(former President Mohammed) Khatami’s weak and failed U.S. strategy
that led to Iran being part of the ‘axis of evil.’ Now the same Bush
administration has officially opened the diplomatic line. Please get
over Ahmadinejad’s scruffy look, prayers, and plain language and see
An Iranian Web site reportedly close to that country’s intelligence
community, Jahan News, claimed that Derakhshan had admitted during
initial questioning to spying for Israel but said that his confession
included several “intricate points.”
I am greatly disturbed by the tidbit about him having confessed – which strongly suggests he’s been abused and possibly tortured. Of course for a regime that engages in torture, confessions for any crime come quite easily – which is why Obama’s pledge to stop all torture is so important in regaining our American moral authority, which would be very useful in applying pressure on Iran right now.
Make no mistake – Hoder’s life is in serious danger. Iran just executed a businessman on similar charges of spying.
I’m not particularly keen to judge another man’s faith, so I pass no judgement on Michael Jackson’s conversion to Islam. However, I will note that Islam is big enough to contain me and Jackson within itself.
Check out the discussion about Jackson’s conversion at Talk Islam.
UPDATE (2/13/09): Jackson’s lawyer denies it.
Celebrated blogger Hossein Derakshan is literally the godfather of the Iranian blogsphere. Iran is one of those countries where speaking out requires courage, and where speech is anything but free. He has been living in Canada recently, but returned to Iran just a few weeks ago – and now has been arrested, rather ironically, on charges of spying for Israel:
Travelling on a Canadian passport, he made a highly publicised trip to Israel
in 2006 on a mission to show his “20,000 daily Iranian readers what Israel
really looks like and how people live there”. He also wanted to “humanise”
Iranians for Israelis.
Mr Derakhshan was acutely aware that his efforts to foster understanding
between the two countries that are bitter enemies could jeopardise any
return to Iran. … Commentators in Israel, however, noted Mr Derakhshan recently had become
“vehemently anti-Israel in his blog”.
The 33-year-old techno-wizard has had a controversial and often turbulent
career. Bitterly disillusioned with the Iranian reformist leaders that he
once championed, he recently became a grudging admirer of Iran’s hardline
President, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. … Mr Derakhshan has defended Iran’s right to nuclear weapons for defensive
purposes, and announced that he would return to defend his homeland if
America ever attacked. “I can’t let myself to sit down for a moment and
watch make a Baghdad out of Tehran,” he wrote.
Yet Iran’s thin-skinned regime apparently remained deeply suspicious.
According to Jahan News, a conservative website reputedly close to Tehran’s
intelligence community, Mr Derakhshan is under interrogation and during
initial questioning “admitted” to spying for Israel — a grave offence if
charges are pressed. The report, citing “credible sources”, claimed that Mr
Derakhshan’s alleged confession included several “intricate points”.
Derakshan’s views, as the article describes, are complex and informed as much by his genuine nationalism and pride in his country as they are in his principles and ideals. Reading his English-language weblog also shows that he’s passionate about what he believes, about right and wrong, and shares the same basic values as we do when it comes to freedom and justice. I don’t know what we in the blogsphere can do to try and help him, apart from spreading the word as widely as we can. So please do.
I am pleased to announce the launch of Planet Islam, an aggregator of posts from blogs from around the Islamsphere, including muslim blogs as well as non-muslim ones that post on issues related to Islam and muslims. Planet Islam is a sub-project of Talk Islam, where those same bloggers meet and share links and discuss the issues (such as, is Ayman Al Zawahiri a racist?). These two sites really let you take the pulse of the muslim blogsphere in real-time and are well-worth bookmarking – go check them out!