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In September 2001, a young Iranian journalist, Hossein Derakhshan, created one of the first weblogs in Farsi. When he also devised a simple how-to-blog guide for Iranians, it unleashed a torrent of hitherto unheard opinions. There are now 64,000 blogs in Farsi, and Nasrin Alavi has painstakingly reviewed them all, weaving the most powerful and provocative into a striking p In September 2001, a young Iranian journalist, Hossein Derakhshan, created one of the first weblogs in Farsi. When he also devised a simple how-to-blog guide for Iranians, it unleashed a torrent of hitherto unheard opinions. There are now 64,000 blogs in Farsi, and Nasrin Alavi has painstakingly reviewed them all, weaving the most powerful and provocative into a striking picture of the flowering of dissent in Iran. From one blogger’s blasting of the Supreme Leader as a “pimp” to another’s mourning for an identity crushed by the stifling protection of her male relatives, this collection functions not only as an archive of Iranians’ thoughts on their country, culture, religion, and the rest of the world, but also as an alternative recent history of Iran. Government crackdowns may soon still these voices — in February 2005, one blogger was sentenced to 14 years in jail — and We Are Iran may serve as the only serious record of their existence.


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In September 2001, a young Iranian journalist, Hossein Derakhshan, created one of the first weblogs in Farsi. When he also devised a simple how-to-blog guide for Iranians, it unleashed a torrent of hitherto unheard opinions. There are now 64,000 blogs in Farsi, and Nasrin Alavi has painstakingly reviewed them all, weaving the most powerful and provocative into a striking p In September 2001, a young Iranian journalist, Hossein Derakhshan, created one of the first weblogs in Farsi. When he also devised a simple how-to-blog guide for Iranians, it unleashed a torrent of hitherto unheard opinions. There are now 64,000 blogs in Farsi, and Nasrin Alavi has painstakingly reviewed them all, weaving the most powerful and provocative into a striking picture of the flowering of dissent in Iran. From one blogger’s blasting of the Supreme Leader as a “pimp” to another’s mourning for an identity crushed by the stifling protection of her male relatives, this collection functions not only as an archive of Iranians’ thoughts on their country, culture, religion, and the rest of the world, but also as an alternative recent history of Iran. Government crackdowns may soon still these voices — in February 2005, one blogger was sentenced to 14 years in jail — and We Are Iran may serve as the only serious record of their existence.

