by Vivian Lee
A green ribbon tied to a forlorn tree stump, its shadow creating an outline of a human hand. The index and middle finger are raised—a peace sign. This cartoon, by exiled Iranian artist Kianoush Ramezani, comments on Iran’s budding Green Movement. The movement, and the cartoon, has stirred up controversy.
After Iran’s presidential elections in 2009, 150 Iranian intellectuals, journalists and bloggers were forced to leave the country after intense government pressure and oppression. Ramezani decided not to practice self-censorship after postelection repression, and instead created many cartoons reflecting the country’s own political unrest. But after seeing many of his close friends incarcerated, Ramezani knew there was no choice but to leave his family and his home. Ramezani relocated to France, where he is seeking political asylum.
freeDimensional learned that Ramezani was living on the streets in Paris, unable to afford housing. Ramezani was the first recipient of the Creative Resistance Fund, which annually awards an exiled artist with one travel and accommodation grant. Now, he can help those protesting against the new regime, work peacefully with his new group, Iranian Green International Cartoon Exhibition, and publish cartoons about the crackdown and repression of the Iranian people, all without fear of being censored or going to jail. His new work reflects on his status as a refugee. He says that his next pieces will definitely be about “a person with a body or soul that is incomplete that is kept away from his homeland.”
freeDimensional, organized by Todd Lester, Hugo Espinel, and Alexandra Zobel, seeks to protect artist-activists who live in oppressive countries by providing a safe space for artists to peacefully explore in their medium of work while also working as activists. For more information or to help this cause, visit their website.
Illustration courtesy of the artist.