Mad Graffiti Week Iran: Think, Innovate, Struggle and Paint

iran graffiti

From Egypt to Iran, from Iran to the world: While the U.S. anti-war community has begun preparation for any military action against Iran, Iranian activists and artists have put out a call for a unique day of international solidarity. Dubbed "Mad Graffiti Week Iran", the stencil campaign aims to spread awareness of Iranian political prisoners while also giving people around the world a way of participating in an international action for Iranian activists.

Mad Graffiti Week Iran has posted numerous outlines for stencils on their website which they ask folks around the world to print, cut, and apply "however you can, and wherever you can." The campaign is set to begin April 1st.

The idea for the week came out of the Egyptian movement's "Mad Graffiti Week Egypt", which saw thousands of responses on Facebook and many photos posted from throughout the country. "In the same spirit," Mad Graffiti Week Iran's Facebook page reads, "in solidarity we are asking you to draw for the human and civil rights movement in Iran, for freedom for political prisoners, for an end to repression and executions, for free expression of the Iranian people and media, and for demands for true democracy."

We at Art Is My Occupation thought this was a great action to highlight, one that might inspire similar initiatves in the U.S. and elsewhere. The idea of taking pre-designed stencils, making them easily available, and creatiing a website where photos of their use can be posted, makes it really easy for those who would normally be intimidated by visual art-protest to participate. It also emphasizes the importance of art and image in public space, suggesting that the presence of such work effects culture and awareness.

The week of action has been planned to coincide with the birthdays of two of the political prisoners featured in the stencils, human rights lawyer Nasrin Sotoudeh (April 3) and student activist Bahareh Hedayat (April 5). Nasrin was charged in January of 2011 with  "acting against the national security" and "propaganda against the regime," among other things, for her defense in court of activists arrested during Green Movement protests. Her 11-year sentence was recently reduced to 6 years. Bahareh was arrested in 2007 and 2008, and in 2010 was charged for possessing "anti-state propaganda" and sentenced to over 9-years. Both are held in Evin Prison.

Another prisoner featured in a stencil is Majid Tavakoli, who was among other students arrested and tortured after disrupting a visit by Iranian president Ahmadinejad to Amir Kabir University in 2006. According to sources in the Guardian, he was beaten and tortured after his latest arrest for attending a Tehran student demonstration in 2009 and remains in prison.

In an attempt to smear Majid, Iranian state media forced him to be photographed wearing an Islamic chador and maghnaeh (a female headscarf), which they say he used in an attempt to escape police after giving a speech at Amir Kabir University. When photos hit the airwaves, however, a Facebook campaign of men dressing similarly and posing for photos in solidarity emerged. The photos were also shared on the popular regime-mocking site Gordrab, which hosts many edited photos and ironic images meant to discredit the regime.

Mad Graffiti Week Iran also hosts posters for "The Baha'is 7," who have been held for their religious beliefs and activism, as week as generic posters reading "Azadi/Freedom."

This action is one more example of how globalized and internationalized this movement of movements is; The prisoners in Egypt and Iran have various political trajectories and come from various backgrounds, but those supporting them see a commonality and solidarity between their struggles.

"From Egypt to Iran, to countries around the world," the call reads, "our cries are the same: Justice! Democracy! Rights! Equality! Humanity! Freedom!"

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