also known as Hoder
, is an Iranian blog
A blog is a type of website or part of a website supposed to be updated with new content from time to time. Blogs are usually maintained by an individual with regular entries of commentary, descriptions of events, or other material such as graphics or video. Entries are commonly displayed in...
ger. He is credited with starting the blogging revolution in Iran and is called the father of Persian blogging by many journalists. He also helped to promote podcasting
A podcast is a series of digital media files that are released episodically and often downloaded through web syndication...
in Iran. Derakhshan was arrested on November 1, 2008 and sentenced to 19½ years in prison on September 28, 2010.
Derakhshan started his education in Nikan School in Tehran
Tehran , sometimes spelled Teheran, is the capital of Iran and Tehran Province. With an estimated population of 8,429,807; it is also Iran's largest urban area and city, one of the largest cities in Western Asia, and is the world's 19th largest city.In the 20th century, Tehran was subject to...
. He has a bachelor degree in sociology from Shahid Beheshti University
Shahid Beheshti University was formerly The National University of Iran . The university's name was changed during the cultural revolution in Iranian universities, 1980-82. It is located in Evin District and extends into Velenjak District in northwestern Tehran, Iran, on a main campus of...
in Tehran. He spent time studying sociology
Sociology is the study of society. It is a social science—a term with which it is sometimes synonymous—which uses various methods of empirical investigation and critical analysis to develop a body of knowledge about human social activity...
at the University of Toronto
The University of Toronto is a public research university in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, situated on the grounds that surround Queen's Park. It was founded by royal charter in 1827 as King's College, the first institution of higher learning in Upper Canada...
. He holds a Masters degree (MA) in Film and Media Studies from SOAS, University of London, 2008.
Derakhshan started out as a journalist writing about Internet
The Internet is a global system of interconnected computer networks that use the standard Internet protocol suite to serve billions of users worldwide...
and digital culture for a popular reformist newspaper, Asr-e Azadegan
Asr-e Azadegan was a popular reformist newspaper in Iran, edited by Mashallah Shamsolvaezin.The newspaper's writers included:* Akbar Ganji, who wrote about Iranian secret services....
in 1999. Later, when this paper was closed down by the judiciary system, he moved to another newspaper, Hayat-e No
, in which he continued to write about the same topic. His column there was called Panjere-i roo be hayaat
(A Window to the Life, a reference to Alfred Hitchcock
Sir Alfred Joseph Hitchcock, KBE was a British film director and producer. He pioneered many techniques in the suspense and psychological thriller genres. After a successful career in British cinema in both silent films and early talkies, Hitchcock moved to Hollywood...
's Rear Window
Rear Window is a 1954 American suspense film directed by Alfred Hitchcock, written by John Michael Hayes and based on Cornell Woolrich's 1942 short story "It Had to Be Murder"...
), and later expanded to a weekly page on digital culture, Internet
The Internet is a global system of interconnected computer networks that use the standard Internet protocol suite to serve billions of users worldwide...
and computer games
"Computer Games" is a single by New Zealand group, Mi-Sex released in 1979 in Australia and New Zealand and in 1981 throughout Europe. It was the single that launched the band, and was hugely popular, particularly in Australia and New Zealand...
In December, 2000, Derakhshan moved to Toronto
Toronto is the provincial capital of Ontario and the largest city in Canada. It is located in Southern Ontario on the northwestern shore of Lake Ontario. A relatively modern city, Toronto's history dates back to the late-18th century, when its land was first purchased by the British monarchy from...
Canada is a North American country consisting of ten provinces and three territories. Located in the northern part of the continent, it extends from the Atlantic Ocean in the east to the Pacific Ocean in the west, and northward into the Arctic Ocean...
. On September 25, 2001, he started his weblog in the Persian language
Persian is an Iranian language within the Indo-Iranian branch of the Indo-European languages. It is primarily spoken in Iran, Afghanistan, Tajikistan and countries which historically came under Persian influence...
, using Unicode
Unicode is a computing industry standard for the consistent encoding, representation and handling of text expressed in most of the world's writing systems...
. It was titled Sardabir: khodam
, or "Editor: Myself".
He later moved his manually maintained weblog to Blogger.com, which was not supporting Unicode at the time. He also prepared a step-by-step guide in Persian on how other Persian writers can start their weblogs using Blogger.com and the Unicode standard.
Derakhshan spoke at the Wikimania 2005 conference in Frankfurt, Germany regarding the complementary use of wikis and blogs to aid political reform and the growth of democracy in Iran and other countries.
On leaving Iran, he was shortly detained and summoned to the Ministry of Intelligence. A few days later he was interrogated by an intelligence official over the content of his blog and was forced to sign an apology before being allowed to leave Iran. But after leaving Iran, he published a report on what happened on his website.
