The Persian blogosphere is the often surprising counterpoint to many of the images we in the West carry around in our heads about a relentlessly hostile, regimented and theocratic Iran. According to recent estimates, Iran has some 60,000 active blogs, covering a whole spectrum of individual political opinion and social orientation. That makes Iran not just the most active part of the blogosphere in the Middle East, it puts Farsi blogs in the top ranks of global blogging, alongside those in languages such as English, Japanese and Chinese. Heavy-handed intimidation by the Tehran authorities, the persistent blocking of Internet sites and services and even the arrests of bloggers and citizen journalists, have not quieted the Iranian blogosphere, at least not yet.
On Monday, April 12, George Washington University’s Institute for Public Diplomacy and Global Communication and the Broadcasting Board of Governors will hold a half-day conference on campus at the Jack Morton Auditorium to examine the special role Iran’s blogosphere plays within Iran and beyond, and to explore whether, despite the serious political tensions of the moment, there are ways that Iranians and people from outside Iran can still connect and pursue common interests. The program for the conference, entitled “Iran’s Blogosphere and Grassroots Voices: Risks and Rewards of Engagement,” is available here.
We are delighted that author and SAIS professor Azar Nafisi has agreed to be our keynote speaker. Her best-known work, Reading Lolita in Tehran: A Memoir in Books, was on the New York Times bestseller list for over two years and has been translated into 32 languages. Nafisi is an especially articulate and passionate speaker, whom I feel certain you would enjoy, either in person at the "Iran's Blogosphere and Grassroots Voices" conference or via our live streaming video feed on April 12.