Saturday, October 10, 2009

The Art of Protest in Iran

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Despite a government crackdown on public dissent since the June election, Iranians have continued to find creative and unprecedented ways to protest when they can't demonstrate on the streets any more. In fact, some of the protests are so subtle that you might not notice them at all – unless you're Iranian and know the background. Take the colour green, for instance. Normally it has no particular significance but during the election it was the colour used by presidential candidate Mir Hossein Mousavi. For the first week after the disputed election, protesters still could go out in green. Lots of green banners were made and green wristbands were worn. But when continuing street protest became impossible, the protests went underground. Among this clandestine activity, Irananian artists – both well-known and anonymous – began circulating posters, flyers and other political designs by email all over the country. These could then be printed out and distributed free of charge. Mousavi himself has been a man of art, having drawn a poster depicting Iranians in green, witht the slogan "We are numerous". There is also one by a well-known Iranian cartoonist, Bozorgmehr Hosseinpour, which has become very popular.

It shows a memorable moment for Iranians during the great debate on state-run TV between Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Mousavi, when the reformist candidate points his finger at his rival and says: "Be quiet". Nokia and Siemens have also been a frequent target for these posters as their joint venture, NSN, sold a mobile surveillance system to the Iranian regime last year. Many prisoners have been arrested on the basis of their mobile phone conversations. An anonymous artist has designed a poster reading as "Life is beautiful without Nokia Siemens." Another depicts a sad girl thanking Nokia Siemens for putting her parents in jail. Yet another urges people to boycott Nokia mobile and state-run TV for collaborating with the regime. Neda Agha Soltan, the girl who was killed by the Basij militia in a street protest and became an icon of Iranian protest around the world has also been depicted in many posters. One shows her face on the background of a "Where is my vote?" slogan in Persian. Another asks Neda how it feels to be free that now she has died and is not more trapped by the Iranian regime. The name Neda, which means "voice" in English, has been used in many posters as a double entendre, such as: "We are all one voice". (Read more...)