Bluehost To Sack Iranian BlogsApril 1st, 2009 — Chris Van Buren
Bluehost, which hosts several WordPress blogs in Iran, is set to start removing Iranian users due to a clause which allows them to deny service to countries under American government sanctions. The sad irony is that this action only hurts political speech, civil society and democratic participation in Iran, the very values that thinking Americans would like to flourish there.
In deeply conservative Iran, whose outspoken anti-Americanism and atomic ambitions have prompted punitive sanctions from the West, the blogosphere has become one of the few avenues of robust political speech. As Persian blogger Arash Kamangir eloquently puts it:
My father once took me to the streets in front of the University of Tehran, now called Revolution Street, and showed me the pavement. He said, “There was a time when, at every inch of this pavement, a person was passionately advocating for a political group.” The Persian blogosphere is the electronic version of those packed streets which were silenced soon after the takeover of power by the current administration.
There are, of course, enormous complications to any Iranian-American rapproachment, Obama’s recent holiday well-wishing aside. See The Atlantic’s sobering Netanyahu interview for what I mean by this. At the same time, the Manichean image of Iran as an evil theocracy of mad mullahs must be checked against the aspirations of average Iranians, who simply desire the autonomy to speak, discuss and protest. Bluehost’s disappointing denial of service does nothing to foster this web-based civil society and, in fact, may only prop up hardliners, anxious to shackle hosting services and executve bloggers.