Where even the mullah posts

Weblogs in Iran – an overview. Part 2

There are more bloggers in Iran than in Germany, and the Internet is booming in Iranian cities like nowhere else in the Arab world. What is the reason? In the first part ("I wanted to puke, burst, explode"), on the basis of Nasrin Alavi’s study, three reasons were cited "We are the [email protected] Revolt against the mullahs – the young Persian weblog scene" three reasons: the Islamic Republic’s draconian press censorship, the end of cautious political reforms since 1997, and the large proportion of under-30s in the population. This time, the focus will be on the importance of women on the Net and on the "cultural invasion" of the west go.

Iran’s women are largely excluded from political power and hidden under headscarves or chadors in everyday life. The webloggers present themselves all the more openly and self-confidently and for the first time virtually take off the veil. Besides all kinds of idiosyncratic defenses of the veil ("veil is seen as a sign of resistance to Western values" or as a way, "to move more freely") is to be read in a blog that if the women did not wear the Tschador any more, "those Korean factories that export millions of meters of black fabric to Iran every year (and nowhere else) will have to declare bankruptcy."

Virtually Unveiled Women

The blogs also discuss the bans on veils in the public service of European countries:

Freedom means being able to vote … in our case men force us to wear it, and elsewhere they force women to take it off.

The rigid Iranian laws on adultery, which threaten women with stoning, and on divorce are also discussed again and again. As one blogger points out, "80 percent of divorce petitions are filed by women", although according to Islamic law there is a risk that the children will be awarded to the man after the divorce is finalized. The most recent commentary in the book deals with the topic "honor of the woman":

Men … Gentlemen, leave the honor of women to themselves. Instead of constantly monitoring our m***n, concentrate on your work instead.

"Cultural Invasion"

On the subject of the veil, which is much invoked by state and spiritual power "Cultural invasion" Alavi becomes particularly clear:

Clearly, the regime’s attempt to insulate Iranians from the ‘cultural invasion’ of the West has failed magnificently.

In various blogs there is a lot of talk about Britney Spears or the "Matrix"-trilogy can be discussed, the songs of the Iranian expelled sanger Googoosh were allowed to be on the hard drives of hundreds of thousands of Iranian computers, at kafaar.com, even Salman Rushdie’s trilogy "Satanic Verses" and many a writer prefers to put his new novel on the Internet rather than submit to state censorship. Abbas Maroufi’s manuscript from "Feridun had three sons", in which the Ministry of Culture wanted to see changed more than 200 places, you can easily download on a website.

Everywhere in the big cities, the amount of satellite bullets is unbelievable; moreover, there are masses of pirated foreign DVDs, CDs, videos and computer games available, because Iran ignores all international copyright laws, according to Alavi "has become a paradise for pirates."

The "cultural invasion" but go even further. Giving each other a gift on the unremarkable Valentine’s Day is seen by many as an expression of protest, since neither Islam nor the national culture knows a Valentine’s Day:

In protest against those in power, people are willing to stray further and further from their own culture, no matter what the cost…

Where the "cultural invasion" is buried, this does not apply to a possible political or even military invasion. It is not uncommon for blogs to express joy over the fall of Saddam Hussein in neighboring Iraq, but warnings about the possible consequences are not absent either. Representative of many others, the entry of an American woman living in Iran sums it up:

A few months ago, it was rare to hear a bad word about Bush and our policy towards Iraq. But that is changing. The Iranians supported Bush wholeheartedly. The pilgrims of Karbala paid among his most enthusiastic supporters. But that’s changing. People here are beginning to doubt U.S. behavior in Iraq and are concerned about Bush’s enthusiasm for war.

Other bloggers emphasize that only the mullahs could benefit from a possible invasion of Iran by American troops.

Although there is no shortage of pro-U.S. and pro-European voices, positive references to Iran’s own history predominate in the formulation of what democracy could look like in Iran. Many bloggers celebrate Mohammad Mossadegh, the head of the country’s last democratic government, without hiding the fact that he was overthrown by the British and Americans in 1953 to bring the Shah to power. You can often read that after Khomeini’s return, the revolution has been called a "revolution" "pro-democracy movement" but which has already been replaced by a form of rule, "which is no more democratic than the monarchy it replaced."

The result reads like this for a blogger:

We sat in front of the TV and watched them hanging and hanging.

Mullahs in danger?

The more blogs there are, the stronger the censorship on the Internet and the repression against the operators of critical sites. Moreover, one should not overestimate the importance of the Internet, since all other mass media – television, radio, newspapers – almost exclusively spread the opinion of those in power. But whether this will be enough to strengthen the mullahs’ power base is questionable. Alavi writes:

No one denies that the regime has some loyal followers: 10 to 15 percent of the voters.

Even among them are webloggers, such as Muhammed Sarshar, literary critic of the reactionary youth magazine "Hareem", with his blog or a mullah blogger presenting his understanding of democracy:

Throughout history the righteous have been in the minority.

Quasi as a reply to it here should be an entry on river.blogsky.com have the last word:

Eventually, everything will fall into place, and that will be when our burgers give them a good smack in the face …

river.blogsky.com is currently offline. The reasons are clear.

Nasrin Alavi: We are the [email protected] Revolt against the mullahs – the young Persian weblog scene. Translated from English by Violeta Topalova and Karin Schuler. Kiepenheuer Witsch, Koln 2005. 224 S., 9,90 Euro