Our loss

Well, this sucks. Hossein Derakhshan, one of the great pioneers of international blogging and freedom of speech online — a friend of democracy and, one should assume, America — has been barred from re-entering the country for six months. He tells the tale on his blog. The long and short of it is that on a quick trip between the U.S. and Canada, the border officials — being Homeland Security, after all — Googled his name, found his blog, and tried to find incriminating evidence that he was living and working in the U.S. without proper paperwork. A copy of Newsweek with his name and a New York address finally did him in.

How do we help him? Global Voices, which Hossein helped create, is at the Harvard Law School. I hope they know some experts in immigration law.

I will write a testimonial for Hossein telling how he is advancing the causes of freedom and democracy in Iran and elsewhere on earth.

I will write to my senators.

And isn’t it sadly ironic that Iran — whose dictatorial regeime he challenged starting the weblog revolution there — also questioned him and let him in and out. But America will not let him in.

That is our loss. And we need to fix it.

: Also see today’s NY Times story about the bloggers of China exercising their freedom where they can in spite of companies, including American companies, helping to censor them by building their firewalls and handing dissidents over to authorities.

We have to get our authorities to see that these bloggers are the peaceful freeÃ¥dom fighters of our age, using the internet and free speech as the best weapons possible against tyranny. Isn’t that our fight as well? Shouldn’t we be helping them however we can?

: Here‘s the Committee to Protect Blogger’s post and here is Journalism.co.uk‘s.

  • I agree this is a terrible loss for us, but my own experience with the border folks suggests it’ll be nearly impossible to get that guard’s ruling overturned. My case involved a company I used to run (It was a Canadian company AND a U.S. company) and a Toronto woman who worked for me. She got held up at the border for a visa impropriety. The more she argued, the more intransigent the guard became. She was not allowed back into the U.S., despite the efforts of my Congressman.

    Of course, I didn’t have the mighty voices of the blogosphere on my side. I’ll do my part. Let’s hope we succeed, because Hossein certainly is a beacon of freedom to the world.

  • steve

    this is definitely a deplorable situation, but come on, spare us the ridiculous jab suggesting iran is in any way — in any way — even remotely more liberal than the USA. just when one thinks you are a fairminded and openminded source, along comes this. blecccch, jeff. bleccch.

    the current or just recent New Yorker has an excellent piece detailing the price young Iranians are paying for blogging — 60 days in solitary confinement in a cell just barely large enough to hold a human body (laying down) and the constant and very real threat of torture and death:


    I know you hate GWB, and the Patriot Act amd Rumsfield and all the rest, but please — please — spare us the extremely ridiculous and noxious rhetoric. At its very worst, our country is a Shangri-la of freedom and social mobility and progressivism compared to essentially any other place on Earth. Do we need massive and radical change and improvement — hell yes. But let’s get on with that work without resorting to such inflammatory overstatement?

  • Brilliant, huh? The guy brings a free press to Iran at some risk to his own safety…and the US government treats him like a danger to our saftey…

    They wouldn’t let him come to Greensboro in October for the ConvergeSouth conference, either — and Hoder, gentleman that he is, seemed more concerned about missing his sessions than about his own problems.

  • Argh – I see it was the ConvergeSouth trip that undid him. Unreal.

  • I’ll make sure that the folks over a The Committee to Protect Bloggers (http://committeetoprotectbloggers.civiblog.org) know about this. I don’t see that they’ve posted anything about it yet.

  • We do now.


    I’ve also written to (OR) Sen. Ron Wyden and (OR) Rep. Peter DeFazio.

    And I daresay Jeff’s comment re. Iran was to underscore the fact that WE EXPECT A DAMNED SITE BETTER from our govt. officials, and Hoder was in Iran (you know, axis of evil?) to bear witness during what passes for an election there.

  • While it is both sad and unfortunate that our government would take this stand on not admitting this Iranian blogger, I am hardly surprised by their stupid or incomprehesible actions anymore. Their logic, albeit “fuzzy” is also quite simple-CIA puppet,Shah governed Iran:good. Turban-headed Islam-fundamentalist, not in our vest pocket Iran:bad.

    FYI-I live in Taiwan and just received e-mail from an old American friend living in Shanghai, China. She informed me she could only access my WordPress hosted blog, not any of my Blogger hosted blogs. China has blocked Google/Blogger blogs carte blanche. They better hurry up and fork over a massive buy-in to some Chinese concern, so that government officials can siphon off big chunk of that,thereby paving the way for smooth “sailing on the sea” of China business. Make sure you turn over any Chinese dissidents/democracy advocates while you’re at it-ala Jerry Yang and the “Yahooligans”, especially if you want to be invited to the “right” functions while playing footsie in China.

  • I have been to China many times. The internet in China is very slow and unreliable. However their cel phones work just about everywhere! – Hoodia

  • must remain anonymous

    I posted a comment on his blog after hitting the link to his tale.

    That was a damned weak refusal. The man was frank and honest to the Inspector when a pearson who presents a real threat will give that same Inspector a shit eating grin and bullshit his way right into the U.S..

    That’s just a sad state of the paranoia that is the border these days.

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  • A minor correction to Mark Foreman’s comment above: while I cannot speak for his friend, in my neck of the Chinese woods (Tianjin/Beijing), Blogspot blogs have been unblocked for more than a month, as has (more importantly) the Google cache. Typepad has been reblocked, unfortunately. However, with the Google cache unblocked a lot of sites are available even if the actual site is censored.

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