Attacks from Anonystan

The Queen of Soul, Aretha Franklin first sang about it back in the 70s. Parents and teachers everywhere demand it. Iranians in the Diaspora think their entitled to a lot more of it and it is often nowhere to be found in the mean-spirited, nasty and expletive-filled reader responses in the comments section of, directed at individual article authors. What is it? It’s R-E-S-P-E-C-T!

Just a few days ago, I wrote a short piece on how I felt the Iranian-American community should respond to hateful comments directed at Iranians and made by Debra Cagan, the Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Coalition Affairs. Perhaps, I was hasty in criticizing Ms. Cagan’s behavior too harshly, for after reading some of the scandalously hateful comments left for a contributor to this web magazine, Ms. Cagan’s cold and callous statement about hating all Iranians pales in comparison. How can we ever expect to be accepted and respected by our non-Iranian neighbors and fellow citizens if we are unable to accept and respect our own people?

I for one, cannot in good conscience, point a finger of shame at the Debra Cagans of the world while turning a blind eye and a deaf ear to those in our community whose words are every bit as objectionable. To do so would be like the pot calling the kettle black. None among us have the right to ask others to clean their house until we have our own house in order.

The anonymity that the Internet provides is definitely a two-edged sword. It allows individuals to express themselves freely without fear of being subjected to reprisal for their beliefs and opinions, especially when those beliefs and opinions are not popular or widely held. In this way the Internet serves and important function in promoting the utility of the ‘marketplace of ideas.’ On the other hand, it provides easy cover for those who wish to perpetrate cyber-assaults on others. These kinds of people reside in the cyber-land of Anonystan. They oftentimes post the most vile and indecent comments in response to articles with which they disagree, and they nearly always do so anonymously.

The thing that really bugs me is these cyber-cowards, more often than not, fail to challenge the merits of a position or argument held by a writer, but rather launch into vicious personal attacks on the writer. Their goal is not to offer better, different or alternative points of view, but rather to bully, intimidate, disparage, and generally destroy the reputation of the individual. The perpetrators of such comments are simply cyber-thugs. From the shadows of Anonystan, they assault people they’ve never met in a way that they would never have the guts to do in the real world.

I know some will have an almost irresistible impulse to accuse me being in favor of censorship, which I am most definitely not in favor of. However, freedom of expression does not include, the right, to viciously and unjustifiably assault a person. When the only purpose underlying a particular verbal or written utterance is to demean, humiliate and disparage a person so ruthlessly that his or her reputation is completely destroyed simply because they had the audacity to hold certain views or express certain opinions on a subject, it is not only illegal, it is immoral. An assault is an assault whether it comes in the real world or in cyber space just as cyber-libel is no less damaging as printed libel.

Robust debate in the market place of ideas is not only healthy, but necessary to the vitality of any multicultural community, especially those in societies with democratic traditions. The Iranian American community is one such multicultural community. We are not a cookie-cutter people by any stretch of the imagination. We are made up of Muslims, Christians, Jews, Bahias, agnostics, and atheists.

We are made up of many different ethnic groups, each having its own distinct language and traditions. We are made up of Republicans (with a big R), Democrats (with a big D), republicans, democrats, monarchists, communists and Islamists. We are made of people born and raised in Iran, people born in Iran, but raised their entire lives abroad, people born and raised abroad, people with two-Iranian parents and others with just one, people who can speak, read and write Farsi and others who cannot. We are a very diverse group of people.

The only thing that is uniform about all of us is how strikingly un-uniform we really are. The only thing that we all have in common is our uncommon love and devotion to our homeland and our people.

With so many differences, why do some amongst us presume that we should all think the same way? One of the chief complaints that one often hears in our community is that the government of the Islamic Republic denies its citizens the right to freely express themselves, yet there are those right here in the USA who hide behind the First Amendment to launch attacks on fellow Iranians in an effort to deny them their right to freely express themselves. This is not only ironic, but disgusting as well.

Having written many articles in the past, my opinions have not been immune from criticism and often justifiably so. Not all of us are going to agree on everything, and that is the way things should be. However, there is a huge difference between constuctively criticizing a person’s ideas, beleifs and opinions and attacking an individual at a personal level. Sometimes a writer opens the door and invites personal attacks on himself or herself.