30 review for We Are Iran: The Persian Blogs

  1. 4 out of 5

    Sabir

    Dear Orkid, I was one of the Iranians journalist /bloggers featured in this book. Nasrin got in touch with me in 2003 to get my permission to translate some of my pieces. Looking back at my mailbox we exchanged 17 emails about 2 posts she finally quoted from my weblog. I as newly graduate of English in Iran at the time considered myself a bit of linguist and was doubtful of her translations. The next I heard of this book was 2005 in a BBC Persian website review by a writer I have not heard of be Dear Orkid, I was one of the Iranians journalist /bloggers featured in this book. Nasrin got in touch with me in 2003 to get my permission to translate some of my pieces. Looking back at my mailbox we exchanged 17 emails about 2 posts she finally quoted from my weblog. I as newly graduate of English in Iran at the time considered myself a bit of linguist and was doubtful of her translations. The next I heard of this book was 2005 in a BBC Persian website review by a writer I have not heard of before or since. It was very similar to your review Orkideh. I can’t describe how betrayed I felt, not only for me, but for the entire Iranian blogosphere. I sent Nasrin a furious email explaining my feelings. She wrote back in length, in particular defending her translation of Shamloo poem that the reviewer had attacked. Telling me that translation and its surrounding notes were “written and countless time rewritten under tight supervision” of those closest to our great poet, including the person who was left by shamloo in his will as guardian of all his literature. This claim of hers I later found out to be true, but as far as I was concerned she had deceive us all and I told her as much. She for a while including me and others in emails of reviews of the book in the western press, I ignored these too as what did these foreigners know. And there was one that declared us as “funny and sad” that irritated me for ages. I felt that she had made us cry and clown in front of foreigners for their amusement. I had no access to this book in Iran and even when I came to Holland and later UK for my postgraduate studies I couldn’t get myself to read the book, but read it last month and I have since googled and read nearly every online article by Nasrin Alavi. Especially her brilliant news analysis in Opendemocracy website. Such googling made me end up here today. Dear Orkideh this is as much a response to you as it is and apology to Nasrin. Her email address no longer excepts mail so I would be grateful if anyone who know her can get my note to her. Dear Orkideh In the opening of the book she writes, “We Are Iran cannot claim to be the outcome of a controlled scientific study. My intent at the outset was to highlight the preoccupations of this on-line community”. And this she highlighted, by writings that range from passion for Shia Ashura day, war years (a big and very moving section of the book) to Googoosh and Art house cinemas, sport etc She also writes at the end of the book “I compiled the early parts of the book while I was living in Iran” just before Ahmadinejad’s election, and if you look through the book most of the blogs are dated up to 2004, and I think a fair criticism would be it seems that they’ve added some posts (that at times don’t sit well with the flow of the book) in the last minute just to highlight the election. But regarding the groups of bloggers who you say she “simply overlooks”, any one who read or wrote an Iranian blog during the period the book covers will tell you the such blogs on vast numbers e.g. “Religious blogs” that have sprung up in recent years did not exist then. Just look at the dates on their archives, the oldest ones go back as early 2005 but are largely after 2006. Even so she quotes religious blogs too. Nor does she anywhere in the book offer a “unilateral view” of Iran through blogs She has written that to her the Iranian blogosphere “expressed the voices of a burgeoning generation of educated young people and mirrored the uncensored dialogue and conversation you would hear around university campuses. This was, is, the post-war (that is, the Iran-Iraq war of 1980-88) baby-boom generation that will determine the future of their country (hence the title We Are Iran).”Yet correctly adding that “up to 2004 been very few blogs kept by Iran's hardline conservatives and their supporters. The political argument in the blogosphere and on Iranian campuses alike was until the mid-2000s dominated by passionate, critical and liberalising voices.” Just look though the archives of some the oldest Iranian bloggers and you’ll see her representation of Iranian blogs at the time to be authentic. But she covered Iranian blogs at time before the many arrests and imprisonment of Iranian bloggers. Indeed two of the main blogs the book opens with Hossein Derakhshan and the Ali Abtahi (Shia cleric)are today in prison as I write this. So her book is truer and more honest reflection of what many Iranians think that you’ll ever read anywhere. As then we weren’t yet scarred off to be honest in our blogs yet. But this is all minor compared to what the book achieved and its what those “foreign reviews” were able to see that I didn’t want to see. I found a bunch of them under the title “We Are Iran : Press reviews” on the UK publisher “Portobello Books” website. The Observer: “This beautifully organised book has you learning the long history of Iran almost by sleight of hand. Evocative and weirdly gripping,”. Independent: “This is not the first example of a book made out of blogs... It does, I think, count as the finest so far”. Scotsman: “Alavi comments on the almost casual ability of the diarists to pluck at dates and events to support their arguments, yet she too has this impressive ability…. We Are Iran emerges as a beautifully constructed and thoroughly researched study of contemporary Iran, pinned at every point to history.” Guardian: “An engaging and inventive book that deserves a wide audience.' Or “It is honest, comical and clever and has the power to move mountains in its ability to demolish stereotypes en masse.'”

  2. 4 out of 5

    Bloodorange

    A very interesting, if somewhat dated (the book covers the period of 2003-2005) portrayal of a society torn between theocracy and liberalism. I stumbled upon it searching for companion materials for The Handamaid's Tale, and found two useful chapters. This is a mix of analysis and compilation of primary sources; the author's writing style feels better here, lighter, than in her online articles. A very interesting, if somewhat dated (the book covers the period of 2003-2005) portrayal of a society torn between theocracy and liberalism. I stumbled upon it searching for companion materials for The Handamaid's Tale, and found two useful chapters. This is a mix of analysis and compilation of primary sources; the author's writing style feels better here, lighter, than in her online articles.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Mehrnaz

    Very informative of the contemporary history of Iran. It changed the way I looked at Iran and Iranians before reading this book.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Sepi

    this is a really good book to get a bit of perspective on what's going on in iran right now. it's from the early 2000's but it give a good overview of the current youth culture in iran. and since 70% of the country is under the age of 30, that's a lot of iran. it's mostly blog entries, but she writes very smart and un-preachy intro's to each chapter that give an historical background to what people are talking about. this is a really good book to get a bit of perspective on what's going on in iran right now. it's from the early 2000's but it give a good overview of the current youth culture in iran. and since 70% of the country is under the age of 30, that's a lot of iran. it's mostly blog entries, but she writes very smart and un-preachy intro's to each chapter that give an historical background to what people are talking about.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Aditya आदित्य

