Friday, November 16, 2007

Spill Over Effect of Small Things

This is not a note on either economics or politics. It is more a story. Today I was discussing with a friend about initiative that some Iranian bloggers take and their consequences. The discussion was not unfamiliar, similar debates are common among friends and acquaintances. Do these initiatives mean anything? I believe any initiative means something and is of some consequence.

When I was a freshman student in Sharif University of Technology, Sharif, Industrial Engineering students came together and started publishing a professional, topic-oriented, student run magazine called “Sanaye” or “industries”. It was nothing political or even social. All it did was talking about industrial engineering world; designs, events, research, projects and etc.

Sharif was and is one of the finest engineering school in Iran[1] and for that purpose it was a place where fun came and comes to die! Everyone was itching to do something more and to evade the boredom of just studying. So other departments followed the example of industrial engineering department.

Electrical engineering students started their own magazine and called it “Bargh” or “electricity”. Mechanical engineering and civil engineering students all started some sort of activity. This was early 1990’s and the atmosphere was not suitable for political activities so many active and energetic students joined these magazines. These activities spilled over to organizing student conferences of the fields. Sharif hosted the first student conference of electrical engineering in Iran. IEEE chapters began to appear in most of notable schools. The magazines were published irregularly sometimes it took 6 months to put together one, but they did appear and they did leave their mark.

On another note publishing technical magazines paved the way for many to say: “why we should not have a weekly paper dedicated to students? Of course nothing political!” so in Sharif students went ahead and published “Noghteh, Sar-Khat” literally it means “End, Begin from the beginning of the line” I remember this vividly that it was in 1996 walking in Tehran International Book Exhibition that I saw a copy of a student paper circulated by the students of communications department at Allameh Tabataay’i University. Its editorial read something like this: “even engineering students have their own publications and we do not. Let’s write, after all it is what we are being trained for!”

I know the stories of a few of these people. Many joined reformist papers, many continued their studies and received their degrees and are faculty members, researchers and developers across the globe. The work they begun some 14 years ago continue to construct infrastructure and to link self motivated individuals to be better and to go forward. Iran’s academia is a better place because of them.

History may not remember them or record their names, there won’t be any “Reading Lolita in Tehran” for them, but the steps they took covered a few miles of the thousand miles ahead of Iranian people.

When someone picks up a banner and goes forward, he or she never knows how many rally behind, how far the cause would go. In the case of Iran the many small initiatives taken by many unknown individuals have contributed and continue to contribute to the development of Iran to constructing the infrastructure of a civil democratic society. Amidst what is going on it comforts me to think someone somewhere is starting something new, something rather small but of significant impact.

[1] Other finest schools are: University of Tehran Engineering College, Tehran Polytechnic (Amir Kabir University), Science and Industry University and etc your schools are good too.

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