Iran: A Long and Painful Story of Jailed Bloggers

Iranian blogger and journalist, Omid Reza Mirsyafi, was sentenced [fa]to two and a half years of prison this week. He stands accused of insulting religious leaders, and engaging in propaganda against the Islamic Republic. Over the past 5 years, several bloggers in Iran have faced jail and persecution because of their blogs. Some were detained for a few days while others were condemned to several years.

Simon Columbus, a researcher studying the cases of jailed bloggers around the world (article forthcoming), estimates, in an email to me, that the number of Iranian bloggers who have been arrested solely for their blogging activities comes to about 20. He has counted a total of 30 Iranian bloggers who have been jailed for political activity, which may not be directly linked to their blogs.

Individual and collective arrests

Sina MotalebiSina Motalebi was the first Iranian blogger ever jailed. In April 2003, he was arrested by the intelligence division of law enforcement because of writings on on his weblog and elsewhere and interviews with foreign media. He spent 23 days in solitary confinement in a secret detention centre before he was released on bail. In December 2003, Sina left Iran for the Netherlands, where he sought asylum.

Between August and November 2004, judiciary agents operating on behalf of Tehran's chief prosecutor, Saeed Mortazavi, detained more than 20 bloggers and internet journalists. After their release some of the detainees testified before a presidential commission, detailing their mistreatment while in detention. Hanif Mazroi, Massoud Ghoreishi, Fereshteh Ghazi, Arash Naderpour and Mahbobeh Abasgholizadeh appeared in front of the commission on December 25, 2004. On January 1, 2005, Omid Memarian and Ruzbeh Mir Ebrahimi also provided accounts of their ill-treatment.

About his interrogators in prison, Memarian says, “they were people who only had the appearance of human beings” [Fa]. The blogger adds: “When I came out of prison, I said to myself, ‘Let's forget these people and not let them hurt my optimism,’ but the experience is still stuck in my memory. I still remember the guards’ whispers and the keys turning in my cell's doors.”

“All this for dogs!”

Reza Valizadeh, a journalist and blogger, was the object of a complaint from the Iranian president's office and was detained on November 2007. Several Iranian blogs and websites argue the main reason he was arrested was because he revealed that Ahmadinejad's security staff bought four dogs from Germany for about $150,000 each. He was released after a few weeks of detention.

No insults, please

Mojtaba Saminejad was initially arrested in November 2004. He was released on bail on January 27, 2005 but arrested again on February 12, 2005 because his bail fee was doubled and he was unable to pay it.

According to Saminejad's supporters, the reason for his arrest was that he blogged about the arrests of three other bloggers. According to official charges, Saminejad was suspected of having insulted the head of state of Iran (the Supreme Leader), of “endangering national security,” and of having “insulted the prophets.” He was found guilty and sentenced to two years and ten months’ imprisonment.

On June 28, 2005, Saminejad was found ‘not guilty’ of the charge of “insulting the prophets” (punishable by the death penalty). He was released a few months ago but still is under pressure today.

Detained for over a month

Where is Hoder?More than 40 days ago, reports surfaced that Hossein Derakhshan (also known as Hoder), a famed Iranian blogger, was arrested in Tehran. The reasons for his arrest are unclear, but some speculate that his two (highly publicised) trips to Israel were the main reason.

Blogger Z8tun says other Iranians have been caught visiting Israel, but were released after a few hours of interrogation. Some speculate that Derakhshan who in recent years became a supporter of President Ahmadinejad's government, was arrested because he insulted some religious leaders in the country. He has himself argued in Western media, despite multiple testimonies of jailed bloggers, that nobody goes to jail in Iran because of the content of their blog. There is a Free Hoder facebook page campaigning for his release.

Please read more in “Iranian Bloggers Talk About Their Prison Experience“.

Image of Mojtaba Saminejad from Wikimedia Commons


  • nashwan ghanem

    Cairo 19th November 2008

    The Arabic Network for Human Rights Information strongly condemned today the harassment and threats against engineer Nashwan Abdu Ali Ghanim who runs a blog on Katib website which is now blocked in Yemen by the state security. The death threats and harassment are based on his articles about the consequences of the terrorist operation which targeted the US embassy in Yemen, and accused some political and military leaders of being involved in the attacks.

