Tuesday, November 24, 2009

My Life As an Iran Revolution Re-tweeter(fishsilly1-my videos)

When the Iran Revolution began, I was ill at home, but I could type. As someone who was used to protesting injustice, and all that sort of stuff, I felt deeply for what was going on. But what could I do? I spoke to an Iranian friend of mine via telephone that I knew from the internet and I had never met. It was then, that I learned, along with all of the other "original 100" about how to re=tweet, do it safely, get stuff up on the internet, make movies, and otherwise keep the spirits of the people up in Iran as best as we could.

Being involved with this was extremely intense. I remember after it was all over, very carefully concealing my identity in order to protect those I was protecting in Iran. "Fishsilly1", was being followed by hundreds of people, even CNN; My posts were seen on national and world news wires, and even on Huffington post.  But no one actually knew who it was for security sake.

Now thats all over, I guess I can say that fishsilly1 was me. The amazing thing about all of that experience, besides the incredible feeling of being right in the middle of things, and getting pretty emotional when my Iranian "tweets" would dissappear on me, was the fact that I learned so much about technology.

It was through this experience, that I created the You Tube channel, in order to keep the videos on the internet, as they were being attacked and hacked and I was a "safe re-tweet". During this, I created several videos for the first time in my life. I went on to create one more for another issue but thats another blog entirely.

In the beginning, we all had to understand what was actually going on. As things went along, it was very stressful. People were desperate to get to us, and the government was constantly thinking of ways to prevent them from communicating with the world. Thanks to a few very brave Iran Re Tweeters, they sort of coached the rest of us in how to handle any situation that may come up, and things changed from minute to minute.

Well meaning Tweeters were making costly and sometimes deadly mistakes trying to help, but those in the original group who still had phone or internet contact in Iran warned everyone that doing certain things was not to be done.

Some of the things that people were doing which was putting the people in jeopardy was trying to Google Earth the area of the protestors to let the protestors know where the troops were. But the troops were using google earth too, and then going into houses and arr4sting people. There were "fake" tweeters, claiming to be from Iran, or creating channels, but they were really the military spying. Word would quickly go out, and several servers were dedicated to just us that were safe re tweeters, and we learned to warn others of fake channels, and tell them who was trustworthy.

This was really intense, as people tried to tweet me in Farsi. This brought up the issue that google had no good Farsi translator. Google came to the rescue, and added a special Farsi translator, which I used for the rest of the time.  In the beginning we would all just retweet the Farsi messages. We were warned that we were actually retweeting information that was identifying people. So a few of us dedicated ourselves to translating the re-tweets in Farsi, and then re-tweeting them again after we were sure there was safe information. I cannot tell you how many Farsi tweets I intercepted that were the Security Forces in Iran.

Then things really started to get crazy. We started getting loads of Farsi messages and retweets. People were being arrested. When you retweet don't say the retweeters name! Don't use google earth! Take out the batteries from your cellphones!! Cover your faces!! Don't go to this site, its a trap they are tracking you!!...that was coming from our side. Suddenly we were getting tweets like "They are coming into our house now. oOodbye", and "They are at our doors now. We don't know what to do." These ones just broke my heart. We were now waging a full scale war of our own, weeding out the people on twitter that were there to get information in order to find epople and kill them or arrest them. At the same time we were trying to encourage everyone. Most importantly we wanted them to encourage each other, as we carefully retweeted Farsi messages that were scrutinized first, and then passed along.

Then, the security forces went after us, trying to hack our accounts and shut us down entirely. A few true hero re-tweeters then figured out how to switch router addresses constantly to save the connections to Iran, as fast as the government forces were shutting them down. But one of the problems was, in the beginning we kept announcing them as re tweets which just alerted the security forces to the new router addresses. So a secure set up was created so we would only pass those along to certain tweeters from Iran only.

I think for me, it was the tweeters that I was constantly in contact with that were telling me exactly what was happening that was amazing. And their determination to photograph what was happening under pain of death. I can remember trying to stay on with some of them as long as I could. It was stressful for me, but I just kept thinking what they were going through.

Then, as artists all over the world began to respond, by putting up inspirational you tube videos, I decided to join them. As an artist myself, as crazy as this sounded, there was beauty and artistry in what was happening over there. Culturally, poetically musically and photography wise. I had no idea what I was doing, but it got my mind off worrying about some of my Iran tweets and if they were alive. We all seemed to collectively start sending them messages of encouragement just trying to keep their spirits up.

As things dragged on, and the crackdown became more intense and brutal, the tweets coming out of Iran began to be more hopeless, and they seemed exhausted and frazzled. We started posting all of the art and videos, and hopeful messages that we could. I remember just being so frustrated and upset and worried for them. As I said this was extremely intense.

WHen I was making these videos, I was understanding that th4e people that took these photos took their lives in their hands, and we believe some may have died getting these pictures out to the world. I took a crash course in Farsi culture, by translating some bigger Farsi websites, and learning about the Lions, and the true flag and some of the history. When I learned that Irans Poet Laureate was a woman called the "Lioness of Iran" I was inspired! THat became my third video, and was my most popular one.

But my first video, I saw a single picture that spoke volumes for me, so I used it for my first 2 videos. It was the face of a young child defiantly staring at the camera and holding his sign proudly. "We want freedom" it said. I wept, then got myself together and made the first 2 videos. It took me forever to find music that would convey the feelings I wanted, and to put the pictures together in some sort of an artistic order. In the end I was proud of what I had done. All of us were tweeting these videos, art, pictures and words of encouragement, in the midst of mass arrests, executions, and bloody shootings on the street all meant to beat the people down.

The most inspirational thing, in the end came from the people themselves. They would tweet us heartfelt thanks, and they would tell us how they were standing on the roofs and chanting "Allah Ahkbar!", god is great. They believed they would be saved if they did this. It came from a legend in their history that once before their people were saved in just this way.

Writing about this, now that this particular event is over has been a great release for me. It has instilled in me an even greater need to fight to protect the people, and to stand up for what I believe in. The brave epople of Iran taught us a lot of lessons with their defiance and taking to the streets. We all needed that lesson. I hope we will remember it for a long time to come. I know that I will.

This was the last video I made. It didn't upload properly but no one seemed to care. The point was made. By that time, this event was worldwide, the entire planet was horrified, and I felt I had an obligation to portray a people who needed help, since they were absolutely exhausted and worn out by this time.

My most well known video. Dedicated to the women that were out in the streets. They actually led this revolution, although the popular media will never admit it. But I know, because I was communicating with them on the ground. I was so proud and inspired by these amazing women. I still am.

This was actually my first video. It was difficult to make, and I pretty much cried every time I would watch it.

This was my second one. More somber, more funerary. OK this one still makes me cry. But it has a somber, driving dignity. As an artist, blending certain pictures and choosing the right music was important to set the mood for what I was trying to convey. This is actually a different video from the one above even though the same picture of the child is being used

This video was dedicated to the men that were in the streets. I called them the Lions of Iran, as this was culturally correct for them. I learned a lot about the culture during this.

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