I mean it. Every Iranian I have ever met since I came here in 1993 has been cultured, generous and full of humour. They value their families and their faith, and they also enjoy music, art and long, long conversations. By the time I'd met a few I had to wonder how such people could come from the land of the ayatollahs? And how the ayatollahs have managed to establish and maintain their repressive and cheerless regime when Iranians seem so irrepressible and cheerful?
Those were my questions. Nowadays I know more now about modern Iranian history, the Pahlavis, etc. and also the limits of and on the international media. But I know almost nothing about how people live in Iran today, and what they think about themselves, their country, and the rest of the world. When my lovely neighbour and I get together for a chat, we talk about ourselves and our families. I don't turn up with a questionnaire on Iranian politics!
Today I wandered into Manal and Alaa's bit bucket, and saw the entry, Flame Wars: A Brief History of Blogging in Iran, in which Alaa reviews Nasrin Ahlavi's book about blogging in Iran, We Are Iran. I hadn't even thought about Iranian bloggers!
When I searched, I found the motherlode, Iranian Canadian Hossein Derakhshan's Blogs by Iranians site. So now I have no excuse for my ignorance. I'm going to need longer weekends.
One more thing. Alaa Abd El-Fatah is an Egyptian blogger currently in jail in Cairo, awaiting some kind of action after a protest in support of two judges who were themselves arrested for demanding an independent judiciary. Find out more on fellow Egyptian Sabbah's Blog.