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Monday, 17 June, 2002, 07:45 GMT 08:45 UK
Web gives a voice to Iranian women
Iranian women in Tehran
Women have few ways to express themselves in Iran
Alfred Hermida, Assistant Editor, Technology

The web is providing a way for women in Iran to talk freely about taboo subjects such as sex and boyfriends.

Over the past few months there has been a big jump in the number of Persian weblogs which are providing an insight into a closed society.

Weblogs, or blogs, are online journals where cyber-diarists let the world in on the latest twists and turns of their love, work and internal lives.

"I could talk very freely and very frankly about things I could never talk about in any other place, about subjects that are banned" said one of the first women to start a blog in Iran.

Underground lives

The rise of the blog in Iran has been made possible by the huge growth of the internet in the Middle Eastern country.

There were 400,000 people on the internet in Iran in 2001, according to government figures. But officials expect this it grow to 15m over the next three or four years.


It was a good tool to get to know what is happening in Iran, what the youth are talking about, what their problems are

Hossein Derakhshan, Iranian blogger
Contrary to expectation, the internet in Iran is not censored. This has allowed Iranians to use blogs to air issues that they cannot talk about in public.

Perhaps surprisingly, few of the blogs focus on politics.

"It is social issues mostly," said blogger Hossein Derakhshan, an Iranian journalist living in Canada, "the underground lives that Iranian youth have these days. Things like girlfriends, boyfriends, the music they listen to, the films they see."

This may seem surprising to people in the West, but Iran is a conservative society with an Islamic government.

Free expression

Hossein created one of the first blogs in Persian last year.


Women in Iran cannot speak out frankly because of our Eastern culture and there are some taboos such as talking about sex

Female Iranian blogger
"It was a good tool to get to know what is happening in Iran," he told the BBC programme Go Digital, "what the youth are talking about, what are their problems."

He had so much interest from Iran that he decided to write a simple guide in Persian, to help others set up their own blogs.

Seven months on, there are more than 1,200 Persian blogs, many of them written by women.

"For the first time in the contemporary history of Iran, women can express themselves freely, even if it is not in their real name," said Mr Derakhshan.

"They have found the courage to speak about themselves and how they see the world."

Women's voices

For one female blogger, who wished to remain anonymous, her online diary has provided a forum to share her fears and aspirations.

"Women in Iran cannot speak out frankly because of our Eastern culture and there are some taboos just for women, such as talking about sex or the right to choose your partner," she said.

"I have the opportunity to talk about these things and share my experiences with others."

For the most part, the response to her blog has been positive.

"I've had e-mails from men who have told me that I changed their attitude towards women in Iran," she said.

"I had some negative responses, people saying I am disrespecting the image of an Iranian woman. Some people even insulted me.

"But negative responses are few compared to positive ones."

See also:

29 Aug 01 | Country profiles
18 Mar 02 | Middle East
13 Nov 01 | Business
01 Jun 01 | Middle East
Links to more Science/Nature stories are at the foot of the page.


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