On March 18, 2009, Omid Reza Mirsayafi died in a Tehran prison.
I reported on it at the time for PRI’s The World.[audio:http://cyrusfarivar.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/2010/03/0319097.mp3]
Sadly, Mirsayafi’s reputation will now live on as becoming the first blogger in the world to die while in custody. Unfortunately the Islamic Republic of Iran has not only this “honor” of allowing an imprisoned blogger to die, but also is the first country in the world to jail a blogger — Sina Motalebi in 2003.
Details of Mirsayafi’s death are sketchy at best, even a year after his death. Iranian authorities maintain that he committed suicide after being allowed to overdose on sedatives. His family does not believe this theory, and Reporters Without Borders is calling for a new investigation.
Mirsayafi’s death remains a stark reminder as to the level of physical (and possibly lethal) power that authoritarian regimes like the Islamic Republic of Iran retain.
As much as I want to believe that Mirsayafi’s blog and others like his can speak truth to power in Iran, and that the “Twitter Revolution” may bring about regime change, the fact of the matter is that the status quo has been preserved. Ahmadinejad is still in power. Khamenei’s office is still twittering.
Through this tragic example, as well as countless others, the Iranian government has shown that it is willing to beat, intimidate, jail, exile, and even let their own citizens die — and there’s not much that blogs, Twitter, or any other online tool can do to change that.