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Charlotte Safavi Headshot

Got Green?

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Last week as Iran's Tweet-A-Thon raged on my Facebook, an unrelated post caught my eye from an American Facebook friend, "Green twitter pictures are stupid as f***." I knew my friend did not know what the green images meant. But his comment made me stop and think.

Since the disputed election results of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's win came out of Iran on June 12, 2009, green wheels started turning on the Internet. The clamp down on international press coverage in Iran only meant green-colored avatars spread faster than the plague on the social networking sites, now operating as de facto newsrooms.

I scroll through my Facebook friends' profile pictures. Among them, I see simple statements of protest on green backgrounds: Where is My Vote? Where is Their Vote? Free Iran. I see bold graphics on green squares -- a clenched fist, the black snail-shaped map of Iran, a splatter of red. I see recent photographs with green elements -- a pair of green-ribbon bedecked fingers and thumbs forming a heart-shape, green-painted fingers making the V sign, defiant Iranians demonstrating on the streets of Iran in green clothing and accessories.

I am most touched by my American Facebook friends, many of whom are not multicultural mutts like me, who have taken on green avatars, some by green-washing their regular profile pictures. Of course, I know those who have not changed their profile pictures -- I have not -- also support the Iranians. A plea for democracy in real time spreading throughout the Web is potent and addictive.

Color for a cause is also powerful. Think of the pink ribbon of breast cancer awareness, the yellow ribbon of wanting to see loved ones home safely, the red ribbon of AIDS.

Before June 12, 2009, green meant this to me, the color of my Iranian eyes, the color of England's green and pleasant land -- immortalized by William Blake -- where I was born, the color of my backyard at home in Northern Virginia where I now live with my American husband and son.

When my son was in second grade, he wrote this poem about his favorite color at the time:

Green
The color of grass
That smells like morning
It tastes like mints
It sounds like air traveling fast

Though the green of Mir Hossein Mousavi's campaign carries the symbolism of Islam, it glows with a progressive, anti-isolationist hue, as it attains global traction. As the protestors in Iran take to the streets daily, they show us in the world at large that green is indeed like air traveling fast. We hear their voices loud and clear despite their oppression. Whatever the ultimate outcome of the civil unrest, the people of Iran have asked for something better.

My American Facebook friend later wrote to me -- "I didn't realize the green pictures stood for something meaningful. I'm sorry. I though it meant Hulk Mad!" I thank him for giving me the opportunity to reflect on green. Funnily enough, one of the Iranian avatars I saw in my Web travels was a close up of the Incredible Hulk, all green and furious.

I look forward to hearing your comments and of course having the chance to see any green profile pictures.