Wednesday, March 09, 2005

The Vice President who blogs

Iranian authorities have recently clamped down on the rapidly growing popularity of weblogs, restricting access to major blogging sites from within the country. Despite this, former Iranian vice president Mohammad Ali Abtahi - a reformist and current adviser to Iran's president - recently launched his own weblog.

On his site he is often highly critical of government policies, which he perceives as stifling genuine reform in the country. Here he answers questions from readers.

When did you start thinking about launching a website?

I became familiar with the internet in 1993 or 1994. At first I just used it to get information, but then I began visiting weblogs regularly and out of personal interest decided to launch a weblog of my own. I have always had many things to say which I could not say in the newspapers. I thought the best way to speak about them would be in a weblog.

Do you manage to perform all your government duties as well as blogging or do the two sometimes interfere with each other?

Many people ask me this question. I don't think a person should blog or use the internet when they have nothing to do. More importantly, I think all executive officials should spend some of their time to read people's emails. This is how they can listen to and understand people's voices directly. I don't see my blogging as a spare time hobby.

What did you think of Iran's policy of blocking political websites?

I was the first person to stand against this and sent letters about it when I was the vice president for legal and parliamentary affairs. We should remove these kinds of restrictions. I still have objections against filtering political websites. I do not think this is beneficial for the government.

What was the main reason for the failure of the reform efforts in Iran by President Mohammad Khatami?

I would differentiate between the failure of reform efforts and the progress of reform plans to the desired level. The fact that many people now think the reforms did not go very well and should have gone faster shows that the reform movement has been successful.

What will happen in the future for Iran? Why do clerics have problems in their relationships with the younger generation?

The clerics who are in power have reservations about interacting with society and that is an obstacle in understanding the realities of our world. These clerics do not hold official positions or have normal relationships with society, especially young people. We should see this problem in a wider scale, as in the gap between generations, rather than focusing on clerics only.


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