Friday, August 25, 2006

Bloggers win and lose .... but mostly win

For anyone interested in what is going on in Iraq even mildly, Iraq The Model is a must to read as regularly as possible. It is run by two young men in Baghdad who have lived there all their lives and are involved in the developments now. Not long ago they mourned the death of a cousin in a terrorist attack.

A couple of interesting postings: Omar has added up how many blogs there were in Iraq now and has come to a very interesting and heartening conclusion. According to the Technocrati data there are (ore were last week) 212 Iraqi blogs and some frustration was expressed with that low number.

However, Omar points out that this is just the tip of the iceberg. Most blogs are written in Arabic and are, therefore, not necessarily noticed outside the country. On the other hand they do have a greater influence inside.

Adding them all up, he says:

“Total Number of Users: 1558
Total Number of Posts: 13458
Total Number of visits to all community members: 9 920 393

And knowing that this community was created on 15 Jan 2005, i.e. only 18 months old makes these statistics impressive in my opinion.

It's true that not all those 1 558 blogs are active ones but that also applies to the other 212 as it does to the 50 million blogs worldwide.”

There are also bloggers in Egypt and other Arab countries, though, according to Mohammed, who has just returned from a bloggers’ conference in Cairo, their lives are considerably more difficult than those led by the Iraqi contingent.

Not so long ago a number of bloggers were arrested by the Egyptian police and maltreated in a way that probably made them wish they could be imprisoned in Guantánamo. Most were eventually released in response to demonstrations in Cairo and a world-wide protest on the blogosphere (well, some parts of it). I must admit that I am in awe of these people’s courage.

Things are not so good in Iran, still one of the countries with the largest number of blogs in the world. Farsi is joint second language on the blogosphere and may well overtake French soon. If the Mullahs and President Ahmadinejad with his thuggish Revolutionary Guards will allow it, that is.

The recent news from Iran is that not only the police have been smashing satellite dishes to prevent people from listening to decadent stuff from outside but they have also been working quite hard to block websites and blogs. If that means arresting and beating up bloggers, so much the worse for them.

Yet new ones start up all the time. It is worth remembering the courage and tenacity of these people when we pat ourselves on the back for achieving as much as we have achieved one way or another.

Why am I writing all this? Well, really, just to give notice that in future this site will join (as we have done in the past to some extent) in the world-wide protests when we hear of bloggers being arrested, of writers being maltreated for their writing and of blogs and websites being blocked. We owe it to our brave colleagues in countries where there is real oppression.

As the old Russian slogan about Poland had it: Za vashu i nashu svobodu – For your freedom and ours. And, anyway, now that Amnesty has given up fighting for prisoners of conscience but has become merely an ordinary, anti-Western, pro-terrorist NGO with political ambitions on the transnational scene, somebody has to do their work.

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