An article from
Editorials without Editors
How Weblogs are changing the Iranian Youth Community in the Web
How would it be if the young people in a society are prohibited from criticizing their social norms? How would it be if those young people make up 60 per-cent of that society? Disaster, you would say. In Iran today, that exactly is the situation. Not only the youth, but any voice of criticism is silenced, be it by imprisoning the critics, banning the books, or closing the newspapers that dare say anything against the supposed status quo.
Well, the situation sounds, and is in many cases, very grim. The good news is, there is a medium of criticism that cannot be banned or closed, and the youth of Iran today are using that medium in the optimum. Internet, or its popular face, the World Wide Web, is the medium in question. Not only the email, the online news portals, or entertainment websites, but its individual side, one that lets a person write his or her own thoughts without needing permission from anyone, not even a newspaper editor. Web-logging, blogging as it is popularly known has shown a serious presence, particularly among the internet savvy Iranian youth.
Web-logs were first created by the more technically advance computer users. By making a template that would allow the user to simply write and post messages without any need for designing web pages, these users chronicled their daily adventures on the still infant World Wide Web. The trend was soon adapted by those who were interested in the everyday proceedings of the world: news, gossip, and the all important self-pity and whining! At this time, blogging was an almost exclusive English language matter, much like the rest of the internet. Some Spanish and French bloggers did exist, but certainly not anyone whose language did not use the Latin alphabet. This was to change soon.
It all started when an article appeared in a popular Iranian news site, written by a twenty something former Iranian journalist, a refugee of the shut-down reformist newspapers in Iran, who lived in Canada. He had discovered the format of blogging, and manipulated the latest common operating system to write blogs in Persian. In a few simple paragraphs, he explained what web-logs are, and how he had managed to created a template that allowed one to use the Unicode system to write Persian. He was perhaps hoping that a few Iranians would pick up the lead and make a presence in the world of web-logging. Well, he was right about “some” picking up the lead, but not about how many. In less than two months, more than 200 Iranian blogs were created on the internet! That was November of 2001. Now, a year and four months later, than number is closer to 1,500!
Other than sheer quantity, the most important aspect of this sudden phenomenon is the variance of subjects into which these blogs have dedicated themselves. One of the earliest popular blogs (started about two weeks after “the article”) was written by a girl in her early twenties. She wrote openly about her relationships, about the society she lived in, about her likes and dislikes, and without being provocative or perverse, displayed herself as she really was: a normal, liberal girl, like most of her peers around the world, living in a society in which conservatism was forced, not desired. Soon, other blogs with a feminist, but very realistic, agenda arrived on the scene. When a formal request to found an organisation dedicated to relaying news about women right violations was denied by the Ministry of Interior, the founders, many of whom bloggers, created a completely web-based organisation. It started collecting and publishing daily news about the situation of women in Iran, and it holds meetings and discussion boards in Tehran and other cities.
Politics, music, humour, history, language, sports, films, everything you can think of, has at least one weblog dedicated to it. People write news about daily political developments, news that could cause a reformer newspaper to be shut down immediately by the conservatives in the government. They exchange gossip, give news of not-so-secret underground music concerts, arrange meetings, and attract popular attention towards different issues. Blogs also help many find good friends, those with similar interest who would not have known about each other even when they lived in the same cities. At least one popular web based magazine, talking about social issues, literature and many other things, has been born of friendships created by the blogging world.
The rise of blogging has also attracted some other users, ones that would not usually be classified as following the latest technological trends. Among these are established or semi-established authors who have had a hard time publishing their stories by the traditional means, due to the publishing obstacles in Iran or other problems. Many former journalists, whose newspapers and magazines were closed by the government, now find weblogs as the best means of taking their message to the public. Even those active in journalism business in Iran use blogs to give daily updates on the news of their publications. In short, everyone who feels they have something to say, in whatever field, has been taking to the web and uses blogs to shout out what cannot be expressed in the current environment of Iran. I am certain that when the history of Iran in the first decade of the 21st century is written in a distant (?) future, blogs and blogging are going to occupy a particular section in that narrative.
So, check out some of these blogs, and see for yourself. If you feel you have something to say and it is worth being heard by the world, don’t hesitate to join the world of blogs. It is a friendly world!
Some selected links:
http://i.hoder.com (the blog that started it all, find the instructions on how to make a Persian blog here. Also a master index to all Iranian blogs.)
www.khorshidkhanoom.com Khorshid was the first of the female kind to write a popular blog
http://ehsan.blogspot.com the computer technician of the blog world!
http://khodadad.blogspot.com the weblog of the writer of this article
http://payam2000.blogspot.com bloggers are not all political hotheads, this one is the proof!
http://www.nushazar.com an established writer takes to the web
http://www.nabavionline.com a humour treasure, blog is only a part of this website
http://www.cappuccinomag.com the magazine that was born from the blogs
www.womeniniran.com web makes official permissions unnecessary
http://www.blogger.com the web server that hosts the majority of Iranian blogs.
19 February 2003, Albany, CA
*The name of this article is taken from Hoder’s weblog: “Editor:Myself”
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