The Lines of Resistance exhibit took place at the Beit Zeitoun Gallery from April 9-17, 2011.
The artwork was organized into three broad categories, Experience of Prison, Resistance and Images of Hope, which can be viewed in their online galleries. Images from the exhibition can be viewed in this gallery below.
An informative brochure was produced for the exhibition, and an information sheet was written for visitors to take with them, following the exhibition. Please explore both of these for more information about the Lines of Resistance show.
This project had three distinct parts. The first two parts occurred simultaneously while the third part was more about the sharing of experiences with broader audiences within both Canada and internationally. Participants in this project explored various visual art mediums including painting, sculpture, photography and mixed media works (including photo transfer); creative written works including story and poetry; and dance.
Participants in this project were either former political prisoners or had been affected by violence in the Islamic Republic of Iran. All of them had a connection to Iran but had also come to Canada at various times over the past 20 years. They began to create art together as a part of arts-based research done by Bethany Osborne. Although former political prisoners faced language barriers in talking about their experiences within the prison system, the art workshops offered a safe place for them to be able to express themselves.
A number of individual and collective projects were undertaken over a six month period. At the end of the workshops, the participants decided to continue to meet. The art creation had a therapeutic effect on them as well as fulfilling a community building function. They also had many discussions about speaking out against state sponsored violence through art mediums.
Political Prisoners Masacre of 1988
The Summer of 2008 marked the 20th anniversary of the massacre of politically committed and the radical Iranian women and men activists who were brutally executed in thousands by the Islamic Republic of Iran. To commemorate and celebrate the lives of this revolutionary generation, in Iran and the diaspora, numerous events were organized by individuals and political groups from Sweden to Australia.
Here is the poster from the event organized by Dr. Mojab, in Toronto, Canada, at OISE.
In 2005, the film The Corridor was screened at the Prisoner’s Justice Film Festival.
Dr. Mojab’s introductory remarks from the screening are below:
FIRST ANNUAL PRISONERS’ JUSTICE FILM FESTIVAL
January 23, 2005
Women Political Prisoners of the Middle East Introduction and Welcoming Remarks
The mass participation of women in the 1979 Iranian Revolution, one of the most important anti-imperialist revolutions of the late 20th century, took the world by surprise. The course of this mass-based, largely left, and secular uprising took a sudden shift and the Islamic, conservative clerics took power. As a result, the despotic monarchical regime was replaced by an equally repressive theocracy. In the course of this political turn, women of Iran have paid a heavy toll, not yet fully known nor acknowledged widely.
While she was a student in Britain in the 1970s, Zoe Neirizi was among thousands of Iranian women who joined the World Confederation of Iranian Students; this was one of the most radical, well-organized, anti-imperialist, and internationalist student movements, badly missed today. With the fall of the Iranian monarchy in 1979, she was also among thousands of students who went back to Iran in order to join the struggle for building a democratic, egalitarian, and just society.
Zoe is also among another thousands of Iranian women who were arrested, imprisoned, and tortured because of opposing the Islamic theocracy, and its religious-feudal-patriarchal relations of power. She has survived to tell us her tale, while thousands were executed in obscurity, and it is very recently that we are reading about their resistance among the pages of memoire of the survivors who were able to leave the country.
Zoe came to Britain in 1993 after serving three years and two months in a prison in Iran. In exile, she has pursued her study in law, and a week ago she passed her last exam to be a qualified solicitor, and she will work on immigration and refugee cases in February.
Zoe is a member of the Write to Life Project at the Medical Foundation and has written short stories about her life. The Corridor marks Zoe’s debut as a writer, director, and producer for a drama short. She wishes to continue her creative writing and to make short films on social issues relating to women and disadvantaged groups in general.
In 2006, the film Red Names was screened at the Prisoner’s Justice Film Festival. You can read Dr. Mojab’s opening remarks below:
SECOND ANNUAL PRISONERS’ JUSTICE FILM FESTIVAL February 25, 2006
Women Political Prisoners of the Middle East Introduction and Welcome Remarks
These are not easy times for women of the Middle East. We are living daily the consequences of a prolonged hostility and are facing renewed condition of animosity started before September 11, 2001 and has continued unabated since. The extreme right, both in the West and in the Middle East, have created horror, carnage, and are fueling the culture of fear throughout the world. Under these conditions, Islamophobia, anti-Arabism, and other forms of racism are quite often overtly expressed.
My purpose in researching, advocating, and mobilizing around the issue of women political prisoners in the Middle East is first to critique those theoretical perspectives that opposes Orientalism, Islamophobia, anti-Arabism, and racism, but do not rigorously challenge patriarchal power relations in which Islam is theoretically and politically implicated. So what we are facing with is a body of knowledge where women in the Middle East, as a category of analysis, are predominantly reduced to their religious belonging – women are essentialized as Muslims. In fact, this essentialization, that is reducing the entire Middle East, to religion, is in line with Orientalism, and with the politics of various US and European administrations which seek the roots of all their Middle Eastern problems in Islam.