His weblog, like some other political Persian blogs and websites, has been blocked (or filtered) by the government in Iran, since 2004.
In December 2003, he founded Stop censoring us
, a blog to watch the situation of internet censorship in Iran. He's also appeared a few times on a VOA Persian TV show to talk about Internet censorship and methods to get around filters.
Derakhshan visited Israel
The State of Israel is a parliamentary republic located in the Middle East, along the eastern shore of the Mediterranean Sea...
as a Canadian citizen in January 2006. He stated that he went to Israel as a personal attempt to start a dialogue between Iranian and Israeli people.
This might mean that I won't be able to go back to Iran for a long time, since Iran doesn't recognize Israel, has no diplomatic relations with it, and apparently considers traveling there illegal. Too bad, but I don't care. Fortunately, I'm a citizen of Canada and I have the right to visit any country I want.
I'm going to Israel as a citizen journalist and a peace activist. As a citizen journalist, I'm going to show my 20,000 daily Iranian readers what Israel really looks like and how people live there. The Islamic Republic has long portrayed Israel as an evil state, with a consensual political agenda of killing every single man and woman who prays to Allah, including Iranians. I'm going to challenge that image.
As a peace activist, I'm going to show the Israelis that the vast majority of Iranians do not identify with Ahmadinejad's rhetoric, despite what it looks like from the outside. I'm going to tell them how any kind of violent action against Iran would only harm the young people who are gradually reforming the system and how the radicals would benefit from such situation.
His visit was covered by some Israeli media, including Haaretz, Jerusalem Post, Ynet News, Ha'ir, Time Out Tel Aviv, Israeli Radio and its Persian service, and Israel's English TV news:
Iran's Nuclear program
In August 2006, he published an article in the Columns & Blogs
section of The Washington Post
The Washington Post is Washington, D.C.'s largest newspaper and its oldest still-existing paper, founded in 1877. Located in the capital of the United States, The Post has a particular emphasis on national politics. D.C., Maryland, and Virginia editions are printed for daily circulation...
in which he supported Iran to pursue nuclear weapons as a deterrent to possible invasion by global powers, after normalising relations with the U.S. and Israel:
But the events of the past two years – most notably with what's happening in Iraq, along with last year's presidential election and other unfortunate events in the region – has left no doubt in my mind, and in the minds of lots of secular Iranians, that the U.S. is behaving more and more like a reckless imperial force in search of new sources of energy and new markets to expand to economically. Therefore, even if Iran becomes the most peaceful, secular and progressive, yet still independent state on the planet, the U.S. would be unable to tolerate it. The U.S. would seek new excuses to topple Iran's government and install their favorite instead.
For this reason, I believe Iran needs to produce nuclear weapons as a defensive mechanism, to deter the U.S. today and the ever-expanding and equally energy-hungry China tomorrow.
But making nuclear weapons even for totally defensive purposes is not easy now. Iran could only get away with it by stopping enrichment now, voluntarily normalizing relations with Israel and the U.S., and withdrawing from the NPT. Then it could start making the weapons – secretly or maybe even publicly. It's only then that the world would tolerate a nuclear Iran.
Defending Iran against U.S. attack
Derakhshan wrote in his blog in December 2006:
"If the US attacked Iran, despite all my problems with the Islamic Republic, I'd go back and fight these bastards... I can't let myself sit down for a moment and watch them make a Baghdad out of Tehran."
He later published a commentary on The Guardian
The Guardian, formerly known as The Manchester Guardian , is a British national daily newspaper in the Berliner format...
, titled Stop Bullying Iran, in which he elaborated on his short blog post on why he defends Iran. Some excerpts:
The more the clash between the west and Iran escalates, the more convinced I become that the west's real problem with the Islamic Republic of Iran is not its nuclear activities, its level of democracy, its human rights record, or its support for "terrorist" groups. Pakistan, followed closely by Saudi Arabia, easily beats Iran on all these fronts.
The real problem is that the Islamic Republic has decided to be independent in a region saturated with fossil energy resources, and at the same time run by American puppets. Iran has posed the biggest continuous challenge to the American hegemony in the whole world, and so it has to pay a price.
Increasingly, a lot of secular Iranians, like myself, are figuring that even if Iran is turned into the most democratic, secular, fair and peaceful state on earth, there is no guarantee the US won't find another excuse to try to overtrow its government. It will start bullying Iran for its "devastating role" in climate change, or animal rights, or - who knows? - for obesity.
I'm not saying this as a fervent religious man with sexy Ahmadinejad's posters on my wall. In fact, I am an atheist and this can easily get me into serious trouble in any Islamic country. I did not vote for Ahmadinejad and I would do anything to democratically bring him down.
I have also risked my life and future in Iran by becoming the first Iranian after the revolution who has publicly visited Israel. Why? To counter both countries' nasty and demonising propaganda against each other and to save my grandmother, postman or university professor from being compared to Nazi soldiers who must be nuked tomorrow.
