18 Tir: A Tribute July 9, 2010Posted by contrapuntalplatypus in Iranelection, Saving the World, Social Media.
Tags: #iranelection, 18 tir, activism, green movement, iran, protests, sea of green
To the tweeter known only as @Change_for_Iran
…You’ll probably never read this.
I don’t even know if you’re still alive, although more than a year after you tweeted for the last time, I continue to pray for your safety. I don’t know if you’re still in Iran, or were forced to flee as many students were, or perhaps lie imprisoned somewhere in the depths of Evin. I can only hope against all odds that you are safe.
Today is 18 Tir, the 11-year anniversary of the brutal 1999 invasion of the student dormitories. I find myself thinking of you today, because it was your tweets the night of June 14 – the night history repeated itself and students were again attacked and killed in their dormitories – that brought me to #iranelection and to the Sea of Green.
I had been following the leadup to Iran’s 2009 election for weeks before on various news outlets: the buildup of support for Mousavi, the crowds of people – both young and old, male and female, religious and secular – all wearing green, the color of hope. The unpredecented voter turnout on election day. The excitement and anticipation for a new future: one of tolerance and openness rather than repression and secrecy.
And then, of course, the result, hastily announced and incomprehensible. The backlash of disbelief and shock. Then the protests began, building day after day.
As the crisis escalated, I read on the Guardian website that the best sources of breaking news were the Iranian students posting updates on Twitter. I was intrigued, but held back from investigating first-hand. It was, I vaguely sensed, something that I could far too easily spend hours doing. Besides, I had always heard that Twitter was a pointless, egotistical social medium good only for navel-gazers intent on telling the world what they had for breakfast. Far better to get my updates sifted through the convenient filter of a news website.
Until the night the dormitories were attacked. Then I knew I couldn’t bear to remain at a “safe” distance any longer. I had to see the confict as it unfolded for myself.
I quickly opened a Twitter account and spent the next little while getting a feel for the medium. It wasn’t hard to identify the most reliable sources, and within hours I was hooked. Here were people my age posting news, videos, and pictures of the protests all around them. I saw clips of people targeted by Basij rooftop sharpshooters, or overwhelmed by teargas, as they walked and chanted for freedom. Others bravely ran back into the path of gunfire to help the injured. And every night the cries from the rooftops spread wider and wider throughout Tehran: Allaho Akbar! Marg Bar Dictator!
But it was your tweets above all that drew me in. The stories of you and your friends – ordinary students caught up in a situation far from ordinary, which you faced with courage and determination. There was one who could find the humour in anything, even when the dormitory attackers returned. I laughed out loud when you said he had given the Basij leader the nickname “King Kong!” And another who, dedicated and serious, went on studying for exams in every spare moment between protests.
I was supposed to be practicing for a music academy the next week. I couldn’t practice. I could barely sleep. My whole mind and heart was caught up with the unfolding story in Iran, the scenes of courage and determination I had seen.
And then came June 20, the first huge crackdown. A day of teargas and clubs, relentless, mindless brutality. And you stopped tweeting for the first time.
I couldn’t believe it. I feared you were dead, and yet my heart refused to accept that somebody so young, so vibrant, so full of life and determination and hope for the future, could just vanish from the world. Day after day, in minutes snatched between classes, I scanned for any sign of your tweets and watched in horror as the crackdown intensified and one by one other tweeters vanished. Sleep was impossible. On the fifth day there were reports of a massacre in one of Tehran’s central squares, and I gave up all hope. How relieved and overjoyed I was when you reappeared that afternoon with the news that you and your friends were safe.
Three days later your tweets stopped again and then…nothing.
Over a year has passed since that date, and yet I go on hoping, for you and all the students of Iran. I, along with so many others who were caught up in your story during that fateful week in June, am still here and doing all I can to make the world aware of the Green Movement. As you made us aware, despite the risks you took and the unthinkable price you may have paid for it.
Thank you for speaking to us despite all the danger. For reaching out across oceans and cultural barriers to bring your story to us in our own language. Thank you for opening our eyes and our minds to the struggle of a people – one many of us had mistrusted and viewed with suspicion, but came to realize had a thirst for freedom and peace as great as our own. Thank you for breaking down the walls of our comfortable lives and showing us, first-hand, how much we can do simply by lending our support and our voice to those who are alone.
It is because of you, and the others who reached out, that #iranelection is not merely the story of the awakening of the Iranian people – but, even more, my awakening, and that of our world.
Thank you – now and always.
– The Contrapuntal Platypus