There's at least one place in Iran where citizens dare speak their minds. It is referred to as Weblogistan, and in this rapidly expanding virtual terrain, there are an estimated 100,000 active Iranian blogs, so that Persian now ties with French as the second most used language in the blogosphere. Iranians generally use pseudonyms online to discuss taboo topics and criticize the government in a way no other news outlet would allow. Even some high-profile politicians have joined in, such as President Mohammad Khatami's former Vice President, Mohammad Ali Abtahi, who offers candid insights into the Iranian government on his blog, accompanied by photos taken with his cell phone.
But crackdowns are always looming. More than 20 online activists were detained last year for several weeks and beaten for antigovernment criticism. In response, dozens of blogs have sprung up offering instructions on how to remain anonymous and circumvent government filters. With the June presidential elections approaching, some bloggers are campaigning for a boycott, while others support reformist candidates and argue for participation. "Weblogs are one weapon," says a blogger known as Saena, "that even the Islamic Republic cannot beat." --By Nahid Siamdoust