As a matter of fact, I am even a victim of the paranoid state of Iran that censors criticism and punishes dissent for fear of foreign-backed revolt. (Remember the CIA had commissioned newspaper articles and cartoons to discredit prime minister Mossadeq before bringing his democratically elected government down by a coup in 1953.) My own blog is blocked in Iran and I was detained and forced to sign an apology for my writing before being allowed to leave Iran in 2005.
And of course I do have the dream of an open, free, fair and secular Iran, run by competent and representative officials, and in peace with the whole world, obviously including Israel.
However, I believe the Islamic Republic is a valuable cause, worth defending and, at its worst, is way better than anything that the United States or anyone else can bring to Iran.
If the US waged a war against Iran, I would absolutely go back and defend Iran.
Khalaji vs. Derakhshan defamation lawsuit
In November 2007, Mehdi Khalaji
Mehdi Khalaji is an Iranian-American writer, scholar of Islamic studies and political analyst. He has been researching at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy since 2005, and is now a senior research fellow focusing on the politics of Iran and Shiite groups in the Middle East...
, a fellow at a think-tank called Washington Institute for Near East Policy
The Washington Institute for Near East Policy is a think tank based in Washington, D.C. focused on United States foreign policy in the Middle East. It was established by the American Israel Public Affairs Committee in 1985...
(WINEP), filed a $2 million libel and defamation lawsuit against Derakhshan, over one of his blog posts in his Persian blog, in which he criticizes Khalaji for his service to the "enemies of his people and humanity".
Earlier in August 2007, Derakhshan's Florida-based hosting company, Hosting Matters, had terminated his hosting account as a result of alleged 'intimidation' by Khalaji.
Arrest and imprisonment since 2008
On November 1, 2008, Derakhshan was arrested at his family home in Tehran. He was allowed four calls to his family, each lasting about one minute, during November.
The arrest became known in English-speaking media during late November, starting with an article published by the anti-censorship group Global Voices Online
Global Voices Online is an international network of bloggers and citizen journalists that follow, report, and summarizes what is going on in the blogosphere in every corner of the world...
on November 18. A mainstream media report a few days later, by The Times
The Times is a British daily national newspaper, first published in London in 1785 under the title The Daily Universal Register . The Times and its sister paper The Sunday Times are published by Times Newspapers Limited, a subsidiary since 1981 of News International...
, claimed that Derakhshan had been accused of spying for Israel. Amnesty International
Amnesty International is an international non-governmental organisation whose stated mission is "to conduct research and generate action to prevent and end grave abuses of human rights, and to demand justice for those whose rights have been violated."Following a publication of Peter Benenson's...
later suggested that he was likely to face accusations of "insulting religion".
On December 30, 2008, Alireza Jamshidi
Dr Alireza Jamshidi is an official spokesman for Iran's judiciary, headed by Mahmoud Shahroudi. In that capacity he holds regular news conferences....
, the speaker of the Judicial system of Iran
A nationwide judicial system in Iran was first implemented and established by Abdolhossein Teymourtash under Reza Shah, with further changes during the second Pahlavi era....
confirmed Derakhshan's arrest, but did not mention any Israel-related accusations. Jamshidi said that Derakhshan is in the custody of the Islamic Revolutionary Court
Islamic Revolutionary Court is a special court in the Islamic Republic of Iran designed to try those suspected of smuggling, blaspheming, inticing violence or trying to overthrow the Iranian government...
and his case is in early discovery
In U.S.law, discovery is the pre-trial phase in a lawsuit in which each party, through the law of civil procedure, can obtain evidence from the opposing party by means of discovery devices including requests for answers to interrogatories, requests for production of documents, requests for...
phase. Jamshidi mentioned that among Derakhshan's accusations is what he had written about the "Pure Imams".
Nineteen Iranian bloggers published a letter "categorically condemn[ing] the circumstances surrounding Derakhshan's arrest and detention and demand[ing] his immediate release". A website
A website, also written as Web site, web site, or simply site, is a collection of related web pages containing images, videos or other digital assets. A website is hosted on at least one web server, accessible via a network such as the Internet or a private local area network through an Internet...
"Free the blogfather" was created by supporters of Derakhshan in order to campaign for his freedom. Before an earlier return to Iran in 2005, Derakhshan published recommendations of what to do if he or someone else were arrested in Iran, including requests to "spread the word", to "get the English-language media involved" and to "get the publicity translated [into Persian]" and to "keep it up".
As of late April 2009, the New York Times stated that Derakhshan remained under detention and had not been charged.
