Facebook Campaign To Build Friendship Between Iranians and Americans Goes Viral

As the United States and Iran pursue negotiations on Tehran’s nuclear program, a popular online campaign is aiming to make people-to-people contact part of this historic change.

A letter-writing campaign initiated by Berim , a group that calls for Iranian “social entrepreneurs to create the Iran they want to see” through art and innovation, asked Iranians and Americans to write letters to one another, telling them about what their lives are like.

According to Sara Haghdoosti, one of the organizers of the campaign, the idea is that people will be less inclined to go to war with people they feel they know. For her, it’s important to get people talking to one another.

The response was overwhelming. Berim launched the campaign just before Newroz, the Persian New Year. Within a day of posting a request on a Persian-language Facebook page, the project had gone viral, with 1,100 letters posted on the site within 24 hours. Sara and fellow project organizer Roshanak Ameli-Tehrani watched as hundreds of letters to “long-lost friends” poured in. As the letters were translated and then posted on Facebook, hundreds of Americans wrote back saying that they also wanted the chance to write to people in Iran.

“The more people talk directly to each other and learn about one another, the more likely they are to work together in addressing today’s global challenges,” said Sara.

One letter from Iran to the US read: “My dearest, let’s wish together that all television sets get turned off, all military bases get closed and all windows get opened.”

The letter-writing campaign is part of a broader initiative by Berim to support diplomatic efforts between the US and Iran. With 50,000 members, the group has worked with other organizations to mobilize 150,000 people in peace-making initiatives, as in one recent effort that saw 10,000 supporters make phone calls to their representatives in support of diplomacy with Iran.

As the campaign and other initiatives help bring Iranians and Americans together in a way that is perhaps unprecedented, Sara is optimistic about the future and the impact projects like hers can have. “When the US and Iranian presidents talked directly to one another late last year after nearly 34 years of diplomatic silence between the two countries, it was a great moment. We were both so excited.”

But she also feels there’s a danger that “conversations about people’s everyday lives – about the things we all have in common” often got lost in the debate over foreign policy. She says it’s important to be reminded of the “very basic reasons why we don’t want to see war”.

“We very rarely go to war with people we feel like we know or relate to,” she added. “That’s why individuals talking to each other is so important.”

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