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Blogs shall set you free
You need your own

July 15, 3003
The Iranian

Towards the end of last year I finally decided to start a blog. Blogs (short for Web Log) are personal diaries of sort. They come in an assortment of styles and topics, published on the web for the world to read.

My decision was primarily based on the insistence of a few friends who felt I should write more. Plus, the occasional email from someone asking what I had written since the last piece they had read on or similar sites. I felt I needed a forum to express myself and have it available for others to view, critique and comment on.

I, like many other Iranians, became familiar with blogs by reading Hossein Derakhsan's. I had just moved from Toronto and he had just moved there. Hoder would occasionally post pictures from various parts of the city. Looking at pictures of his Kubideh Kabob at a restaurant at Yonge/Dundas area was my trip back to the city I had called home for 18 years.

I was later hooked on and fascinated by other Iranian bloggers, particularly those who dared to break taboos and post rather personal information on their daily lives, including notes of political dissent, romantic ventures, use of recreational drugs and even organizing to help the orphanages or mental asylums.

So, I took the leap and started my first blog and a few months later went "pro" by registering a domain and paying for hosting for my current blog the eyeranian. I had started my blog in hope of gaining a loyal readership of mostly friends, somewhere around 20 people. Now, only a short time later, I sometimes have over 1,000 visitors before midday.

I would like to think it's because I have something fascinating to say, but in reality it is in large part because I am amongst only a few active bloggers who writes about Iran in English and offers a viewpoint other than what is often represented in the West.

My readers come mostly from the U.S., Canada, Great Britain and Australia, in that order; the top four English speaking countries with broad public access to the web. Number of "hits" from Iran fluctuates as more restrictions are put on web access and connections often slow down to a halt. But considering the communication barrier, it still constitutes a significant portion of those who stop by.

When there is added attention and media spotlight is on Iran, such as during the last period of unrest or self mutilation of Mojahedin supporters, thousands of new visitors flock to my blog. They seek information and, more importantly, connections. It's a way to grasp the real stories behind the news they get from Fox or CNN.

My blog and others like it are a way for people to connect to people, direct and almost one-on-one, often a very personal level. This is why you need to start a blog and to do it in English.

Over the last few months I have engaged a fanatic Christian from the US Midwest who now understands the images he sees in mainstream media do not represent a very accurate picture of Iran and Iranians. A Muslim Malaysian was surprised to hear that the 1979 revolution was never "Islamic" in content or nature and included many others who were pushed aside when the Islamists stole the people's movement and rode it to power.

With the help of other bloggers, we managed to bring considerable attention to the arrest of Iranian journalist Sina Motallebi and made Iranian topics a central feature of many high profile blogs, such as Jeff Jarvis' Buzz Machine. Jeff is the president of the media company that owns owns several prominent websites and operates the sites for Vanity Fair, Vogue, Wired, Allure, GQ and many others.

Perhaps most significantly, the eyeranian has managed to gain the attention of a few people close to the highest circles of power. Michael Ledeen, arguably the Bush Administration's primary advisor on Iran and the main architect of the "regime change" doctrine, is now a regular visitor to my blog and often engages in direct discussions with myself or others who comment on his statements. I am told there are at least two other influential regulars, but they have so far chosen to remain anonymous.

You starting your own English blog will give all these people and others another point of view; YOUR point of view. It really doesn't matter what you write about. You can write about your own basic daily life, your interests, opinions or just provide links to what you find interesting on other sites. You can even choose to provide a digest version of translated Farsi blogs. You can find a list of those on BlogNama.

It also matters little if you aren't a regular "writer" or your writing skills aren't the best. One of the most popular Iranian blogs in English is Notes of an Iranian Girl that is written in less than perfect English from Tehran. For the inspiring writers, this is the best way to force yourself to write regularly.

As events in Iran develop and dynamics of power and influence change rapidly, more Iranian voices are needed to express our wants and goals to the global community. English blogs are a vital way to express your views for this audience. With the current restrictions inside Iran, the safety concerns and language barriers, more of this load lays on the shoulders of those of us living abroad. Besides, most bloggers choose to remain anonymous and there is virtually no fear of reprisal.

So, where to start and what does it cost to have a blog? There are more than a few options for you to start your blog with and the best part is that it is almost always free! All you need is the desire, plus a commitment to spend some time in typing your views regularly. To start, I suggest visiting BlogSpot . They have an easy interface, allowing you to set up and start your own blog in a few minutes and they are free if you don't mind their banner on top of your site.

If you are concerned about who will read your blog and whether you will have enough visitors to make it a worthwhile venture, do not worry. I will personally ask other fellow bloggers to help you in getting some traffic directed to your blog to build your own crop of regulars. Besides, didn't you hear "build it and they will come"?

Go for it! I look forward to reading your blog regularly.

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By Pedram Moallemian

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