Yesterday’s social media blitz by UNICEF retirees around the world demanding the freedom of our friend and former colleague Baquer Namazi — jailed in Tehran for just over a year — was a resounding success.
Well, “success” in quotes would be a better way to put it, because Baquer still sits in his cell, 80 years old and in poor health — but I would like to believe, also a bit happier today because he hopefully was aware of yesterday’s worldwide campaign on his behalf.
So the success was simply our making noise, on every continent, a westward-rolling thunder of solidarity by more than 250 people in 75 locations, amplified over social media. Let us hope his jailers will be moved to mercy, if nothing else.
Rain Barrel is proud to have taken part… and we will not stop until our friend is released.
Here is the brilliant Maggie Black’s short summary of the day.
Free Baquer Day plus one: Reflections
Maggie Black 23 February 2017
Late afternoon on 22 February, a call comes through from Jim Mohan, one of UNICEF’s retiree stalwarts. He is standing in the Grand Canyon, having just had his photo taken holding up his ‘Free Baquer Namazi – One year in prison today’ placard – I can hear the roaring wind in the Canyon on the phone. Jim wants to know how to get the photo posted to the special Baquer Facebook site. After several hours on a steep Facebook learning curve, I can do this for him. It will be the 12th picture I have posted – including the one a friend took of Oxford’s own three UNICEF retirees at the Martyrs’ Memorial in the city.
The ‘Free Baquer’ day began in New Zealand, when Nancy Terreri posted her shot. And before long, hers was joined by pix from Tokyo, Manila, Thailand, Dhaka, Delhi, Bangalore and on towards Africa (Ethiopia, Mali, Ghana, Senegal). Eimi Watanabe ‘managed’ the Facebook site for the first several hours, until I – with great trepidation – found myself in the driving seat. European posts included Switzerland (several), Sweden, France, Germany, Scotland, London and Malta.
Before long Moncef Bouhafa and Robert Cohen were also on the case, and finally Tom McDermott began to make his Facebook presence felt. The geographical tally grew: US Virgin Islands, Florida, Boston, Pennsylvania, Canada, Washington DC, Denver, Los Angeles.
By the end of ‘Free Baquer Namazi’ Day, there had been photographs and messages from 75 locations, including from every continent – South America was the last, from Manuel Manrique. Over 250 individual people either sent a message or pic, or took part in a group photo, some of them people who never met Baquer but just wanted to express solidarity with his plight. This was a far, far higher number than we expected or hoped, and to have participated in the event on a rolling basis over many hours was a truly life-affirming experience. Pictures and messages came in thick and fast, with every conceivable background and location. For the first time, I understood what ‘trending’ must look like, and why it is exciting.
The most moving experience of the day was to see the enthusiasm expressed by members of the Namazi family, some of whom did their own placards and photos. Babak, Baquer’s second son, wrote to us as follows: ‘Words fail to articulate the strength and courage you all give me and my entire family. You have continued my faith in humanity, kindness and fight for injustice in the midst of very dark times when we are witnessing such inhumane actions. I can’t help but to also be extremely proud of my father who has left such a positive impression on all of you. It crushes me that my father is imprisoned as opposed to celebrated in Iran. I know that you will all be with us until the end of this nightmare.’
Yes, we will.