It’s called the March 18 Movement – a day born out of a tragedy.
It is a day which bloggers all over the world have set aside as ‘the day of solidarity with persecuted bloggers’ – but really, it is a day for Omid Reza Mir Sayafi.
Omid Reza Mir Sayafi was an Iranian blogger and journalist – like most Iranian bloggers, he wanted give the world his point of view on his country, Iran. His blog Rooznegar was a blog about culture, where he wrote of Persian music and poetry. It was this, now defunct, blog which subsequently led to his death.
In November 2008, Omid was arrested and swiftly sentenced to 30 months in prison. According to local and international news reports, he was sentenced for insulting the Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, the leader of the 1979 Iranian revolution – Omid was also awaiting a second charge of insulting the Islamic Republic of Iran. His prison term began in February 2008 and on March 18th 2009 Omid Reza Mir Sayafi died at the infamous Evin Prison in Tehran.
Evin is infamous for hosting the numerous political prisoners, journalists and bloggers that held there. Omid Reza wasn’t the only person who was being kept there. A bevy of ‘dissenters’ have been sentenced and sent to Evin – and most of their whereabouts are now listed as ‘unknown’. Zahra Kazemi, an Iranian-Canadian photojournalist died after being detained there for three weeks; Roxana Saberi, Iranian-American freelance journalist is currently being held there; Hossein Derakhshan, another Iranian journalist has also been detained there since 2008 – nobody knows where he is now.
Blogs are a popular way to voice an opinion, but Omid’s untimely and mysterious death shows us that censorship that most of the developing world subjects its writers to is not the worst thing; their opinion and written word can also lead towards an end – their death.
March 18 is the day to stand up against censorship. It is a day where people all over the world are fighting against one cause – to stop suppression of their voices. It is a day where bloggers get together and pledge that while they will go on forward, Omid Reza Mir Sayafi will be the first and last blogger who’d die in prison. It is a movement created out of a memory –of a young man who wanted the world to know about Persian poetry and culture and who died fighting for his right to stand up and speak for himself.
March18 Movement team consists of Hamid Tehrani; an Iranian researcher, blogger and journalist, Esra’a Al Shafei; Bharaini director of Mideast Youth.com and is a campaigner for rights of ethnic and religious minorities and for freedom of expression and Uzma Atcha, a Pakistani blogger who volunteers for MideastYouth.com.