The well-known, but not well-regarded Iranian-Canadian cartoonist, Hajiahga comes to mind. His salacious and lascivious depictions of not only Iranian women, but women in general justify the responses he regularly gets; but one must remember that he invites such responses by the very nature and content of his contributions to He knows all too well how people will react to his contributions and I think he probably gets a kick out of it.

All writers, in my opinion, can and should be legitimately and robustly challenged on the merits of their positions, and opinions. This is how any community achieves consensus and arrives at truths. When one chooses to open the door to vigorous and robust debate by submitting material for publication, one ought to have a thick enough skin to accept that others may disagree or see things differently. It’s like Harry Truman said, ‘If you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen.’

This is very different, however, from ripping someone apart at a personal level just because their views don’t happen to be popular. There is a line between attacking the argument and attacking the author.

This week I read several pieces written by a woman in Washington, D.C. that attracted the venom of numerous comment posters. Some posters legitimately ripped her arguments to shreds. Others justifiably commented on her very poor and rambling writing abilities. These things are fair game. She chose to advertise her beliefs in the market place of ideas and when others rejected what she had to say or the manner in which she said it; so be it.

However, many of the comments that were posted went far beyond criticizing her stated positions, or her ability as a writer. They attacked her personally and cruelly. The comments section was replete with hateful, hurtful comments of a personal nature that no Iranian woman should be subjected to. I do not know this woman and based upon her writings, I’m sure that I do not want to know her, but still she is entitled to express her opinions no matter how distasteful and unpopular those opinions might be. She should be afforded no less respect than anyone else is entitled to.

If freedom of speech is meant to protect anything, it is meant to protect the ideas that are the least popular and most repugnant to the majority. I simply do not understand those who are so shallow that instead of taking this woman to task for her beliefs and ideas, they are so underdeveloped intellectually that they must resort to the filthiest kind of personal attack imaginable. I have taken the liberty to reproduce a sampling of the comments that I personally found to be the most nauseatingly repulsive; see if you agree:


Nazanin is enjoying another Islamic cock…
by Anonymouss (not verified)
on Mon Oct 08, 2007 01:46 PM PDT


Band of sisters
by Fozulbashi (not verified)
on Mon Oct 08, 2007 10:09 AM PDT

Deliberations of Ghasemian are not worthy of debate. Every time and again, we get a Reborne-Mulsim-Bitch (it is almost invariably a woman) who has rediscovered Islam and is embracing it with all it assumed glory. So far we have had Nahid Shafiei and a couple of others and now we have Ghasemian. I feel seriosuly sorry for the nation whose Islamic revivalist are such morons who lack education and even finesse.


Nobody gives a fuck what you think Nazanin…
by Omar Pahlevani (not verified)
on Mon Oct 08, 2007 05:01 PM PDT

You are not an American or Iranian, you are just a cockroach of the Islamic Republic which have infested this site. Continue sucking your masters dick since their time is comming…


Goozidam beh gisse Iranian in DC
by Goozidam beh rishet (not verified)
on Mon Oct 08, 2007 10:35 AM PDT

You are not only a bitch but you are beesavad bitch: PROBABILITY is ONLY BETWEEN ZERO and ONE. It can’t be >1 you idiot. Go eat shit now.


Another garbage piece by Nazanin, the newest cunt of IRI
by Omar (not verified)
on Mon Oct 08, 2007 10:26 AM PDT


That thing on your head
by Caspianseamermaid (not verified)
on Fri Oct 05, 2007 01:45 PM PDT

Could you and your friends please go back to Iran? Or better still, go to Saudi Arabia and join the burqah brigade. Get out of the Western world, please.


Nazanin, you may need some anal sex to open your eyes..
by Yazid (not verified)
on Fri Oct 05, 2007 09:55 AM PDT


You remind me of human garbage, Fuck your Islam
by Omar (not verified)
on Fri Oct 05, 2007 08:12 AM PDT

please do not forget your aftabeh before touching your keyboard.


If this is the way Iranian men are supposed to address Iranian women with whom they disagree, my mother did not raise me right. In my home, my parents raised me to respect Iranian women even if I did not like them or agree with them. These comments and others like them that were meant to embarrass and demean this woman on a personal level are shameful. It is entirely possible, however, that I am the one who is out of step with the majority of the members of our community. If it is right and proper to use such coarse and abusive language when we disagree with one another, then perhaps, I should apologize to Debra Cagan, for she did nothing more than we do to ourselves.

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