There are photographs of walls all over Facebook, Telegram and Instagram at the moment. For a change, these walls have nothing to do with separation. Instead these photographs are of Iran’s “Walls of Kindness.”
First, there was an artily-shot blue wall featuring clothes on hangers in Ghadam-Gah Street in Shiraz. The motto next to it read: “Leave it if you don’t need it; take it if you do.”
People came to the wall to leave the clothes they no longer needed. Others, in need of new or warm clothes, arrived to claim them, moving on once they made their selection. There was no third party overseeing the exchange, no one monitoring what was left behind and what was taken.
Photographs of Ghadam-Gah Street’s Wall of Kindness were shared across social networks. Young boys and girls rang a doorbell and asked the owner of the building if they could use a stretch of the wall for their project. The owner found the idea appealing and gave them the go-ahead. They painted the wall and attached a number of hangers to the wall, accompanied by a few simple sentences scrawled next to the hangers. People welcomed the idea and soon the hangers were loaded with clothes.
The young founders of the Wall of Kindness movement chose not to identify themselves. “They were not associated with a foundation or a charity,” the owner of the house told Mehr News Agency. “But they said they wanted to do more walls like this around the city.”
The Shiraz phenomenon soon spread.
According to the newspaper Hamshahri, prior to this recent act of kindness, a resident of the wealthy neighborhood of Sajjad Boulevard in Mashhad had done something similar on the wall of his own house. He wanted to remain anonymous as well. “I saw a few ideas like this on the internet,” he said when asked about the inspiration for the project. “On a prearranged day in Australia, people would leave appliances they did not need outside their doors,” he said. The organizers flew a balloon as a signal that the project was underway, and those in need of toasters or kettles or other household appliances would come collect what they needed. “Of course in Europe there are many projects like this,” the Mashhad Walls of Kindness man said, adding that in some cities, metal containers are put out in neighborhoods for residents to deposit unwanted clothes and shoes. “In big cities every so often, especially on cold days, they set up stands in the city’s main squares to serve hot soup and fresh bread to the homeless.”
The first day that the man in Mashhad hung clothes on his wall, he thought that perhaps somebody would come and take everything at once and that would be it. “But that is not what happened,” he said. “I saw with my own eyes that a man brought two almost-new suits with dust covers still on them and hung them there. They were straight from the drycleaners. A few minutes later another person came along, took a few pieces of clothing for children from the wall and went away. He did not touch the suits.”
The Shirazi owner of the house told a similar story. “In the past few days this act has been well received by the people. The interesting thing is that those who leave clothes donate quite a lot and those who need them take only one item.”
As the movement has caught on, a few small conditions for donating clothes have emerged. The clothes must be new or relatively new, and they must be clean and ironed. “Do not let them fall onto the ground,” one sign read. “If the there are no empty hangers, bring clothes back later.”
Amin lives near a Wall of Kindness in Isfahan. “I had a few suits that I had grown out of,” he told IranWire. “I liked the idea when I saw pictures of the walls on Instagram. We always gave our clothes or our appliances to people whom we trusted so that they would give them to the needy, but now no intermediary is necessary. We just leave our clothes there and people who need them take them.”
Amin also observed an interesting trend. “Those who bring in the clothes come in the morning but those who want to take them come at dusk,” he said. “It seems that they feel shy when it’s daylight, or perhaps they are afraid that somebody might recognize them.”
It has not been that long — perhaps a little over two weeks—since the first pictures of the first Wall of Kindness started being circulated online, but now many cities have their own walls, including Isfahan, Sari, Rasht, Shahrood, Mashhad, Kermanshah and Susa. And the numbers keep growing as news agencies and newspapers report new sightings. It makes no difference whether the walls are made of bricks or of cement, whether they are tall or short or whether they are painted in bright colors or bare and in need of a paint job. Each one is a Wall of Kindness.