Letters to Hoder
June 9, 2011 3:41 PM   Subscribe

Letters to Hoder
Following the news that Metafilter member Hoder's appeal against his 19.5-year prison sentence in Iran has been denied, I started Letters to Hoder. I will write an open letter to Hoder every year he is incarcerated, be it one more year or 19 more years. On June 15th, I invite you to write to Hoder, too.

For background on Hoder, see Wikipedia, the hoder tag, or the About page at Letters to Hoder.

I am completely clear that this will not get Hoder released from prison. But my hope, which I tried to explain on the About page, is two fold:
This is a small effort and one I am painfully aware is totally ineffective at changing anything at all for Hoder. But whenever he’s released, it might be nice for him to know that even though his voice was silenced, the archives of much of his writings went offline, and the press for his cause has declined over time, he was not forgotten.

My hope is that if some other people join me in this effort and use their own blogs to write a letter to Hoder each year, too, we can keep up the profile of Hoder’s plight and let new waves of bloggers, activists and journalists know that he’s still there, he is still one of us, and he is still remembered.
If you don't have a blog, you can write a letter using Facebook Notes. I'll link to all of the letters anyone tells me about - the easiest way to do that is to drop a comment on the blog post for that.

If anyone has suggestions for this project, I'm wide open to feedback here. Thanks.
Role: letter writer
posted by DarlingBri (10 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
This project was posted to MetaFilter by Brandon Blatcher on June 11, 2011: Letters to Hoder

19 years is a long time to expect folk's blogs to persist. I'd suggest you modify your How to Write a Letter to Hoder section to say that, unless requested otherwise, you'll replicate letters on your site as well as providing a link back to them. Wordpress seems like an outfit that might actually still be around in 19 years, and also won't delete an inactive blog should you die or whatever, so that's good.

The FAQ is weird. I presume no one has asked any of these questions, let alone frequently. Items 3 and 4 (which aren't even questions) are particularly odd... you're having defensive debates with imaginary people in response to unlikely statements never made. If it were me, I'd roll the "don't be mean" sentiment into #3 of the How-To, and axe the rest. But that's me.
posted by thinman at 5:49 PM on June 9, 2011

Thanks, those are all good points. I opted for a WordPress.com blog because I think it has a reasonable chance of being around in 19 years too but I didn't consider that other linked blogs wouldn't be.

I'll also address the FAQ, which on reflection is a little defensive; reading some of the reactions online to today's news has put a bad taste in my mouth but I shouldn't have let that bleed into this. I appreciate the heads up.
posted by DarlingBri at 8:35 PM on June 9, 2011

i was particularly touched by this "he’s still there, he is still one of us, and he is still remembered."

this is also a dumb question but... you make it clear that Hoder will not be able to write back and cannot receive physical letters, but is there a possibility that he will see any online letters? or given the conditions of his prison that is out of the question? my guess is no and that the letters are more of a motivator to spread the word about Hoder, right? a little clarity on that might help.
posted by cristinacristinacristina at 11:04 AM on June 10, 2011

There is a possibility that he will see online letters. I have no direct contact with his family (or anyone, really) but press stories indicate he has been let out on furloughs twice in the past year. I have absolutely no idea what the conditions of those release are, or if he is allowed internet access, or in what way if any it is restricted. There was an update to his Facebook page with photos during one of these furloughs but I am (baselessly? wisely?) not assigning a huge amount of credibility to anything that purports to come directly from Hoder while he is still serving this sentence. (That's just me. I read 1984 way too early.)

The letters are a motivator, yes, but really... I just started writing because if I could write to him in prison, I would. I can't. I'm an internet person, like many of us are, and when I don't know what to do, I do internet things. Writing to Hoder online seemed like the thing to do. The idea that if some other people wrote, too, it might help him in some small way came second, but I don't have a big plan. I don't think it will hurt to keep profile up, but I don't know that any big plan outside diplomatic channels will have any impact at all now. I am not convinced that the Iranian government cares about its PR or online petitions, for example, though I'll happily sign them.

I don't know. Basically, whenever he gets out or gets online or gets news from his family, I just want his to know that however long it took, people out here didn't forget him.
posted by DarlingBri at 11:45 AM on June 10, 2011

This is a small effort and one I am painfully aware is totally ineffective at changing anything at all for Hoder.

Amnesty International would disagree with you!
Letter-writing has always been a mainstay of their activism, and I wonder if they'd be interested in Hoder's story and your efforts too.
posted by mendel at 8:37 PM on June 10, 2011

Brilliant! Thanks for doing this.
posted by selfmedicating at 8:58 PM on June 10, 2011

Thanks for the input and general thumbs-up. I have revised the FAQ, made some attempts to make what is a slightly fuzzy project a bit more concretely communicated, and added social sharing to the degree that Wordpress.com-hosted blogs allow you to. I've also emphasised that people can write letters on their own blogs or on Facebook to try to widen the number of people who could take part.

mendel, Amnesty knows about Hoder and they seem to be keeping more-or-less abreast of his situation. They don't have a presence in Iran, however, and seem to be focusing efforts on places they can have more impact. But maybe their Iran desk blogger would be interested in some of the Hoder campaigns. Thanks!
posted by DarlingBri at 10:46 AM on June 11, 2011

You've got a typo on your About page. It's should be its.

Otherwise, nice job.
posted by dobbs at 10:50 PM on June 11, 2011

I like the way you did the design across the banner up top. Some of those design elements would normally strike me as cheesy, but with the photo as a centerpiece, you pulled it together in a way that, for me, was moving. I don't know hoder, but the photo gave me a sense of connection right away.
posted by salvia at 11:40 PM on June 11, 2011

Thanks, typo fixed. Glad the design is also OK. It's a standard WordPress.com template to which I just added the letters, photo and text around the nav buttons. It's a very easy layout to work with within the limitations of Wordpress.com, which to be fair is much, much better than it used to be.

I love that photo of Hoder but I don't know who took it. I would really like to ask their permission and credit them if it all possible - I think it's crucial to use a photo but am not comfortable with this at the moment. If anyone has any idea how to pinpoint the right person, I would be very grateful.

Letters are starting to come in (thanks, Mefites!) and I'm slowly working out a method for republishing those (when allowed) and listing them. I also figured out how to replace my name so it (hopefully) doesn't look at first glance like I authored other people's letters.

Thanks for the frontpage push, Brandon Blatcher!
posted by DarlingBri at 9:02 AM on June 12, 2011

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