There are around 50 volunteers who are already a part of the Free Thoughts on Iran "project", but as you see this site is not updated every day. The immediate reason is that of 50 people, only a handful write regularly. Okay, many of us are busy graduate students and we have to take care of our studies, but still writing an article, which just takes half a day, sounds not so time consuming. If each one of us just writes one article every two months, there will be enough articles to update the site daily. Now why can't we just do that?
The answer is simple: we can't write because we don't know how to write.
Why we don’t know how to write is a complicated issue. Many of us have problems writing in English. Using Microsoft Word to correct grammar and spelling or looking up idioms by searching for phrases on Google are limited remedies. Nonetheless, many of us know enough English to write our scientific papers, which should be enough for transferring most of our ideas. So what is missing?
All of us missed the writing classes that English speaking kids get in their schools. Instead, we had a stupid class called en-shâ ["Composition"]. It usually meant writing one article per semester, and some of us would get a chance to read it aloud for the class. Our papers were graded but we received absolutely no other feedback. There was also no teaching on how to structure an article. Now that I think about it, it sounds shocking. Even after 12 years of education, many of those graduates can not write an article stating what they believe or want. If you want proof, go and read the Gooya website. It is the most popular Iranian political website. It has tens of thousands of visitors everyday. But if you read the articles, they are usually just long with no clear theme. Most of the articles start from concept X and end with Y, while what was meant was Z.
Once we overcome the problem of the second language barrier and the lack of compositional abilities, we still have to create an opinion to write. This is no a simple issue and is specifically difficult for Iranians.
Iranians have a unique life experience. They lived or live in the only theocratic country of the world. They have gone through a revolution that shook their systems of belief. They went though a prolonged war. They saw the raise of religious and national emotions where thousands of youths went to the war front dreaming of martyrdom. They saw severe social repression in the name of Islam, the religion that they believed and respected. Even though many of them are deeply troubled by the politics of Western powers, they love and dream of the rule of law and liberalism practiced by them. Iranians believe that they inherited a great civilization, which has largely been left unappreciated.
Ironically, this unique life experience makes it difficult to write. We often have too much to say in a way that we give up all together because we think there will be no way that we can describe it to our listeners. Moreover, the uniqueness of our experiment makes it difficult to use a discourse developed by others. We have to develop our own.
The problem of writing should not be taken lightly. People who have never written in their life cannot read properly either; consequently they cannot read and grasp arguments precisely. This is why the politics of Iran is always stuck in generalities. Everything is done through slogans. This is unfortunately true both for the Iranian government and the opposition groups. There is no tradition of writing proper columns. The only exception came when the reform movement in Iran tried to change this trend during 1998-2000. Unfortunately, after many newspapers were shut down in 2000, that process came to a halt. Special credit should be given to the reform movement because it showed us how proper writing and exchange of ideas are important even though the reform movement itself failed to appreciate its importance and was unable to protect it.
Writing or not writing properly can affect the fate of Iranians immensely. That is why I invite the authors of FToI to be more active in writing and to take this enterprise more seriously. To get more encouragment read Hossein Derakhshan's article in Persian or Pedram Moallemian's article. The well-known English columnists and bloggers such as David Weiberger ,Jeff Jarvis ,Andrew Sullivan are putting pieces together and creating new ideas and perspectives. An active effort by Iranians to write can do the same.
Write, learn to write, and write more.