Lines Of Resistance: Prison Art From The Middle East
Lines of Resistance: Prison Art from the Middle East is a mixed media work produced by former political prisoners from the Middle East, notably Iran, as well as artists standing in solidarity with them. The exhibition is an instance of visualizing atrocities committed by states in the region including Israel. These works were exhibited at Beit Zatoun in Toronto and can be seen at Memories, Memoirs, and the Arts.
They are inviting us, in intricate ways, to their private lives that were publicly brutalized. Their tale of years of prison in Evin connects us to an untold history. They depict images and voices of courage, kindness, compassion, betrayal, cowardice, or brutality that stubbornly stay in our head. Azadeh, Sousan, and Shadi’s first and final word is “We Lived to Tell.”[i]
In 1979, the Shah of Iran was deposed through a nationwide revolution. The dictatorial Pahlavi state was replaced by the authoritarian Islamic regime where women, students, workers, national and religious minorities, and any other voice of dissent were suppressed. The Islamic regime began to systematically imprison and eliminate these forces. Those who survived the prison experience were released into an oppressive society where their rights were severely violated. Many of former political prisoners escaped Iran and applied for refugee status in various countries around the world. Canada was one of the countries where they settled.
In the last few years, former political prisoners from the Middle East, in particular Iran, have met regularly to create art as a mode of expressing resistance against authoritarian regime in a project called Words, Colour, Movement: Remembering and Learning Through the Arts. Artists have worked with participants showing them how to use art as a tool for communication and to express their personal and political experiences. An important component of these workshops was a public exhibition of art and performance as a mode to speak out against state violence and to educate the public about the experiences and continued oppression in Iran. In April 2011, the artwork was featured in an exhibit called Lines of Resistance: Prison Art from the Middle East at the Beit Zatoun Gallery. This exhibit was part of a week-long action to end executions in Iran and demand the freedom of all political prisoners throughout the Middle East.
Lines of Resistance: Prison Art from the Middle East is a mixed media work produced by former political prisoners from the Middle East, notably Iran and Turkey, as well as artists standing in solidarity with them. The exhibition visualizes atrocities committed by the Islamic Republic of Iran and other oppressive states throughout the region.
This exhibition serves as a testament to those who resist oppressive state policies. It is also an opportunity for all to stand in solidarity with the Iranian people and demand the immediate end to imprisonment, torture and executions.
An important part of the exhibit has been to educate people about the political situation and human right abuses in Iran.
These are the facts about capital punishment in Iran:
- Since 1979, Iran’s Islamic government has executed thousands of men, women, and children for non-violent political activity.
- Following the post-election unrest in the summer of 2009, there has been a surge in the execution of political prisoners in Iran. According to credible international human rights organizations, the Iranian government has executed at least 86 people since the start of 2011.
- Amnesty International reported 112 executions in the eight weeks between the disputed election in June 2009 and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s inauguration in early August.
- Political prisoners who are executed in Iran are not afforded fair trials and are often subjected to gruesome torture.
- Iran continues to stone women to death for adultery.
- Iran remains one of the only countries in the world to execute juveniles. It also continues to execute adults for crimes they committed when they were under 18.
How the Iranian government is violating international human rights law:
- Iran has a shameful record of executing activists, without trial, for peaceful exercise of their political rights is a blatant violation of international law.
- Iran violates international law by carrying out the barbaric practice of stoning.
- Iran’s execution of juveniles violates its obligations under international law. Iran has signed the Convention on the Rights of the Child which prohibits execution of anyone under 18 and prohibits the use of capital punishment for crimes committed when a person was a minor.
It is important that once people have seen the artwork and read the artist statements, that they have some tangible actions to take in solidarity with the artists, with the people of Iran and with people around the world affected by state violence. The following section provides resources for further action:
What You Can Do About Political Prisoners from Iran
- If you’re a journalist, writer, blogger, or even if you just have a Facebook or Twitter account, please publicize the rapidly deteriorating human rights situation in Iran.
- Contact your member of parliament, the Department of Foreign Affairs (email@example.com), and the Prime Minister’s office (firstname.lastname@example.org) and let them know that you’re concerned about the human rights situation in Iran and that you expect them to do more to bring attention to the surge in executions in Iran.
- Contact the Secretary General of the United Nations (email@example.com) and the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (firstname.lastname@example.org) and tell them to support the work of the Special Rapporteur on Iran.
About Political Prisoners Around the World
- Visit the Amnesty International website:
- Visit the Women’s Organization for Political Prisoners (WOFPP) website: www.wofpp.org
- Visit the Human Rights Watch Website: www.hrw.org
An organization that monitors human rights and campaigns to establish an international criminal court and improved prison conditions.
- Get involved with the Toronto Anarchist Black Cross:
- Visit the Addameer Prisoner Support and Human Rights Organization website: www.addameer.org
Addameer is an organization that advocates for and supports Palestinian political prisoners inside Israel.
- Visit the Association for the Prevention of Torture website: www.apt.ch An organization that seeks to ensure the implementation of international laws forbidding torture.
This work is part of research conducted by Dr. Shahrzad Mojab and Bethany Osborne at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education at the University of Toronto (For more information about this work, see www.utoronto.ca/prisonmemoirs).
For more information contact:
Shahrzad Mojab email@example.com or
Bethany Osborne firstname.lastname@example.org
[i] Shahrzad Mojab (2007) “Years of solitude, years of defiance: Women political prisoners in Iran,” in Agah, A., Sousan Mehr and Shadi Parsi, We Lived to Tell: Political Prison Memoirs of Iranian Women. Toronto: McGilligan Books, 7-18.