by Asia Patel
Atena Farghadani is an Iranian artist who fought against the decision to restrict access to contraception by drawing a comic depicting the politicians involved as animals. In August 2014, she was arrested and faced charges of “insulting members of parliament” and “insulting the Supreme Leader of Iran”. She remained in prison until November and upon release, spoke out about how the guards had beaten her and was arrested again. During her time in prison, she continued her artwork on discarded paper cups but was caught by cameras installed in the bathrooms. In January she was arrested again for speaking out in a YouTube video, she went on a hunger strike to protest the treatment she had received in prison. In June, she was charged with 12 years and 9 months for charges related to her drawing but she faced new charges when she shook her (male) lawyers hand as it was “indecent conduct” representing an “illegitimate sexual relationship short of adultery”.
As an artist myself, stories like this scare me. Earlier this year, we saw the attack on the satirical magazine, Charlie Hebdo in which artists all over the world took to their pens and paper to stand in solidarity for the people murdered. Even mainstream media got involved, with examples like national newspaper the Independent changing their entire front page in tribute. But for Atena Farghadani, there is very little coverage of her story, and her art. I am guilty of taking my right to free speech for granted. This is why I am choosing to use my freedom to stand with her, to draw for Atena whilst she is unable to.
If you also would like to help Atena, Amnesty International have a petition that you can sign.
DESCRIPTION: The drawing has used black biro, and features Atena Farghadani (a young Iranian woman in a headscarf) kneeling on a paper cup holding a large pencil like a sword. Underneath her, at the botton of the cup, are three politicians, with their faces drawn as two monkeys and as a bull reaching up to her. The image is in black and white.