Friday, August 10, 2007

Mehdi Khalaji, an "expert" at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy has managed to bully Hossein Derakshan (or more precisely, Hossein Derakhshan's web hosting service) into shutting down his blog.

The text of Khalaji's legal action against Hossein speaks for itself. Among the juvenile charges levied against hossein are that he has said "by innuendo [that Khalaji] is a dupe or puppet of the U.S. government" and my favorite, that he "state[s] falsely that our client struggles to express himself in the English language."

In one of the charges, they accuse Hossein of encouraging others to "follow his lead by spiting (sic) in our client's face." It appears that the lawyers, like their client, have a bit of struggle with the English language. I hope I won't get sued for pointing this out, but spiting and spitting are two different words.

In any case, when I heard the infuriating news today that Khalaji had indeed succeeded in closing down Hossein's blog, I had a bad feeling that the inter-personal fights, disagreements, and grudges on the Persian language blogosphere would most likely stand in the way of a significant and principled stance in support of Hossein Derakhshan. Nazli has been the only exception I've seen so far, which doesn't surprise me, since Nazli is an exceptional person.

Whatever personal or political differences people have with Hossein, it's the responsibility of those of us who blog in English to expose the repressive and underhanded tactics of Iranians like Khalaji and the right-wing institutions for which they work. The same people and institutions that thrust themselves to the frontlines of debates about "democracy in Iran" and "freedom of expression" are quick to mobilize their financial resources and connections to muzzle the voice of one person who uses his blog to uncover just a few cogs in the wheels of what seems like a veritable anti-Iran industry.

So why would well-funded, well-connected people like Khalaji and his supporters go after Hossein for doing what hundreds of thousands of bloggers do on a daily basis? Isn't the essence of the majority of blogs to engage in accusatory gossip and to vent ideas that you may not be able to express elsewhere?

Hossein Derakhshan is not a threat to Khalaji or the Washington Institute because of the content of what he said. What he has written about places like the Washington Institute and the National Endowment for Democracy is based on information that is widely and publicly available, often from the websites of these institutions themselves. Hossein's grave sin is that he wrote this material in Persian , and this is the real danger he poses for the Khalajis and their employers.

Perhaps if the information that Hossein has covered were previously available in translation for Persian speakers, so many Iranian activists--specifically recent immigrants and those still in Iran--would not have made the mistake of getting mixed-up with individuals and organizations with histories of destroying peoples' movements worldwide.