"We should Not Let Them Down": Ariel Dorfman
The Emergency Campaign to Free Iran’s Political Prisoners Now announced on July 1 that $15,000 is needed to publish a call for emergency action in the New York Review of Books, (NYRB) and asked for people to contribute funds by July 16th. "We ask all who want justice and aspire for a better world to help us raise this amount". The call is beautifully published on the back cover of NYRB Magazine in August and is on the magazine's online page right now. This magazine reaches important audiences including writers, artists, intellectuals and sympathetic and thoughtful people. It has a written circulation of over 130,000 and its online audience has more than a million monthly visitors. "The magazine also has a history of supporting intellectuals, critiques and criticizing the ruling regimes."
Following the publication of this request, we, a group of former political prisoners and those who were forced to leave our country and now live in different countries, in exile, responded to this call. And since we live in different countries and regions, we decided to get together online at the newly online platform called Clubhouse, and discuss how we can help to get to that goal. Because we were people with different views, thus different suggestions and solutions were offered in the initial discussions. Some people thought that action should be taken first, such as demonstrations, or other activities, and so on. Others said that we could not provide this amount of money, it was too much, and our initial idea was that our small group should have shouldered that amount of money, and this was impossible.
Despite all these differences, we all agreed that the issue of the political prisoners is very important for all of us and something must be done, and we must put our heads together and roll up our sleeves and try our best to achieve this goal. Some of us, who had more experience and knowledge in these cases, explained to others that we must rely on the people; we must go to them and raise the dire situation of the political prisoners in Iran and explain to them the impact of such a statement being published in NYRB. Let's figure out how to do it…We each decided to contact our friends, acquaintances and relatives and explain to them that the situation of political prisoners in Iran is in a difficult and serious situation and this ad could create a significant public opinion.
Every week we got together in Clubhouse and reported on the results of our work. Couple of our friends gathered stuff and had a garage sale, and informed the neighbors through posters and were able to raise $ 550, and contacted their friends and raised another $200. The other friend talked to his co-workers and was able to raise $350. Others decided to call their relatives and distant wealthy relatives too for help. Some Iranians here are rich and at first we thought they did not care about political prisoners, let's not waste our time, others said no that is not true let’s try it, especially in the current situation where people are rising up in Khuzestan and people are supporting them everywhere. As a result, a friend collected a significant contribution from two of her very well-off relatives.
The reaction of our young children who grew up here to the plight of political prisoners was very good and admirable. "When I raised that political prisoners are under the most severe repression and harsh conditions in this Corona outbreak in prisons with my young son and others who were born here, they were very surprised and upset." They said that they believe that freedom is everyone's right and why this right should be taken away from the people just because of their beliefs, and they were very critical about the role US plays in bullying other countries. A young girl also donated her bicycle to the garage sale. A student also donated $ 50. Most of these donations were collected from ordinary people who do not have a prosperous life. In this group activity, we realized that the issue of political prisoners is beyond other political issues for many people and they are sensitive to it, and political prisoners are mentioned as respectable people who consider the lives of people and society more important than their own private lives. For us, this experience was once again an assertion that the struggle for political prisoners has great potential to unite the people.
This campaign has gathered more than 2500 people who signed the call from all over the world, and seeing the names of people like Noam Chomsky, Cornel West, etc., and the message of Ariel Dorfman who said:
“Good-hearted people are constantly being bombarded with so many requests to sign petitions about important issues, that it is natural that they should feel overwhelmed, asking themselves what good will it do, wondering how one signature can possibly make a difference. If I have signed on to the Emergency Campaign to Free Political Prisoners in Iran, it is because I know that this initiative will effectively call attention to the situation of men and women in that country who, if enough pressure is brought to bear on its leaders, could tomorrow be liberated from terrible conditions and extraordinary injustice. And even if those leaders do not listen, I am convinced – from personal experience – that the prisoners themselves are given strength to survive and persevere, they are listening. They know others, faraway, care what happens to them, and we should not let them down.”
This was very inspiring and influential for us and doubled our motivation to help and contribute to this global campaign.
This joint activity became the ground for us to get closer to each other and continue our discussions on the Clubhouse, and to closely follow the situation in Iran and the dire situation of political prisoners' and the recent protests in Iran, and other events in the world.
We are very grateful to all those who helped us raise funds for this particular ad and we ask you who are reading this report to sign this call if you have not done it yet and send it to your friends. And we ask you to donate for future ads in different publications all over the world to do what we can to free all political prisoners in Iran.