Contrary to what you might believe from watching mainstream media, the protest in Iran surrounding the elections of a few weeks ago are still going on, as is a brutal crackdown by the Iranian government on protesters and their families. As the United States prepares to celebrate Independence Day tomorrow, I can't help but feel sad that our brothers and sister in Iran continue their brave fight for the things we take for granted: freedom of speech, free and proper elections, and freedom from oppression.
It's an appreciation for those very things that drove one UK Twitter user, @unscannable, to stand up and do something dramatic on a worldwide scale. While Unscannable has been involved in the protests from a technical side, he decided to get involved on the visual protest side only a few days ago when he and his girlfriend developed a green balloon campaign.
Unscannable was gracious enough to tell us a bit more about the campaign through an email interview conducted earlier today:
1. When did the idea of the green balloon campaign come to you?
On Wednesday night around midnight. I wish I'd have thought of it earlier, I might have had a chance to get some sleep over the past few days! Athena and I had been watching CNN since we were first made aware of the situation in Iran, genuinely impressed with the coverage.
Correlating what we saw on TV with what we were witnessing on Twitter we were satisfied that the general public were being kept well informed and given a chance to care, to react, to learn about the Iranian people and to consider the positive implications new knowledge would have on our traditionally uneasy relationship with the middle east..
Until the day it was announced that Michael Jackson and Farrah Fawcett had both passed away whereupon coverage of Iran literally stopped in its tracks despite a plethora of tragic events that have occurred since. I can't begin to tell you how angry and utterly disappointed we feel, both for the brave and daring souls on the inside who are putting themselves at risk to get the real news in and out of Iran, and for all the relentlessly dedicated people on the outside working so hard to propagate it, and it really feels like the carpet has been pulled out from under all of our feet.
We had already been discussing ways to make ourselves more useful, and after one too many news broadcasts consisting of nothing but postmortem celebrity gossip we just snapped.
2. Why did you decide to do the green balloon campaign?
As you know, the primary goal of the campaign is to try to focus media attention back to the Iranian people, which I felt would be most effective if launched at a time when the mainstream media is already changing subject matter, and the American day of Independence is an obvious and logical time to do it.
The secondary goal is to try to spread awareness with or without the support of the news networks, and I felt the most appropriate way to achieve this was to enhance the vehicle already set in motion by the protesters, rather than dilute the message by completely reinventing it.
The rest just kind of fell into place. I really admire the Iranian people for their relentless peace, strength and dignity, which they have symbolized so beautifully through the simple green balloon, which has ultimately become more of a weapon than any number of guns and thugs could ever amount to.
3. How did you coordinate volunteer efforts for the campaign?
To put it simply, I haven't. If I've learned anything from this experience it's that if you do the right thing then people will bend over backwards to do the right thing with you. Doing the right thing seems to take its own logical path that everyone implicitly understands.
I simply put forward my ideas and spread them among the people I've met through Twitter. There's been some controversy, but we've adapted and everyone seems to know what they need to do.
4. How many people are going to participate?
I couldn't say at this point. I know there are at least eight or nine groups of people who have directly pledged their support in both Europe and America, including my sister in London.
I just received a message from NiteOwl too, offering to mention the campaign in the Green Brief which should boost support considerably. The article I wrote to articulate my ideas for the campaign has already had nearly 1500 page views in two days, the vast majority of which has come directly from Twitter. Your guess is as good as mine really, but I'm hoping for the best!
Thank you unscannable for the great job you're doing! I'd like to encourage everyone to get involved in this campaign and show you support for the Iranian people as they continue their struggle for freedom.