However, by late October 2009, approaching the one-year anniversary of his arrest, his family began speaking out to Persian and English-language media. His father, Hassan Derakhshan, most notably released an open letter to the new head of the Iranian Judiciary, Ayatollah Sadeq Larijani
Ayatollah Sadegh Ardeshir Amoli Larijani is an Iranian cleric, politician and current head of the judicial system of Iran....
. asking for more information about his son's detention.
According to Hossein's brother, Hamed, who lives outside Iran, his parents had a meeting with the new district attorney, who allowed them to have dinner in Evin Prison with their son, Hossein, on Thursday, October 29, 2009. Hamed also confirmed that his parents now know that Hossein is being held in Evin Prison, however the family does not know the next time they will be allowed to see him. Further, at the dinner, Hossein confirmed the Human Rights Activists in Iran reports that claim he had been forced to do squats in cold showers and has been beaten repeatedly. The human rights group wrote:
HRA has received reports which suggest that the blogger, Hossein Derakhshan, who was arrested on Nov. 2, 2008, has spent the first eight months of his detention in solitary confinement and different wards of the Evin prison upon his return to Iran. During that time he has been subjected to various physical and psychological pressure tactics and multiple transfers.
He has been beaten repeatedly and has been forced to do squats in cold showers. His interrogators have threatened to arrest his father and his sister unless he confessed to espionage charges. With the start of the massive arrests after the presidential election, and as result of cell shortages in Evin prison, Derakhshan was transferred to Ward 2A of the IRGC prison, where he shared his cell with newly arrested people.
Derakhshan has been given false promises of his release on multiple occasions: During the Fajr celebrations and Norooz. Despite all the promises he is still being held on a temporary detention order. His detention order has been renewed several times, the last of which expired on October 10th, 2009. Derakhshan reportedly intended to start a hunger strike if his situation remained unchanged after this date. HRA has no information as to whether he has started the hunger strike.
During his detention, Derakhshan has been pressured by his interrogators to collaborate and confess to the charges brought up against him. Last September he was taken to court to sign documents granting permission to his lawyer to represent him. He told the judge that all his confessions had come under pressure. According to the reports received by HRA, Derakhshan had agreed to televised confessions under pressure, but the matter was canceled after one recording.
In a letter to the head of the judiciary asking for Derakhshan's release, Derakhshan's father wrote:
To the Presence of Ayatollah Amoli Larijani, the Respected Head of the Judiciary:
Greetings and respect to you. One year has passed since the day that my son was arrested.
In all these months, days, and hours, my family, my wife and I were hoping that in the arms of Islamic law and the mercy of the Islamic judiciary, Hossein’s case will be dealt with in the way it deserves.
There is no need to mention the numerous times that we refused the requests of foreign media to explain Hossein’s situation.
Even when we heard the worst gossip about his treatment in semi-official media, we were silent and in fact, no government organization has ever denied this worrisome news, not just to calm our very worried hearts down, but at least to respect the independence of judiciary about this case.
During this entire time, our son has had just two short meetings with us for only a few minutes. Please imagine that for every six months we just saw him for very few minutes. We have no information about his legal situation.
No court has been held yet and we don’t even know which institution or security organization Hossein is under the control of. Many times, from many different ways, we tried to get some precision about his situation, but we couldn’t. Does a detainee’s dignified manner deserve such treatment?
Many times, my son admitted in his writings and conversations that he would love to serve his country. And he came back to Iran on his own to answer his accusations. Does such a person who has come back to his country and his beliefs, deserve such a welcome?
Our complaint is not because you are exercising the law, but to the contrary, because of its suspension, lack of information and disrespecting of the law. The accused have rights, the family of the accused has some rights, and we know that the ruler of society has some rights as well, and that rules and regulations are valuable.
We are certain that you’d agree that one year of a brutal arrest of a person who has come voluntarily and on his own to the bosom of Iran and dear Islam, is not an appropriate welcome.
I, my wife and our family are still looking forward to your just treatment.
Trial in 2010
In March 2010, Derakhshan's mother called on the head of Iran's judiciary to release her son, who had at that point been detained for 500 days without any official charge, for the Iranian New Year, or Norouz.
On June 23, 2010, Tehran Revolutionary Court held Hossein Derakhshan’s first trial.
His sister reported that the trial ended in late July, but no word on a verdict was available.
On September 28, Derakhshan was sentenced to 19½ years in prison.
December 9, 2010, Derakhshan was temporarily released on a bail of $1.5m (£950,000)
On May 6, 2011, Derakhshan updated his Facebook
Facebook is a social networking service and website launched in February 2004, operated and privately owned by Facebook, Inc. , Facebook has more than 800 million active users. Users must register before using the site, after which they may create a personal profile, add other users as...
profile and photos, and added a one line status update of "On a very short leave from Evin
Evin House of Detention is a prison in Iran, located in Evin, northwestern Tehran. It is noted for its political prisoners' wing, where prisoners have been held both before and after the 1979 Iranian Revolution...