Second, I would like to argue that in the last two decades, the annual reports of Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, UNIFEM, CEDAW, and reports from majority of women’s NGOs from the region, depict a gross picture of patriarchal violence committed against women, from ‘honour killing’ to ‘stoning’ to sexual violence under the custody of police, to all sorts of daily and nightly violation of women’s rights. My questions to critical, anti-racist, anti- colonial, and anti-capitalist feminists/activists are:
1) What have we done with these data? How this information is being processed, analyzed, theorized, and politicized in your activism and scholarship?
2) Why aren’t we outraged by the glaring omission of state patriarchal violence against secular and socialist women? Why haven’t we written the history of women political prisoners throughout the region? Why in the Middle East diaspora communities, that is, in the safety of hostland, only a limited body of knowledge is being produced on the experience of these women?
My hope is that the presentation of three of powerful films tonight will urge you to think, reflect, and mobilize you to act.
The first film is Red Names (nahrassidand az marg) by: Amin Zarghami & Shahrzad Arshadi. This is a short video celebrating the legacy of thousands of women who lost their lives in Iran between 1979 and 1999 due to their political, social and religious beliefs. It is intended as a testament both to their suffering and to the political tyranny that led to their execution.
The second film is Women in Struggle, Director/Producer Buthina Canaan Khourywhich depicts lives of four Palestinian women ex-political prisoners and their struggle during their years of imprisonment in Israeli jails exploring the affects and influence on their present life and their future outlook. Although these four women are out of the Israeli prison they actually find themselves in a bigger prison carrying “prison” within them in every aspect of their life.
In 2007, the film From Scream to Scream was screened at the Prisoner’s Justice Film Festival. Dr. Mojab’s opening remarks are below:
THIRD ANNUAL PRISONERS JUSTICE FILM FESTIVAL
Women Political Prisoners of Iran: Memoirs, Memories and Art
Introduction and Remarks
To start I would like to thank Prisoners Action Committee for creating the only space for show casing the art aspect of my project called, “Women Political Prisoners of Iran: Memories, Memoirs, and the Arts.” I also would like to thank the sponsors and those who made the presence of our speakers possible: the Women and Gender Studies Institute of the University of Toronto; Luci Mok whose organizational talent is always much appreciated; several of my graduate students at OISE: Brook Thorndycraft, Bethany Osborne, Soheila Pashang, and Tammy Mahmod. Shahrvand, the weekly Iranian paper who is also sponsoring the presentation for the Iranian community. Finally, many thanks to those women who experienced prison themselves and now are involved with my project: Anahita Rahmani and Marina Nemat.
It is an honour to introduce to you two women who were political prisoners in Iran, Soudabeh for eight years and PanteA for four years in the 1980s. You will learn about the experience of Soudabeh and PanteA while Iran continues to occupy a prominent place in media reports throughout the world. Everything indicates that the United States is targeting Iran in its third major military adventure of this decade. It is a precarious situation. The US may launch a war, even though a more restrained one comparing to full occupation of Iraq, or it may try new forms of warfare, a dirty war of attrition, destruction, and sabotage.
While many of us oppose this war strongly, it is important to realize that Iranians themselves are opposed to the theocratic state. Since this theocracy was set up 28 years ago, Iranians, especially women have struggled against it. They want to change this regime, and replace it with a democratic state. This is very different from the US project of regime change. The peoples of Iran are fully capable of deciding their own destinies. No evidence can be more powerful than the experience of Iran’s political prisoners.
We can be both against the US imperialist war and the Islamic fundamentalist regime of Iran. There is no contradiction in such a position. We can be against the war and in support of the struggle of Iranian women against this theocratic regime. Let’s learn from our guests.
I welcome both guests. The film is called From Scream to Scream, by PanteA Bahrami. This documentary is the story of a young woman, Soudabeh Ardavan, who spent 8 years of her youth in a prison of the Islamic Republic. Her story is a part of the story of this generation of Iranian women and a part of the political history of Iran, which the Islamic Regime did not speak about and hid until now. Massacres from 1981 till 1988 are still unknown for the new generation. Soudabeh is also an artist. There are 200 paintings and designs in this documentary that she painted in prison and sent out of jail illegally. She describes the relationship between political prisoners, her protest, but also their sadness, pain, fear, horror, loss and much more… This documentary was selected in 26 Edition of the International Meetings of Women and Cinema in October 2004 in Florence, Italy and in the International Women Film festival in Cologne in October 2006.
PanteA Bahrami has earned her PhD in journalism and media from the University of Dortmund, Germany. Her films, “Islam: My Identity or the Reason of My Escape” and “FromScream to Scream” have been selected for international film festivals. Dr. Bahrami has published articles on the theme of her films and has taught video editing and other courses in several German institutions of higher education. She also conducts documentary film workshops for students and other young people.
Soudabeh Ardavan is an Iranian woman, a former political prisoners now living in Sweden. She spent eight years of her precious life in the prison of the Islamic regime of Iran. She is an artist who drew prison life while she was in jail. Through these images, Soudabeh tells her story of hundreds of other women with whom she shared days of pain, sorrow, love and care. Soudabeh Ardavan’s powerful book of Prison Drawings is the first visual depiction of atrocities committed against thousands of women in prisons of Iran.