Hossein Derakhshan

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Hossein Derakhshan
Derakhshan in 2005
Native name حسين درخشان
Born (1975-01-07) January 7, 1975 (age 42)
Nationality Iranian
Occupation Journalist
Known for Father blogging in Iran
Criminal charge Multiple
Criminal penalty 19½ years in prison[1]
Criminal status Pardoned[2]

Hossein Derakhshan (Persian: حسين درخشان‎; born January 7, 1975), also known as Hoder, is an Iranian-Canadian blogger who was imprisoned in Tehran from November 2008 to November 2014. He is credited with starting the blogging revolution in Iran[3] and is called the father of Persian blogging by many journalists.[4] He also helped to promote podcasting in Iran.[5] Derakhshan was arrested on November 1, 2008[6] and sentenced to 19½ years in prison on September 28, 2010. His sentence was reduced to 17 years in October 2013.[7] He was pardoned by Iran's supreme leader and on November 19, 2014 was released from Evin prison.[8][9]


Hossein Derakhshan
in Iranian National TV (Seda Va Sima) (1980)

Derakhshan started his education in Nikan High School in Tehran. He has a bachelor's degree in sociology from Shahid Beheshti University in Tehran. He spent time studying sociology at the University of Toronto.[10] He holds a master's degree (MA) in Film and Media Studies from SOAS, University of London, 2008.[11][12]

Early journalism[edit]

Derakhshan started out as a journalist writing about Internet and digital culture for reformist newspaper, Asr-e Azadegan in 1999. Later, when this paper was closed down by the judiciary system, he moved to another newspaper, Hayat-e No. His column there was called Panjere-i roo be hayaat (A Window to the Life, a reference to Alfred Hitchcock's Rear Window), and later expanded to a weekly page on digital culture, Internet and computer games.[13]

Blogging advocacy[edit]

In December 2000, Derakhshan moved to Toronto, Ontario, Canada. On September 25, 2001, he started his weblog in the Persian language, using Unicode. It was titled Sardabir: khodam, or "Editor: Myself".

He later moved his manually maintained weblog to Blogger.com, which was not supporting Unicode at the time. He also prepared a step-by-step guide in Persian[14] on how other Persian writers can start their weblogs using Blogger.com and the Unicode standard.

Derakhshan spoke at the Wikimania 2005 conference in Frankfurt, Germany regarding the complementary use of wikis and blogs to aid political reform and the growth of democracy in Iran and other countries.[15]

On leaving Iran, he was briefly detained and summoned to the Ministry of Intelligence. A few days later he was interrogated by an intelligence official over the content of his blog and was forced to sign an apology before being allowed to leave Iran.[16] But after leaving Iran, he published a report on what happened on his website.

Global Voices Panel of Wikimania at the 2005 conference.


Derakhshan's weblog, like some other political Persian blogs and websites, has been blocked (or filtered) by the government in Iran, since 2004.[17][18]

In December 2003, he founded Stop censoring us, a blog to watch the situation of internet censorship in Iran.[19] He appeared a few times on a VOA Persian TV show to talk about Internet censorship and methods to get around filters.

Israel visit[edit]

Derakhshan visited Israel as a Canadian citizen in early 2006 and early 2007. Before his first visit, he stated that he went to Israel as a personal attempt to start a dialogue between Iranian and Israeli people.[20]

This might mean that I won't be able to go back to Iran for a long time, since Iran doesn't recognize Israel, has no diplomatic relations with it, and apparently considers traveling there illegal. Too bad, but I don't care. Fortunately, I'm a citizen of Canada and I have the right to visit any country I want.

I'm going to Israel as a citizen journalist and a peace activist. As a citizen journalist, I'm going to show my 20,000 daily Iranian readers what Israel really looks like and how people live there. The Islamic Republic has long portrayed Israel as an evil state, with a consensual political agenda of killing every single man and woman who prays to Allah, including Iranians. I'm going to challenge that image.

As a peace activist, I'm going to show the Israelis that the vast majority of Iranians do not identify with Ahmadinejad's rhetoric, despite what it looks like from the outside. I'm going to tell them how any kind of violent action against Iran would only harm the young people who are gradually reforming the system and how the radicals would benefit from such situation.

