Unlock Iran

Raising Awareness for Human Rights

We teamed with the Iran Human Rights Documentation Center to create an immersive digital experience aimed at raising awareness of Iran's "prisoners of rights" — individuals jailed for their beliefs, lifestyle or profession. Ronik provided concept, design, video production and some clever code too.

The mission of the IHRDC is to record human rights atrocities in Iran and, ultimately, to promote accountability and peace both in the country and the Middle East. They saw the growing need to expose unjust imprisonment, torture and execution in Iran, a global conversation that is consistently overshadowed by nuclear issues. Global decision makers needed to see the stories of these mistreated anians and confront the nightmare of what is taking place.

While the IHRDC has been working tirelessly since 2004 to document and promote awareness of human rights violations in Iran, it can prove difficult to tell those stories in hefty reports and documentation. We needed to find a way to present the story of Iranian prisoners of rights that would resonate personally with users of any background. If we could then leverage the considerable power of their outrage and empathy, we could direct it where it would best help the campaign — sharing the campaign with the world and speaking out to world leaders directly on twitter.

Unlock Iran combines storytelling with rich data — and the participation of the user — with the goal of creating real change.

We started by forming ten prisoner "archetypes" from the many known prisoners currently serving unjust sentences in Iran. Narrowing and refining the large list of prisoners to one exemplar from each archetype let us tell personal stories, while representing the plight of hundreds others. The user is presented with an emotionally charged and personally resonant story.

Upon entering the site, users are encouraged to connect to Facebook. Connected users are presented a uniquely gripping intro experience which puts them in the shoes of someone recently imprisoned. The goal is for the user to feel the confusion of the event, the injustice, the ripples and repercussions of how it would affect their families and friends, and the lengths to which their loved ones would go to get them released.

In that vein, we also decided to present the prisoners' stories in a familiar vertical timeline format, introducing the lives of the prisoners in a chronological yet intimate manner. The timeline structure seamlessly integrates text, photos, video, and interactive elements together in a naturally engaging flow.

Ronik and the IHRDC partnered with LoveSocial for the execution of the social campaign. Ahead of the site's launch and a few days before decision makers met in Geneva for the UN Human Rights Council, the Inside Out Project pasted large portrait photographs of the campaign's ten featured prisoners — and two recently executed prisoners - outside the UN in New York City, immediately gaining attention for the Unlock Iran campaign and the IHRDC's initiative.

Many users access the site by following social media links on a mobile device, so we ensured it is fully responsive, allowing users to experience Unlock Iran on any screen.

The database section of the website affords reporters, policy-makers and ordinary people the ability to dive deeper into the known current prisoners of rights in Iran — beautiful, intelligent people who are silenced by their government — sometimes permanently — for standing up for what is right, or merely for living their lives. This was an essential feature, as the Iranian government does not make these figures public and the full extent of their abuses remains unknown.

The prisoners' stories offer up a gripping account of the human rights violations taking place with increasing frequency in Iran. With compelling data and heart-wrenching stories presented in a meaningful and honest way, it's hopeful that Unlock Iran will continue to be a force for good in securing the release of the many prisoners still believing in a bright future for human liberty in Iran.

  • Horizon Interactive Award Gold Advocacy / Non-profit 2014
  • Webby Award Honoree Activism 2014
  • Awwward Honorable Mention 2014
  • Davey Award Gold Activism 2014
  • Communicator Award Gold Activism 2014
  • Communicator Award Silver Charitable Organizations / Non-Profit 2015
  • Pixel Award People's Champ Non-profit & Charity 2014
  • w3 Award Gold Activism 2014
  • w3 Award Gold Non-Profit 2014
  • Communicator Award Gold Activism 2015
  • Communicator Award Silver Non-Profits 2015