    This was published in 2005 and so it is refers to events and developments of more than ten years ago as recent phenomena. Iran is currently ruled by a system involving elected representatives and un-elected Shia clerics, since the ouster of the American backed Shah in 1979. The revolution that toppled him had multiple ideologies competing within it - from atheistic-marxist to ultra-islamic. But a Shia cleric - Ayatollah Khamenei, then in exile in Paris, emerged as the face of this amalgam of the This was published in 2005 and so it is refers to events and developments of more than ten years ago as recent phenomena. Iran is currently ruled by a system involving elected representatives and un-elected Shia clerics, since the ouster of the American backed Shah in 1979. The revolution that toppled him had multiple ideologies competing within it - from atheistic-marxist to ultra-islamic. But a Shia cleric - Ayatollah Khamenei, then in exile in Paris, emerged as the face of this amalgam of the anti-Shah movements. The revolution succeeded and Khamenei ended up as the Supreme Leader – the representative of god on earth – of Iran. This was more than thirty five years ago. The theocracy in Iran was one of the first in the modern world. But it has not been successful (in my opinion), and according to this book it is an utter failure. This books is a compilation of blogs posted on the internet in early 2000's with a narrative provided by the editor. The bloggers are out-of-job journalists, authors, political activists but mostly young Iranians who are – most importantly – disaffected by this regime. These internet posts have bloomed because of the stringent media censorship by the state. Hundreds of newspapers and magazines have been shut down and books, music, films and theater are always under the lens of the government. The intrinsic anonymity that the internet provides has allowed the common person in Iran to let out against their rulers. For those looking for an insight into Iranian Society, this is a good resource. The editor claims that these blogs represent - and her ideas are shared by - the majority of the young Iranians today. She also conveys a massive unrest in the population in general. How accurate are these assertions? I don’t know. I will try to verify her claims. But things like these… you can never truly tell. Yes, people are not free but this book indicates that another revolution is brewing. The blogs themselves are insightful but just as any post on the internet, they are also over-emotional, illogical, dissonant and unoriginal. These are supposedly the biggest blogs, with the largest readership and they are all anti-establishment. I don’t know if there are any blogs which support this regime? Are all those who are pro-theocracy, Islamists? You will not find the answers to such question in this book. This will provide you with a one-sided view, which is valuable, but alas only partial. I think that criticism of the theocratic aspects of the Iranian establishment from an Islamic perspective is utterly futile. Corruption and nepotism aside, the criminal and civil laws of Iran are in accordance with Islamic jurisprudence having been derived from the scriptures. Yet, these bloggers who virulently oppose mandatory hijab, polygamy, reduced age of marriage, stoning for adultery, death for apostasy, and the diminished status of women in the legal system and society at large, do so in the name of Islam. According to these people all these laws are “un-islamic” and the Shia clerics are all “fake” muslims and know nothing about “real” Islam. People living in the theocratic state are critical of the West (which they should be, by all means) and blame them for terror attacks (which is really very twisted), and their posts are in general replete with the usual apologia – “nothing to do with Islam” or “Islam is the religion of peace”. [This cognitive dissonance has been discussed many time over by the gentleman professor Gad Saad on his youtube channel. Please check it out here if interested.] There was a reference to the Gujarat riots of 2002 by one of the bloggers whose post is published in this book. In that post (s)he claims that the fire that engulfed 60 Hindus in the Sabarmati Express train before the riots was an “accident”. That information is completely false. Those Hindus including women and children were murdered according to a pre-planned conspiracy as reported here. This is an example of falsehood that I, being from India, could catch. Ending note: This particular blog, about Gujarat, is at the very end of the books and upon reading it I realized that there might be multiple instances of inaccuracies in these private blogs. This seriously belittled whatever confidence I had in this as a true reflection of Iran. Hence, I will not rate this book.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Richard

