Arash Abadpour: The Valiant Canadian Free-Speech Fighter You've Never Heard Of
Bloggers are unquestionably leading the charge in Canada's free-speech debates, and fair play to them. But when people make efforts to enlist me in free-speech campaigns against the creeping jurisdiction of Canada's human rights tribunals, I've developed what must appear to be an annoying habit of banging on about the importance of remembering our comrades abroad. I carry on a lot about journalists, bloggers, writers and artists who face real persecution, in truly authoritarian regimes. They're not just asked silly questions by human rights bureaucrats. They're harrassed, their books are banned, their blogs are censored, they're tossed in prison, and they're killed.
I'm sometimes taken to task for this, with the question: Well, that's all well and good, but here in Canada, what can we do about that? This a question that deserves a proper answer. There are obvious answers, of course: Support Reporters without Borders, the Committee to Protect Journalists, Index on Censorship, and so on. But what can a Canadian blogger do?
I'd like you to meet a Canadian blogger who has done far more for the cause of free speech, in places where it really counts, than any other blogger in this country. You've probably never heard of him, so please let me introduce you to Arash Abadpour and his blog, Kamangir, The Archer.
Arash Abadpour is a soft-spoken, 29-year-old student at the University of Manitoba. While his blog is properly absent from Jago's list of Canada's top political blogs, Kamangir's Persian-language mirror is now so popular in Iran - where the struggle for free speech is a life-and-death matter - that it shows up among the top 20 blogs in the entire Persian blogosphere.
I first encountered Arash when I was researching a column about the Western Left's embarrassing abdication of its duty to demonstrate solidarity with pro-democracy Iranians, here. At the time, Arash observed: "It makes a lot of difference to people in Iran when they see that people outside Iran are trying to help with protests and demonstrations, but there is also a lot of text and lots of images coming out of Iran every day. . . It's important for people outside Iran to know what ordinary Iranians think."
Here's a snippet from Kamangir's credo:
I am an agnostic, raised in an Islamic country. Since childhood, one of my greatest challenges has been to explain to Muslims how obvious they think their ideas are and how ignorantly they force others to live as they do. Obviously, this blog follows the same path. However, when I talk about the words “Islam” and “Muslim”, I mean the mainstream Islam and Muslimism. To my understanding, people have the right to worship whatever they want to however they want to and this is none of anyone’s business. However, when people force children to recite books or take ideology courses, or collapse twin buildings, for that matter, in the name of Allah, I find no reason to remain silent.
To my understanding, Iran and what is seen today in the news about “Iran”, are two very distinct issues. However, I am not a fan of conspiracy theories or “Jews rule the world” fantasies. I will use the name Islamic Republic (IR) to refer to the Iranian political system. To my understanding, Iran and the IR are like a body and an infection. You will not kill ill people. You will not sleep with them, either.
While I have all the reasons to criticize the Islamic Republic, I will remain objective. I am not a member of any Iranian political party in or outside Iran. Having said that, I do respect any movement which is pro democracy and human rights.
In Kamangir, no lie has ever been told, neither will it be in the future. If you catch me telling a lie, I will send you a $1,000 check (not for mistakes, though!). . .