Wednesday, January 01, 2003

Happy New Year 2003.

US officials have a big problem! "FBI Suspect is me, says Pakistani jeweller." So apparently someone is running around with a fake passport in the US and the FBI want to talk to them? I guess the US can thank the Canadians!

An Iranian musician's homecoming. Shahin visits Iran for the first time since 1979 and marvels at the traffic and the openness to Western culture.

A Toronto professor writing for "The Globe and Mail", Ron Deibert, claims that the Internet is censored in Iran! "On another front, authoritarian governments ranging from Syria and Iran to China are busy attempting to block their citizens from accessing what their elites believe is dangerous information by using sophisticated firewalls at router points." What a load of rubbish!! He must be basing this on outdated information. A friend of mine studying political science can't look at porn from his dorm... but for public computers, that's not strange. You can go to net cafes and look at Mr Pahlavi's site any time you like. I did some searches to try to find out what Prof. Deibert's source was... perhaps an August 1999 RSF report The 20 Enemies of the Internet which seems to be inaccurate... or the May 2001 cybercafe closures... or RSF's 2002 annual report... "in November the High Council of the Cultural Revolution, a body headed by President Mohammad Khatami but dominated by the conservatives, decreed that all private companies providing access to the Internet had to dismantle their equipment or transfer it to the public sector." (If you come to Tehran you see endless ads everywhere for net companies... "No Proxy! No Filtering!" I suppose RSF must focus on anything which looks like doom and gloom.)

But then what's this about Iran's banned press turns to the net (BBC August 2002) if there's censorship? What's this about Web gives a voice to Iranian women (BBC June 2002) saying "Contrary to expectation, the internet in Iran is not censored"? Even RSF's September 2002 report The Internet On Probation doesn't mention Iran. I guess that negative myths about Iran just perpetuate themselves somehow. (I feel good for writing something positive about Iran for a change!!) If you want to know what Iran is REALLY like you have to visit yourself; or perhaps chat to people on boards like the Thorn Tree.

I switch back to conspiracy theories. Forbidden opinion polls: confusion and realities by Mr Al-Rashid. "According to the poll results, 70 percent of the people thought that United States and England helped in bringing about the Iranian revolution, Not only is this strange; but it is also wrong." There was an article in the last "Economist" about conspiracy theories:

"As a tool for explaining how the world works, conspiracism has certain drawbacks. It inhibits trust: if everyone else is out to get you, better
have nothing to do with them. It dampens optimism: if ``they'' are sure to frustrate your plans, why bother doing anything? And, of course, it
leads to harmful errors, such as the belief, once popular among Africans, that condoms were yet another ploy to reduce their population."

In the book Religious Minorities In Iran the writer, Professor Sanasarian, explains Khomeini's worldview (which Khamenei has inherited): that enemies were in every corner of the world plotting against him and against Islam. So these beliefs help explain Iranians' apathy: "why bother doing anything?" and also help explain Iran's international isolation and closed society. I see no way out; any change would have to involve Iranians becoming more familiar with what open societies are like, which given the poverty and the difficulties of travel for the average person in Iran is not going to happen. Perhaps the Internet can help?