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Young Iranians Use Mobile and Social Media to Mobilize Grassroots Relief for Earthquake Victims

BY Lisa Goldman | Tuesday, August 21 2012

The middle class youth of Tehran have organized caravans to deliver relief supplies to the earthquake struck region of northern Iran. The New York Times describes the volunteers as "a mix of hipsters, off-road motor club members and children of affluent families" who decided to collect and deliver the supplies on their own after the Red Crescent, which is close to the government, came under criticismfor an inefficient and insufficient relief response.

The volunteers collected supplies, packed them into their own vehicles and drove them in convoys over badly-paved roads to the remote northeastern region of Iran, where the locals speak Turkish rather than Persian and most have never visited the capital city.

Energized by anger over widespread accusations that Iran’s official relief organizations were not adequately helping survivors, they, and hundreds of others, spontaneously organized a 48-hour charity effort using text messages, Facebook and phone calls to gather money and goods.

According to the Times, the young volunteers are usually known as the "burnt generation," because "they have few opportunities, faced with international sanctions on Iran and the increasingly strict rules imposed by the state."

The Iranian government blocks Facebook and most other social media sites, but locals useVPNs to circumvent the ban to access the site, which is very popular.

Radio Free Europe reports that Iranian journalists started a Facebook group to share accurate information about the earthquake, while ordinary people are using the site to mobile aid from abroad and inside the country.

Personal Democracy Media is grateful to the Omidyar Network for its generous support of techPresident's WeGov section.