    In September 2001, a young Iranian journalist named Hossein Derakhshan, created one of the very first weblogs in his native language of Farsi. In response to a request from a reader, he created a simple how-to-blog guide in Farsi. With the modest aim of giving other Iranians a voice, he wound up unleashing a torrent of opinion, the likes of which had never before been seen in the Islamic world. There are now 64,000 blogs in Farsi, and Nasrin Alavi has been painstakingly reviewing them all. In so In September 2001, a young Iranian journalist named Hossein Derakhshan, created one of the very first weblogs in his native language of Farsi. In response to a request from a reader, he created a simple how-to-blog guide in Farsi. With the modest aim of giving other Iranians a voice, he wound up unleashing a torrent of opinion, the likes of which had never before been seen in the Islamic world. There are now 64,000 blogs in Farsi, and Nasrin Alavi has been painstakingly reviewing them all. In so doing she has created a remarkable document of the efflorescence of dissent in Iran, a book that not only functions as an archive of what Iranians think of their country, their religion, their culture and the world around them, but also as an alternative recent history of Iran. Theirs is not the Iran of bearded ayatollahs and thuggish militias, but a country that has educated itself to the point where it finds the Islamist fundamentalists antiquated and laughable, where adult literacy (and computer literacy) is higher than in many European states, and where 70% of the population is under 30 and keen to usher in a new Iran. As one blogger (safsari.persianblog.com/) wrote: "There are those such as Abtahi [Iranian Parliamentary ex-Vice President Mohammad-Ali Abtahi] who have called our virtual community too political and have put that we should use weblogs for their intended use... that is to say, for clich�d daily diaries... So what if we use our blogs in ways not intended for or defined during the distant conception of this media...At a time when our society is deprived of its rightful free means of communication, and our newspapers are being closed down one by one - with writers and journalist in the corners of our jails... the only realm that can safeguard and shoulder the responsibility of free speech is the weblogs..." There are prominent writers who use their weblogs to bypass strict state censorship and publish their work online; established Journalists are able to post their uncensored reports in their blogs; Iranians living around the world use their blogs to communicate with those back home; people use the medium as a daily journal or diary; student groups and NGO's who utilise their weblogs as a vehicle for coordinating their activities. We Are Iran therefore provides a unique momentary glimpse of the struggle that the new generation of post-Revolution youth face in democratizing the theocratic state, in generating the revolution within the Revolution. But following on the hardliners' clampdown on the print journalists, there has now been a massive crackdown on bloggers; just a few months ago, one blogger was jailed for 14 years. It is indeed possible, for the moment, that the vocies of the bloggers have been stilled and that We Are Iran will serve as the only serious record of their existence. But only for a moment. The intensity, indeed desperation of these bloggers demonstrates that Iran- which a quarter of a century ago introduced a mystified world to radical Islam- may again surprise, as the bloggers point the way to a free, democratic, Islamic nation.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Behrooz

    Interesting

  8. 4 out of 5

    Adella

    Great read for anyone interested in the youth of Iran. What we generally see and read in the "Western" mass media is political games as usual. This book was a brilliant idea! Who would have thought that Iran has the fastest growing rate of bloggers in the World! Want to know what some young Iranians talk about? Read on... Great read for anyone interested in the youth of Iran. What we generally see and read in the "Western" mass media is political games as usual. This book was a brilliant idea! Who would have thought that Iran has the fastest growing rate of bloggers in the World! Want to know what some young Iranians talk about? Read on...

  9. 4 out of 5

    Zamaniya Bankole

    Presents a great view into both the intensity of censorship in the IRI, and the voices of the people through the blog medium. There's some fantastic selections in here. It also gives a decent run down of the history/current political climate. Slightly repetitive, but distinct and a fantastic addition to the literature on post-revolutionary Iran. Presents a great view into both the intensity of censorship in the IRI, and the voices of the people through the blog medium. There's some fantastic selections in here. It also gives a decent run down of the history/current political climate. Slightly repetitive, but distinct and a fantastic addition to the literature on post-revolutionary Iran.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Verity

    If this book has whetted your appetite to learn more about Iran, I recommend 'The Soul of Iran' which has a nice combination of history and contemporary culture without being as dry and fact ridden as histories of old. If this book has whetted your appetite to learn more about Iran, I recommend 'The Soul of Iran' which has a nice combination of history and contemporary culture without being as dry and fact ridden as histories of old.

  11. 5 out of 5

    JY

    Great read. Interesting insight into the great people living in a place that doesn't get much visibility beyond their political leaders. I crave more. Would love a follow up that continues to current day. Great read. Interesting insight into the great people living in a place that doesn't get much visibility beyond their political leaders. I crave more. Would love a follow up that continues to current day.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Tyler

    Gave me an understanding of modern Iran and its voices which has been vital in my understanding of the current situation.

  13. 5 out of 5

    soly n....

    iran is butifull

  14. 4 out of 5

    Patricia

    Think Axelrod, Obama and Plouffe had a handle on using blog culture as a communications weapon despite the watchful eye of the regime? A fascinating look at Iranians since the revolution.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Kate

    This is a great contemporary look at Iran, through the content of Farsi-language blogs. Really, I learned, I cried, and I got inspired.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Cordelia

    There are 64,000 blogs coming out of Iran. This book uses the bloggers words to tell about what is going on in the country. It does a great job telling the inside story.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Jessica

    GReat book about the transformation of Iran through young bloggers!

  18. 5 out of 5

    Daniel Antal

  19. 4 out of 5

    Rinja

  20. 4 out of 5

    Kristen

  21. 5 out of 5

    Lina Ghosh

  22. 5 out of 5

    shawnmoore

  23. 4 out of 5

    lenore i.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Marie

  25. 4 out of 5

    Christian Baines

  26. 5 out of 5

    Tristram

  27. 4 out of 5

    Lukas

  28. 4 out of 5

    Hamed Karamlou

  29. 5 out of 5

    Nate

  30. 4 out of 5

    Leilee

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