By Gavin Aung Than
Jun 12, 2015
Atena Farghadani is a 28-year-old Iranian artist. She was recently sentenced to 12 years and 9 months in prison for drawing a cartoon.
This cartoon, that she posted on her Facebook page last year, depicts members of the Iranian parliament as animals. It was drawn in protest of new legislature in Iran that will restrict access to contraception and criminalise voluntary sterilisation. Atena’s charges include ‘spreading propaganda against the system’ and ‘insulting members of parliament through paintings’.
Last August, 12 members of the elite Revolutionary Guard came to Atena’s house, blindfolded her and took her to the infamous Evin Prison in Tehran. According to Amnesty International:
“While in prison last year, Atena flattened paper cups to use them as a surface to paint on. When the prison guards realised what she had been doing, they confiscated her paintings and stopped giving her paper cups. When Atena found some cups in the bathroom, she smuggled them into her cell. Soon after, she was beaten by prison guards, when she refused to strip naked for a full body search. Atena says that they knew about her taking the cups because they had installed cameras in the toilet and bathroom facilities – cameras detainees had been told were not operating.”
She was released in November and gave media interviews and posted a video on YouTube detailing her beatings, constant interrogations and humiliating body searches. She was then rearrested possibly in retaliation for speaking out and has been imprisoned ever since. In January, Atena went on a hunger strike to protest the horrible prison conditions. Her health suffered dramatically, and after losing consciousness and suffering a heart attack in February, she was forced to eat again.
The quote used in the comic is taken from the speech Atena gave at her trial. It has been translated into English by the Free Atena Facebook page. You can read the whole thing here.
Time is now against her, she has just two weeks to lodge an appeal. Michael Cavna, comic journalist for The Washington Post, has launched a campaign appealing to artists to help bring awareness to Atena’s case by creating their own artwork in support of Atena and using the hashtag #Draw4Atena. Can a bunch of artists and a hashtag really make a difference and put pressure on the Iranian Government to release Atena? Probably not. But just remember that Atena is currently in prison enduring horrible conditions, and if her appeal isn’t successful, she will be there for another twelve years. FOR DRAWING A CARTOON AND POSTING IT ON FACEBOOK. Don’t we owe it to her to at least try?