January 24, 2005

THE USSR COULDN'T EVEN WITHSTAND THE ADVENT OF FAX MACHINES:

Iran Attempts to Pull Plug on Web Dissidents: About 20 online journalists and bloggers have been jailed. Some say they were tortured and forced to publicly denounce their work. (Megan K. Stack, January 24, 2005, LA Times)

The criminal seems younger than his 25 years. He is the quiet type, shy and lanky, peering solemnly through octagonal glasses. He has no weapons, not in the traditional sense.

His name is Hanif Mazroui, and the tools of his crime are a handful of ideas and skinny fingers flying over the keyboard. He is one of about 20 Iranian Web loggers and journalists who have been arrested and jailed in recent months.

Government prosecutors call Mazroui a violator of national security and an inciter of unrest. If you ask the nation's conservative mullahs, he's an acid eating away at the fabric of the Islamic revolution. He has done time in solitary confinement, and reportedly weathered death threats from judiciary officials.

Asked about his time in prison, Mazroui dropped his chin, studied his shoes and said, "I prefer not to talk about it."

Then, after a moment of awkward silence as he slumped at his father's side, he fished into the pocket of his peacoat, drew out a bundle of black cloth and handed it over. It was a frayed blindfold, cut from thick canvas, with a tiny triangular wedge sliced out for a nose. He'd been forced to wear it in prison, he explained, and he'd smuggled the blindfold out with him as a keepsake.

"I just want to remember where I was," he said. "I'm grateful for my time in prison, because I realized how much we should pay for freedom, and that freedom can't be got easily. I'm a small drop of that."

After toiling for years to silence dissent within the Iranian republic, the mullahs have turned their war against free press to the last reserve of open political debate: the Internet.


Information technology, it was once feared, would make oppression easier--instead it makes it impossible.

Posted by Orrin Judd at January 24, 2005 8:19 AM
Comments

I remember when the ill-fated coup against Gorbachev took place, the Soviets shut the country down. However, everything that was going on in Moscow was being reported out through a guy in Finland by some weird new invention called the Internet. Just fifteen years ago!

Posted by: Peter B at January 24, 2005 8:36 AM
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