His second visit was to participate in a conference at The Chaim Herzog Center for Middle East Studies and Diplomacy at Ben-Gurion University in Beer Sheva. The annual international conference in 2007 was titiled 'Reform, Resistance, and Conflicts in the Middle East." Hossein participated in panel titled 'Weblogging as a Space of Resistance', where he spoke about Iranian weblogs in a presentation titled as 'Internet in Iran: Are Weblogs and other forms of new media helping democracy in Iran?'.[21]

His visits were widely covered by the local and international media, including Haaretz, Jerusalem Post, Ynet News, Ha'ir, Time Out Tel Aviv, Israeli Radio and its Persian service, Israel's English TV news, New York Times, BBC, etc.:

Iran's nuclear program[edit]

In August 2006, he published an article in the Columns & Blogs section of The Washington Post in which he supported Iran pursuing nuclear weapons as a deterrent to possible invasion by global powers, after normalising relations with the U.S. and Israel:[22]

But the events of the past two years – most notably with what's happening in Iraq, along with last year's presidential election and other unfortunate events in the region – has left no doubt in my mind, and in the minds of lots of secular Iranians, that the U.S. is behaving more and more like a reckless imperial horse in search of new sources of energy and new markets to expand to economically. Therefore, even if Iran becomes the most peaceful, secular and progressive, yet still independent state on the planet, the U.S. would be unable to tolerate it. The U.S. would seek new excuses to topple Iran's government and install their favorite instead.

For this reason, I believe Iran needs to produce nuclear weapons as a defensive mechanism, to deter the U.S. today and the ever-expanding and equally energy-hungry China tomorrow.

But making nuclear weapons even for totally defensive purposes is not easy now. Iran could only get away with it by stopping enrichment now, voluntarily normalizing relations with Israel and the U.S., and withdrawing from the NPT. Then it could start making the weapons – secretly or maybe even publicly. It's only then that the world would tolerate a nuclear Iran.

Defending Iran against U.S. attack[edit]

Derakhshan wrote in his blog in December 2006: "If the US attacked Iran, despite all my problems with the Islamic Republic, I'd go back and fight these bastards. ... I can't let myself sit down for a moment and watch them make a Baghdad out of Tehran."[23]

He later published a commentary on The Guardian, titled "Stop Bullying Iran", in which he elaborated on his short blog post on why he defends Iran.[24] Some excerpts:

The more the clash between the west and Iran escalates, the more convinced I become that the west's real problem with the Islamic Republic of Iran is not its nuclear activities, its level of democracy, its human rights record, or its support for "terrorist" groups. Pakistan, followed closely by Saudi Arabia, easily beats Iran on all these fronts.

The real problem is that the Islamic Republic has decided to be independent in a region saturated with fossil energy resources, and at the same time run by American puppets. Iran has posed the biggest continuous challenge to the American hegemony in the whole world, and so it has to pay a price. [...]

I believe the Islamic Republic is a valuable cause, worth defending and, at its worst, is way better than anything that the United States or anyone else can bring to Iran.

If the US waged a war against Iran, I would absolutely go back and defend Iran.

Khalaji vs. Derakhshan defamation lawsuit[edit]

In November 2007, Mehdi Khalaji, a fellow at a think-tank called Washington Institute for Near East Policy (WINEP), filed a $2 million libel and defamation lawsuit[25] against Derakhshan, over one of his blog posts[26] in his Persian blog, in which he criticizes Khalaji for his service to the "enemies of his people and humanity".

Earlier in August 2007, Derakhshan's Florida-based hosting company, Hosting Matters, had terminated his hosting account as a result of alleged 'intimidation' by Khalaji.[27]

Arrest and imprisonment (2008–2014)[edit]

On November 1, 2008, Derakhshan was arrested at his family home in Tehran.[6] During November, he was allowed four calls to his family, each lasting about one minute.[6]

On November 18, the anti-censorship group Global Voices Online published an article about Derakhshan's arrest.[28] A few days later, the Times of London published a report saying Derakhshan had been arrested for spying on behalf of Israel.[29] Amnesty International later suggested that he was likely to face accusations of "insulting religion."[6]

On December 30, Alireza Jamshidi, the speaker of the Judicial system of Iran confirmed Derakhshan's arrest, but did not mention any Israel-related accusations. Jamshidi said that Derakhshan was in the custody of the Islamic Revolutionary Court and his case was in early discovery phase, and that among Derakhshan's accusations is what he had written about the "Pure Imams".[30]