    The Arabic Network for Human Rights Information denounces this cruel campaign, which breaks all international laws and conventions, and even the Yemeni constitution. ANHRI consider this campaign a breach of democratic principles which the regime in Yemen claims to protect and adopt, and calls upon the Yemeni authorities to end the security persecution against Ali Ghanim and guarantee his integrity.

    It also demands the immediate withdrawal of troops surrounding the house, the investigation of his case and the immediate unblocking of his blog.

    The Arabic Network for Human Rights reminds the Yemeni authorities of its obligations to the international conventions following its participation at the donor conference in 2006 as one of states adopting democracy. ANHRI also reminds the authorities in Yemen to respect article 19 of the Universal Declaration for Human Rights as well as the International Convention for Civil and Political Rights for freedom of expression.

    In the same context, ANHRI calls upon human rights organizations in local, regional, and international levels, and donor institutions in particular to support blogger Ghanim and exercise pressures over the Yemeni authorities to guarantee his physical integrity and end persecutions against expression and opinion activists.

  • […] continúa siendo uno de los mayores enemigos de la libertad de expresión y de los bloggers en todo el planeta. Creo que éste es un excelente momento para hacerle llegar nuestra voz y […]

  • blogger yemeni nashwan ghanem

    Appeal to all organizations concerned with human rights, as well as

    organizations concerned with the defense of journalists, activists and


    The authority had not exercised such a nefarious, such as pursuant to never

    do with my rights activist and writer blog!!
    More cases every day, whether the task is not to eliminate this power only

    on the life of this human rights activist,
    It is playing a very dirty and the worst methods used to achieve the object

    ..And use all the pressure to have the papers, as well as exercise and a

    large-scale distortion to strike an alliance or solidarity with me!
    Crew did not stop the military patrols and not following me and all I have

    to say that it bears responsibility for what is happening to me these are the

    figures of the military force in Yemen, which was accused of involvement

    in the attack on the U.S. embassy in Sanaa September 17, 2008.
    It is then subjected to severe beatings, abuse and threatened me with death

    that I went back to writing about big themes!!
    They are already in their constant, after the road block police officers from

    the department on October 14 with civilian clothes in the evening,

    corresponding to 24/3/2009 eighth and took the condition of the hands of

    my telephone and then stopped the car Tax (taxi) is submitted to it and

    wanted me to go to the police the same! !
    And then got them after a fight with them ..Until this moment, my

    telephone is still at the police sources,

    This is the strategy that you want access to the Yemeni power to confiscate

    my telephone a crime to do without one knows what happened to me!!

    One of the most haunted me the charges are as follows:

    1: The following me terrorists as well as Korean nationals, on the

    background of what happened to them in the recent period.

    2: The following me Africans, supported by further electronic messages

    sent by the Authority of Yemen to the email.

    3: The following me all the features that refer to Saudi Arabia, cars and

    trucks, large plates and Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates.

    4: garbage car following me, and its workers considerably.

    5: following me to people with disabilities.

    6: following me to foreign nationals and Iraqis, Russians and Koreans and


    7: following me also to children and women and all respect to the

    Palestinian slogans.

    I call on all organizations concerned with human rights first, and those

    organizations concerned with the rights of journalists, activists and bloggers

    to quickly appeal to the Yemeni authorities to cease all operations of the

    Nazis, committed against my rights activist and author of the Code and to

    ensure the physical safety first and foremost.

    * Yemeni blogger / Nashwan Abd Ali Ghanem
    * Sanaa – Yemen
    * 1/4/2009

    These links my notes:

    And can provide you with this link:

  • […] is among nominees for a freedom of expression award: The Ecomosit New Media Award. Read more here. Cancel this […]

  • […] diga la normativa del país en el que se vaya a desarrollar la actividad bloguera. No es lo mismo bloguear en Irán, que bloguear en Cuba , que bloguear en […]

  • […] diga la normativa del país en el que se vaya a desarrollar la actividad bloguera. No es lo mismo bloguear en Irán, que bloguear en Cuba , que bloguear en […]

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