Blogs from Iran and Iraq

I’ve been reading an anthology, We Are Iran: The Persian Blogs, edited by Nasrim Alavi and published by Soft Skull. This is a collection of excerpts from numerous Iranian bloggers, all of it translated from Farsi. Farsi blogs are a vast world, Alavi explains in an informative introduction. For reasons not entirely known, there are more blogs in this language than in Spanish, German, Italian, Chinese and Russian.

Alavi’s book is a wide overview of a semi-underground society at various variances with their government and their religious traditions. Some of the excerpts show charming slices of everyday life:

z8unak: I came across a cockroach in the kitchen today (I don’t want any of you out there thinking we have cockroaches in our house, because we don’t — it must have got in through a window or something), but out of the total kindness of my heart I ignored it and let it escape.

I’m glad Mum wasn’t in the kitchen to see this as she would have said “What? Have you fallen in love again?!!” Mum thinks the only people on earth who don’t kill cockroaches … are those who have fallen in love!

Others take political positions, and support other bloggers in trouble with the law (note: if you click on this website link, the Farsi page plays an audio file, so turn down your speakers if you’re at work):

ranginkamaan: We are painfully aware of the manifestations of this totalitarian system … its absolute need to influence every aspect of the life of its individual subjects, and to produce people of uniform thoughts, while opposing free thought and democracy …

Blogger Sina Motallebi was arrested and charged with jeopardizing national security! You have to pity a regime whose national security can be jeopardized by the writings of a blogger!

Don’t we know it, don’t we know it …

We are Iran: The Persian Blogs is a book worthy of your attention. It may represent a trend, too. From slightly elsewhere on the political spectrum, here’s another narrated anthology of blog selections, The Blog of War by Matthew Currier Burden, published by Simon and Schuster. This is an attractively assembled collection of blog posts from our current Iraqi troops, many of whom turn out to be deft writers. This book’s tone is very gung-ho and a bit too romantic about the military for my tastes (chapters are titled “Healers”, “Fallen”, etc.). But the pieces read well, and the raw anecdotes and the diversity of personality and opinion makes The Blog of War a valuable document of our time.

Bloggers … what are we going to do with us all? Sure, we’re sub-literate, but we can turn out a good book every once in a while. Here are two worth checking out.

6 Responses

  1. We need more of thisRemember
    We need more of this

    Remember how Lenny Bruce was hassled by the FBI for exercising his freedom of speech? It’s much worse in Iraq, where comedian Walid Hassan, who often made fun of the government on television, was murdered recently.

    This is so sad. To paraphrase Iranian blogger Ranginkamaan, “You have to pity a regime who’s national security is threatened by a comedian.”

    What about Iraqi bloggers? Are there blogs coming out of Iraq, other than those by U.S. soldiers?

  2. Bill — there are definitely
    Bill — there are definitely blogs coming out of Iraq — I’ve seen a few. Really, the international blog scene is immense, as it should be. I just mentioned these two books because somebody took the trouble to collect these postings into book form. I think this is a good trend.

  3. I don’t understand how this
    I don’t understand how this works. You’re the Proverbial Stranger and you’re blogging. You’re “away” at war, or you’re in exile of a sorts, you’re not blogging “at home,” you’re a refuge blogger, or you’ve been banished, and you’re blogging from an “undisclosed” point of origin, or you’re at work and you can’t tell anyone who you really are.

    What is it about blogging and the idea of “home.” Or place. And how is blogging changing the notion of identity. Are soldier bloggers blogging for us (at “home”) or for their fellow soldiers. Is the Angry Employee blogging for Other Angry Employees. Are the Iranian bloggers blogging — for whom. To whom. Someone, please explain to me how this works.

    My own limited, parochial experience with the literature blogs is that they are repositories of bitterness, hate, and invective. Isn’t the “blogger” always the Stranger, and how are these bloogers imbued with an identity that makes reading them compelling enough to entertain as thought. Do we or do we not have to know who the blogger IS. Or where he is. Or are all of these notions dated and ephemeral.

    Should I read a book by Seymour Hersch on the War in Iraq or a blog by a soldier who is there.

    You could say both. But time…

    Okay, Critics, why should I read a blog of opposite POV or opinion. Unless the arguments are such that minds are changed. Or are they only arguments much like the tree that falls in the forest. I don’t get blogging. It’s too vast and confusing and the hatred is a turn-off. So is the insistence that attention must be paid to bloogers who are essentially anonymous. Where is the credibility. That what a person thinks or blogs is of any importance whatsoever. I am not even talking truth. I am talking gravitas.

    I am a cultural village idiot. I don’t get blogging.

    What I don’t get about it is who are the bloggers, whether they’re American soldiers or Iranian dissidents, blogging TO or FOR.

    I hear and read the voices on the blogs but so many feel much like screams in the night or the sheer boredom is breathtaking.

    It seems we are all esentially the Stranger in bloggerland.

    It is beginning to feel dated. All that type.

    Question: Isn’t the nature of the blog going to change and become more the VLOG than the blog — not because technology is more relevant — but because the nature of storytelling is going to become more visual than language-based as the population of the world (much bigger than the population of the educated world) becomes even more illiterate than it is today.

    When someone says the word BLOG, I hear a chorus of innumerable voices drowning in a sea of anonymity. Their access to technology and language doesn’t seem to have helped them remain relevant.

    Sort of like Dante’s version of hell. How could a blogger be worth murdering.

    My question has more to do with who is the reader. I sort of have an idea as to who the blogger might be. Like most everything else I think, it’s probably an illusion.

    I ask this rhetorically because what I see is the idea of “home” and the idea of who the Stranger is as changing. The notion of Place is changing. Let alone the notion of freedom. I was blogging once in Tunis and was almost arrested. In Tunisia, you blog at your peril. TUNISIA. Nice beaches. Dull ruins. Not much going on but be careful of what you say (trust me). Especially about editors and publishers. Writers don’t care all that much what you say about them. But publishers remember. Sort of like elephants. All the Strangers are meeting all the Other Strangers (does that make us the Familiars) and no one has a home.

    To defend. To the death. For what.

    Is blogging or is blogging not — like a lot of other things — another version of escape. That is not a criticism. It is a guess.

    To escape the places we are from is not to represent them.

    But then disguise is essentially eternal.

  4. The point is communication.
    The point is communication. It might sound corny, but people from all over the world can talk to each other on a grass-roots level. Sure, there’s going to be a lot of bullshit mixed in, but we can sort it out.

    I’m mainly talking about civilians, but even the soldiers might have something valuable to say. John Kerry did.

    I’ll never forget the scenes on television, when I was in high school, of anti-war protesters clashing with cops. It might sound overly dramatic, but what else do we have? Bombs? Mortars? No. Words and satellite dishes and text messages and email and blogs on the internet.

  5. electronic iraqthere is this
    electronic iraq

    there is this group called electronic iraq which has regular blogs from iraqis both at home and abroad as well as other commentators, journalist, photographers, etc

    reccomend it for poeple who want a local perspective on life in iraq

    at times a devastating read but unquestionably a better option than pure commercial news.

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