Nineteen Iranian bloggers published a letter "categorically condemn[ing] the circumstances surrounding Derakhshan's arrest and detention and demand[ing] his immediate release".[31] A website "Free the blogfather" was created by supporters of Derakhshan in order to campaign for his freedom.[32] Before an earlier return to Iran in 2005, Derakhshan had published recommendations of what to do if he or someone else were arrested in Iran, including requests to "spread the word", to "get the English-language media involved" and to "get the publicity translated [into Persian]" and "keep it up".[33]

In April 2009, the New York Times reported that Derakhshan was still detained without charges.[34]

In October 2009, approaching the one-year anniversary of his arrest, his family began speaking out to Persian and English-language media, and Derakhshan's father Hassan sent an open letter to the new head of the Iranian Judiciary, Ayatollah Sadeq Larijani asking for information about his son's detention.[35]

On October 29, 2009, according to Derakhshan's brother Hamed, Derakhshan's parents met with the new district attorney, who allowed them to have dinner in Evin Prison with their son. The brother also said that at the dinner, Hossein confirmed human rights activists' reports[36] claiming Derakhshan had been forced to do squats in cold showers and had been beaten repeatedly. The human rights group wrote:

HRA has received reports which suggest that the blogger, Hossein Derakhshan, who was arrested on Nov. 2, 2008, has spent the first eight months of his detention in solitary confinement and different wards of the Evin prison upon his return to Iran. During that time he has been subjected to various physical and psychological pressure tactics and multiple transfers.
He has been beaten repeatedly and has been forced to do squats in cold showers. His interrogators have threatened to arrest his father and his sister unless he confessed to espionage charges. With the start of the massive arrests after the presidential election, and as result of cell shortages in Evin prison, Derakhshan was transferred to Ward 2A of the IRGC prison, where he shared his cell with newly arrested people.
Derakhshan has been given false promises of his release on multiple occasions: During the Fajr celebrations and Norooz. Despite all the promises he is still being held on a temporary detention order. His detention order has been renewed several times, the last of which expired on October 10th, 2009. Derakhshan reportedly intended to start a hunger strike if his situation remained unchanged after this date. HRA has no information as to whether he has started the hunger strike.
During his detention, Derakhshan has been pressured by his interrogators to collaborate and confess to the charges brought up against him. Last September he was taken to court to sign documents granting permission to his lawyer to represent him. He told the judge that all his confessions had come under pressure. According to the reports received by HRA, Derakhshan had agreed to televised confessions under pressure, but the matter was canceled after one recording.[37]

In a letter to the head of the judiciary asking for Derakhshan's release, Derakhshan's father wrote:

To the Presence of Ayatollah Amoli Larijani, the Respected Head of the Judiciary:
Greetings and respect to you. One year has passed since the day that my son was arrested.
In all these months, days, and hours, my family, my wife and I were hoping that in the arms of Islamic law and the mercy of the Islamic judiciary, Hossein’s case will be dealt with in the way it deserves.
There is no need to mention the numerous times that we refused the requests of foreign media to explain Hossein’s situation.
Even when we heard the worst gossip about his treatment in semi-official media, we were silent and in fact, no government organization has ever denied this worrisome news, not just to calm our very worried hearts down, but at least to respect the independence of judiciary about this case.
During this entire time, our son has had just two short meetings with us for only a few minutes. Please imagine that for every six months we just saw him for very few minutes. We have no information about his legal situation.
No court has been held yet and we don’t even know which institution or security organization Hossein is under the control of. Many times, from many different ways, we tried to get some precision about his situation, but we couldn’t. Does a detainee’s dignified manner deserve such treatment?
Many times, my son admitted in his writings and conversations that he would love to serve his country. And he came back to Iran on his own to answer his accusations. Does such a person who has come back to his country and his beliefs, deserve such a welcome?
Our complaint is not because you are exercising the law, but to the contrary, because of its suspension, lack of information and disrespecting of the law. The accused have rights, the family of the accused has some rights, and we know that the ruler of society has some rights as well, and that rules and regulations are valuable.
We are certain that you’d agree that one year of a brutal arrest of a person who has come voluntarily and on his own to the bosom of Iran and dear Islam, is not an appropriate welcome.
I, my wife and our family are still looking forward to your just treatment.
With respect,
Hassan Derakhshan[37]

Trial in 2010 and further developments[edit]

In March 2010, Derakhshan's mother, Ozra Kiarashpour, called on the head of Iran's judiciary to release her son, who had at that point been detained for 500 days without any official charge,[38] for the Iranian New Year, or Norouz.

