Mahsa Amini, a 22-year-old Iranian woman, died after being detained by that country’s “morality police” for not wearing the hijab required of women in public. Since her death, Amini’s name and portrait have become a symbol of a feminist movement that began with a demand for justice and liberty under the slogan “Women, Life, Freedom,” and large crowds in Iran have called for total regime change. To date, it is estimated that more than 400 people have been killed and thousands arrested as protestors continue to clash with security forces.
In the Bay Area, there have been marches and other manifestations of support for the Iranian protesters.
One of the most noteworthy is a public art exhibit undertaken by the Clarion Alley Mural Project in San Francisco’s Mission District.
Megan Wilson, CAMP co-director, said the organization’s goal is to provide a space to tell stories about communities that are often silenced, disenfranchised and marginalized. The worlds of art and activism often overlap, helping communities to feel seen and pushing for social change.
The writing on the walls
“It’s storytelling, it’s an opportunity for stories that are not necessarily allowed to be told often to have that public sphere and be given these huge wall spaces to tell those stories,” said Wilson, who is working on a mural in support of the movement in Iran.
Another muralist is graffiti artist Keyvan Shovir, an Iranian immigrant, who has painted a mural of Mahsa Amini along with women cutting their hair. It includes names of people who have been killed by the regime.
“Echoing what is happening in Iran, artists have contributed to this revolution so I am just doing my part in the movement,” Shovir said.
Shovir started his artwork in the streets of Tehran in 2008 and went by the street name ‘CK1’. Shovir says he wanted to make art that was not limited by social class or location, so he brought his art to the people. He was arrested in 2010 following the 2009 Iranian Green Movement, the last major political protest that was accompanied by mass demonstrations.
“One day I got a call from the police and they arrested me,” Shovir said. “Since that moment everything gets intense in my artistic practice.The interrogations were so intense, I was living under a lot of stress.” In 2011 he emigrated to the U.S.
“I want to be the voice of the voiceless and a voice of Mahsa Amini, and I want them to remember women as fighters and not just in the background. I want strength and power for all the Iranian women.”Keyvan Shovir, muralist
Another Iranian-born artist who has contributed to the project is Farnaz Zabetian, who hopes her work supports the women and people of Iran and to be the voice that has been taken from them.
“I painted women cutting their hair in front of the Iranian flag as a symbol of protesting and showing how the Iranian government is taking women’s rights,” Zabetian said.
While CAMP seeks to build long-term relationships with communities, its artists typically work quickly to make their projects coincide with social movements.
“I want to be the voice of the voiceless and a voice of Mahsa Amini, and I want them to remember women as fighters and not just in the background,” Shovir said. “I want strength and power for all the Iranian women.”