Arseh Sevom: The Civil Society Zine (Issue 1) – Letter from the Editor

Apr 7, 20110 comments

This is the first issue of Arseh Sevom’s Civil Society Zine. For the first topic, we chose to look at net­works and net­working: tra­di­tional, social, and dig­ital. When we started solic­iting con­tri­bu­tions in 2010, there was no “Arab Spring.” No one knew that pro­testers in Tunisia and Egypt would be able to unseat long-term leaders and inspire move­ments all over the Arab world. As we were working on this issue, I found myself haunted by the story of Emmett Till. Emmet Till was a young African-American teenager, mur­dered in 1955 because of racial hatred. His was not the first racially moti­vated murder, but his mother insisted on an open casket funeral so that people could see how bru­tally he had been attacked. Soon, images of the young boy who had been beaten beyond recog­ni­tion were on the pages of news­pa­pers all over the world. For many, the hor­rible beating and his mother’s bravery res­onated, cre­ating a cat­a­lyst for America’s civil rights move­ment. As I read these pieces, I won­dered what would have hap­pened if the Internet had existed when Till was mur­dered? Would the civil rights move­ment have been more, or less, effective? Linda Herrera pro­vides a glimpse into this ques­tion, when she shows how Facebook was used to spread images of Khaled Said, an Egyptian blogger who exposed police cor­rup­tion and was beaten to death as a result, and Mohamed Bouazizi, the Tunisian who burnt him­self to death in an act of despair and protest, leading to full-scale demon­stra­tions that ousted long-time, entrenched leaders. Historian Avery Oslo offers a peek at a move­ment that uses consensus-building as the deter­mi­nant for actions in her piece on rad­ical eco-activists in the UK. Trust and shared own­er­ship are more impor­tant for them than charis­matic lead­er­ship or social networking. Halleh Ghorashi and Kees Boersma give us two arti­cles demon­strating how the Iranian dias­pora has rede­fined itself using vir­tual net­works. They demon­strate how a new transna­tional com­mu­nity was cre­ated which is more inclu­sive, with par­tic­i­pants inside and out­side Iran. Babak Rahimi and Elham Gheytanchi examine the roots of dig­ital activism in Iran. The authors show that they are deeper than we some­times realize. Ladan Boroumand pro­vides some back­ground on the role of civil society orga­ni­za­tions in the cam­paigning for the 2009 pres­i­den­tial elec­tions in Iran. From Nazila Fathi, we get a reminder of those first, heady days of demon­stra­tions, just after the 2009 elec­tion results were announced. Donya Alinejad chal­lenges both the hype sur­rounding Facebook and Twitter and the argu­ments that down­play the role of dig­ital media. Mana Mostatabi asks hard ques­tions about click­tivism and its effec­tive­ness. Christina Ashtary demon­strates that it is pos­sible to create social cap­ital even online, and Hamid Tehrani chal­lenges activists to think cre­atively. Finally, Eric Asp muses on building a net­work by sending con­gre­gants out of the church to do ser­vice rather than by keeping them in the building. Join the Conversation Please join the con­ver­sa­tion. Post com­ments and ask hard ques­tion. We only ask that you play nice and not engage in per­sonal attacks. Follow this link to read our com­ments policy. All of the con­trib­u­tors have pro­vided their work free of charge. Kamran Ashtary vol­un­teered his time to create the illus­tra­tions and the banner and to con­tribute to the design of the site. SUBSCRIBE! Don’t miss a post. Subscribe to Arseh Sevom’s Civil Society Zine by Email If you have ques­tions, please send them to Tori Egherman at

About Arseh Sevom Arseh Sevom – an NGO established in 2010 in Amsterdam – aims to promote peace, democracy, and human rights. The organization’s objective is to help build the capacity of organizations and encourage the development of a vigorous third sphere of civil activities. Cooperation among civil society organizations is key to building a strong and coherent civil rights movement that can thrive and succeed. Arseh Sevom aims to become a hub for organizations and individuals working together towards the common goal of free, open, and peaceful Persian-speaking communities. Arseh Sevom seeks partnerships with existing organizations and also seeks to increase the vibrancy of civil society by encouraging its development.