September 30, 2007
Op-Ed Contributors
Blogging Ahmadinejad in Tehran

AMERICANS might be forgiven for thinking they have heard everything there is to say about Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s visit to Columbia University, but the story occupied Iranian bloggers at least as much as it dominated the American news cycle. Although Iranian authorities have introduced laws requiring citizens to register their blogs and Web sites with the government, Persian is the 10th most widely used language on blogs worldwide, according to Technorati, the blog-tracking service.

Despite official harassment and intimidation, Iranian blogs remain a vibrant source of debate and provide a valuable insight into popular opinion inside the country. Bloggers tend to be young, well educated and not very supportive of President Ahmadinejad, who typically attracts followers from the urban poor.

Here are excerpts from the conversation as it unfolded in Iran last week. They have been translated by the Iran Human Rights Documentation Center from the Persian.

— Tom Parker, executive director of the Iran Human Rights Documentation Center.

Someone who denies the Holocaust and promises the downfall of the Western world will inevitably remind Westerners of bin Laden and Al Qaeda.

Ahmadinejad comes from a country that burns the American flag, the symbol of American identity, and shouts its desire for the death and destruction of the government and its president.

American anger is understandable. Maybe it comes from the same source as the anger of the Iranian students at Amirkabir University in Tehran who confronted Ahmadinejad and his entourage.

— Republic,, Sept. 23

Can anyone imagine George Bush coming to Tehran and then criticizing the Islamic Republic’s policies in a speech? Is it plausible to imagine George Bush speaking about wiping Palestine off the map? Could George Bush talk about sending democracy to Tehran in Tehran? Would George Bush even be provided with security or would plain-clothed operatives be sent to “spontaneously” attack him?

— Street No. 11,, Sept. 24

The most important part of the speech is the very positive message that Iran has sent to America. In response to the question “Are you willing to have a dialogue with America and what do you expect?” after some explanations, he said, “We think that America can be a good friend for Iran.” He repeated the sentence and the phrase “good friend” one more time to show that it did not slip out accidentally.

— Word of Wisdom,, Sept. 24

Most Western news agencies like CNN and Fox News, which are branded by the regime as the agents of a Western cultural war, broadcast the speech of President Ahmadinejad live. It is interesting that none of the channels inside our country did that. What does this mean? Does it mean we don’t trust ourselves? Does it mean that we worry we might let something slip? Does it mean that we fear that our president might let something slip?

It means that knowing is not a right our people have! It means that other countries abide by democracy more than we do. It means that even we don’t believe ourselves, even that we fear ourselves. We fear that we might say something by mistake and that our lies would be revealed to the people. Really, why are the state officials against open access to information? Why don’t the people even have the right to hear the speech of their elected president? Why can’t they hear his reasoning for issues like nuclear power, democracy in Iran, and so on?

What is interesting is that we claim the Americans want to prevent our voice from being heard, so why do we censor ourselves?

— Poor Iran,, Sept. 24

When you, the Iranian president, don’t understand how to criticize Israel and Zionism so your criticism is taken seriously, and not ridiculed by all, what kind of treatment do you expect from others?

I understand that your intentions were honorable. I know that you really meant that the Holocaust should not be used as an excuse to oppress the Palestinians. But if you expected others to grasp your meaning, you should have just said it plain and simple.

— Kingdom of Heaven,, Sept. 24

I was reading the news reports of the American media. I am truly dumbfounded. They have focused on Ahmadinejad’s response to the homosexuality question and are analyzing it. What has the world come to that, with innocent people dying in Iraq every day, the rights of the homosexuals have become the most important issue of the day?

Insulting the president of a country, no matter how unacceptable his point of view, is synonymous to insulting a nation.

— Cure,, Sept. 25

Dude, someone should take Ahmadinejad’s hand and take him to Daneshju Park in Valiasr Crossing. No need for explanation. Just hold on firmly to his hand so that he does not get too excited. We all know that when he is among different people and ethnic groups, he tries to blend in and considers becoming one of them as his undeniable duty. So be careful, God forbid, that when he is in Daneshju Park, this feeling of duty might arise and cause him trouble! Unlike those boys who have gender confusion in that godforsaken park, a president cannot pluck his eyebrows, or wear tight-fitting clothes, or put on blusher.

— Messiah,, Sept. 25

During the speech of my favorite president, I felt broken. The belittling killed me little by little. He thought Columbia University was just another visit to the provinces and everyone would applaud him. How could he stand all the insults to his people?

Last night, before the speech of my knowledgeable Ahmadinejad, I was so worried. O Lord, how are we going to be ridiculed now?

How did we become who we are? The year of dialogue between civilizations seems so far away!

— Until the Polytechnic Students Are Released ... (formerly To Watch the Cleansing Waters),, Sept. 26

NY Times

Tom Parker is the executive director of the Iran Human Rights Documentation Center.