In June 2010, Tehran Revolutionary Court held Derakhshan’s first trial.[39] His sister Azadeh reported that the trial ended in late July, but no word on a verdict was available.[40]

On September 28, Derakhshan was sentenced to 19½ years in prison.[1][41] According to state-owned Mashregh News, which is close to Iran’s presidential office, Derakhshan was convicted on charges of cooperation with hostile countries (a reference to the Israel visit), spreading propaganda against the ruling establishment, promotion of counterrevolutionary groups and insulting Islamic thought and religious figures.[42]

On December 9, Derakhshan was released for two days on a bail of $1.5m (£950,000)[43]

On May 6, 2011, Derakhshan updated his Facebook profile and photos, and added a one line status update of "On a very short leave from Evin".[44][45][46]

In June 2011, Derakhshan's family said that the Iranian appeals court has upheld his conviction.[47]

In October 2013, Derakhshan's sentence was reduced from 19.5 years to 17 years, as a result of the Supreme Leader's pardoning for Eid al-Fitr.[48]

November 2014 release[edit]

Derakhshan was pardoned by the Supreme Leader of Iran Ali Khamenei in 2014 and freed from prison[9] on November 19, 2014.[8]


  1. ^ a b "Blogger sentenced in Iran to 19 years". CBC.ca. 28 September 2010. Retrieved 2010-09-28. 
  2. ^ "BBC News - Iran releases 'Blogfather' Hossein Derakhshan". bbc.com. Retrieved 2015-02-07. 
  3. ^ Perrone, Jane (2003-12-18). "Weblog heaven". London: Guardian. Retrieved 2009-11-04. 
  4. ^ ZP Heller (2005-02-22). "Building Blogs". AlterNet. Retrieved 2009-11-04. 
  5. ^ Boyd, Clark (2005-03-06). "Persian blogging round the globe". London: BBC News. Retrieved 2009-11-04. 
  6. ^ a b c d "Document - Iran: Incommunicado detention/ fear of torture or other ill-treatment/ possible prisoner of conscience: Hossein Derakhshan (m)". Amnesty International. 2009-12-15. Archived from the original on 2009-04-19. Retrieved 2009-04-20. 
  7. ^ "Hossein's sentence reduced to 17 years". 
  8. ^ a b Rooz Online http://www.roozonline.com/persian/news/newsitem/article/-74470b8909.html. Retrieved 2014-11-20.  Missing or empty |title= (help)
  9. ^ a b Moghtader, Michelle; McDowall, Angus; Ireland, Louise (2014-11-20). "Iran's Supreme Leader frees pioneering Iranian 'Blogfather' - media". Thomson Reuters. Archived from the original on 2014-11-20. Retrieved 2014-11-20. 
  10. ^ "Can a blogger bring political change to Iran?". Magazine.utoronto.ca. Retrieved 2009-11-04. 
  11. ^ Facing Execution Archived December 5, 2008, at the Wayback Machine.
  12. ^ Q&A: From Samizdat to Blogging: Globalization and New Forms of Political Expression Archived November 20, 2008, at the Wayback Machine.
  13. ^ Anonymous (2005-03-28). "One sample of his columns in Asr-e Azadegan, dated back to 1999". Alighazvini.blogspot.com. Retrieved 2009-11-04. 
  14. ^ Guide to blogging in Persian from hoder.com
  15. ^ link to video file, abstract
  16. ^ Associated Press (2008-08-28). "Associated Press". Wired.com. Retrieved 2009-11-04. 
  17. ^ Help Iranians fight Net censorship during the Geneva Summit - hoder.com
  18. ^ King of the Iranian bloggers haaretz.com
  19. ^ "stop.censoring.us". stop.censoring.us. Retrieved 2015-02-07. 
  20. ^ Article from his blog Archived September 2, 2006, at the Wayback Machine.
  21. ^ "Reform, Resistance, and Conflicts in the Middle East". 
  22. ^ Article from Washington Post Archived May 17, 2008, at the Wayback Machine.
  23. ^ Hossein Derakhshan, Between Khamenei and Bush, hoder.com, December 24, 2006
  24. ^ Derakhshan, Hossein (2007-02-23). "Stop bullying Iran". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 2017-04-19. 
  25. ^ [1] Archived May 16, 2008, at the Wayback Machine.
