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A simple campaign asks a big question

Can You Solve This? movement arrives in Halifax

by Natascia L

Campaign coordinator Emad Talisman and volunteer Pegah Atbin man the Can You Solve This? station at Mount Saint Vincent University (Natascia Lypny photo).
Campaign coordinator Emad Talisman and volunteer Pegah Atbin man the Can You Solve This? station at Mount Saint Vincent University (Natascia Lypny photo).
The campaign's quick response code is featured on all their posters, handouts and T-shirts (courtesy of the Can You Solve This? Halifax Facebook event page).
The campaign's quick response code is featured on all their posters, handouts and T-shirts (courtesy of the Can You Solve This? Halifax Facebook event page).

A small group of Mount Saint Vincent students launched the Halifax chapter of the Can You Solve This? campaign on Jan. 9.

This international effort targets the Iranian government’s systematic denial of education to various groups of students based on their religious and political beliefs.

“It’s been hard to maintain consistency with these movements, to get people to weigh in, and to participate in a meaningful way,” says Halifax campaign coordinator Emad Talisman of similar endeavors to tackle human rights protection in Iran. “Our campaign is a little bit different in that its focus is somewhat more pointed.”

Talisman highlights two goals the campaign hopes to accomplish: first, to raise awareness of the Iranian government’s violation of Article 13 of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, which declares an equal accessibility to education; second, to engage participants in letter-writing to pressure local as well as Iranian political representatives to enact change.

The campaign’s methods are deceptively basic: “It’s as simple as setting up two computers and putting on T-shirts,” says Talisman.

“Campaigns recently have become very invasive in trying to pressure people into participating, while this one actually incites people,” says Talisman. “It asks a question: ‘Can you solve this?’”Can You Solve This? is the first human rights campaign to use quick response code to attract people to its website. Its barebones posters feature only the code and its eponymous question.

Visitors to the website are first presented with an explanatory video. They are also given the option to send a letter to a political figure using a drop-down list and editable, pre-written text.

According to the Can You Solve This?Facebook page, over 15,000 electronic letters have already been sent. Still, Talisman worries there’s a disconnect between accessing the campaign website and actually sending a letter. The video has been viewed countless more times than a letter sent.

When asked about the specific goals for the Halifax chapter, he said: “I’d like to see many letters go out to leaders of the community,” especially to “strike a chord with somebody who can actually solve this problem.”

A problem that Talisman holds very close to his heart.

Talisman is a psychology and English student at Mount Saint Vincent University. He was born in Sri Lanka after his Baha’i parents fled Iran during the 1979 Iranian Revolution. It was then that persecution against minority religious groups like the Baha’is was ignited.

Talisman sees the Can You Solve This? campaign as particularly important for Halifax because of its large Iranian community. “It’s very relevant that people in Halifax know that these citizens (Iranians) are amongst them and that they have a voice,” he says.

Whether the Iranian government hears that voice is another question entirely. Talisman admits that Iran is known for ignoring pressure from foreign powers to improve its human rights protection. Still, he says this campaign establishes a “level of accountability” that ensures the government’s ideologies are pursued under watch.

Can You Solve This? will have a booth set up in the RBC North Link between the Seton Academic Centre and the E. Margaret Fulton Communications Centre from Jan. 9 to 11. They plan to do a street walk of downtown Halifax this weekend, distributing information about the campaign.

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