By LARA SETRAKIAN, ABC News Dubai
This month Iran’s government agencies announced a wave of anti-Israeli law enforcement, from the execution of a 45-year-old businessman named Ali Ashtari to an alleged ring of Mossad agents that Iran’s Revolutionary Guards claim to have uncovered this week.
But the most opaque and mysterious case so far is the reported arrest of Hossein Derakhshan, known as the “blogfather” of Iran and accused of spying for Israel. Derakhshan is rightly credited with the birth of blogging in Iran, the first to figure out the technicalities of blogging in the Persian language and teaching others how to do the same. The following was massive – Iranians flooded the Web with hundreds of thousands of blogs in their native tongue, seeing a space for free and uncensored self-expression. Derakhshan represents the opening of that space.
Derakhshan’s blog became the platform for his controversial views on Iranian life and politics. He’s launched attacks on practically everyone of note — a particularly harsh one on Nobel Peace Laureate Shirin Ebadi — and though once a a government critic, he had recently taken clear sides with President Mahmoud Ahmedinejad, praising his “brilliant strategy of dismissing Israel and smiling to the U.S.” It’s an odd turnaround, given that Derakhshan famously traveled to Israel, blogging from there with the stated goal of humanizing Israelis to his Iranian readers and vice versa. That trip, he recognized, was likely to get him in trouble with authorities when he returned to Iran earlier this month. "But it’s worth it," Derakhshan told the Jerusalem Post in 2006. "Israelis are not evil."
Why is his arrest so mysterious? His detention has been reported widely in Iran and abroad, yet government officials haven’t actually confirmed his arrest; they simply said they had detained someone of his description without giving a name. Derakhshan’s English language blog has been silent since Oct. 6.
Don’t expect many tears shed for Derakhshan; of the Iran experts I’ve spoken to none expressed any sympathy for the blogfather. Some saw in him a thirst for fame and irresponsible ambition. And none would be quoted – a sign of a tricky case and its testy character.