  26. ^ "E:M | Mehdi Khalaji is the only person on the planet who has indirectly worked for or given advice to both Khamanei's office and Cheney's in less than five years. His recent work for the right-wing American think tanks and his shameful endorsement and help to American Foreign Policy Council's disgusting anti-Iran campaign has made him the filthiest traitor I have ever seen in my life. I love to see his face (and that of similar traitors such as Mohsen sazegara, Ali Afshari and to some degree Akbar Ganji) when the U.S. has no choice but to finally accept that its time in the Middle East has passed. (in Persian)". Archived from the original on 2007-07-12. Retrieved 2015-02-07. 
  27. ^ Sami Ben Gharbia (2007-08-16). "Hossein Derakhshan's blog is suspended". Global Voices Online. Retrieved 2009-11-04. 
  28. ^ Gharbia, Sami Ben (18 November 2008). "Iranian blogger Hossein Derakhshan "arrested" In Tehran". Global Voices Online. Retrieved 2009-04-20. 
  29. ^ Theodoulou, Michael (2008-11-20). "Iranian 'Blogfather' Hossein Derakhshan is arrested on charge of spying for Israel". London: The Times. Archived from the original on 2009-04-19. Retrieved 2009-04-19. 
  30. ^ "The judiciary system confirmed the arrest of Hossein Derakhshan" (in Persian). BBC Persian. 30 December 2008. Retrieved 2008-12-31. 
  31. ^ Kamangir (2008-12-18). "Letter in Defense of Hossein Derakhshan (Hoder)". Archived from the original on 2009-10-09. Retrieved 2009-04-20. 
  32. ^ "Free the blogfather". StreetReporters and Internet Sans Frontières. Archived from the original on 2009-03-13. Retrieved 2009-04-20. 
  33. ^ Derakhshan, Hossein (2005-06-10). "Going home, finally - How to support". Archived from the original on 2009-04-27. Retrieved 2009-04-28. 
  34. ^ Fathi, Nazila (2009-04-19). "Iranian President Asks Court to Reconsider Spy Case". New York Times. Retrieved 2009-04-20. 
  35. ^ "Hossein Derakhshan's father writes Ayatollah Larijani, head of Iran's Judiciary". cyrusfarivar.com. 2009-10-21. Retrieved 2009-11-04. 
  36. ^ "Held on an Expired Detention Order, Hossein Derakhshan Story". Hra-iran.net. Retrieved 2009-11-04. 
  37. ^ a b Mackey, Robert (2009-10-23). "News of Iran's Detained 'Blogfather'". The New York Times. Retrieved 2010-05-04. 
  38. ^ Ghormeh Sabzi (2010-03-18). "Blogger detained for 500 days without charge". Iranian.com. Retrieved 2014-03-22. 
  39. ^ Shifteh Ansari (2010-06-24). "On trial after 19-month news blackout since arrest". Iranian.com. Retrieved 2014-03-22. 
  40. ^ "Trial Of Iran's 'Blogfather' Ends, Sentence Still Unknown". Rferl.org. 2010-08-18. Retrieved 2014-03-22. 
  41. ^ Verma, Sonia (28 September 2010). "Canadian-Iranian blogger sentenced to 19 years in prison". The Globe and Mail. Toronto. Archived from the original on 1 October 2010. Retrieved 2010-09-28. 
  42. ^ "Iranian blogger sentenced to 19 years". The Hindu. 28 September 2010. Retrieved 2012-08-18. 
  43. ^ "Iran blogger Hossein Derakhshan temporarily released". BBC Online. 9 December 2010. Retrieved 2010-12-09. 
  44. ^ Mike Butcher (May 6, 2011). "The 'Father' of Iranian blogging, jailed for 19 years, reappears on Facebook". TechCrunch Europe. Archived from the original on 2012-01-22. Retrieved 2011-05-06. 
  45. ^ Hossein Derakhshan. "Hossein Derakhshan's Facebook profile". Retrieved 2011-05-06. 
  46. ^ فعالیت مجدد فیسبوک حسین درخشان [Renewed activity on Hossein Derakhshan's Facebook]. Khodnevis (in Persian). May 6, 2011. Archived from the original on September 5, 2012. Retrieved 2011-05-06. 
  47. ^ Dehghan, Saeed Kamali (9 June 2011). "Iranian blogger loses appeal against 19-year sentence". The Guardian. Retrieved 2012-08-18. 
  48. ^ "کاهش حکم از نوزده و نیم سال به هفده سال | عدالت برای حسین درخشان | Derakhshan's sentence reduced to 17 years". hosseinderakhshan.wordpress.com. Retrieved 2015-02-07. 

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