Since the brutal murder of a young Kurdish woman, Mahsa Amini, at the hands of Iran’s morality police, Iran’s women have led a revolution—now known as the Woman, Life, Freedom Movement—against Ayatollah Khamenei. Around the world, women have led protests against the “mandatory hijab” law that requires women to cover their hair. It was Mahsa Amini’s crime of showing a few strands of her hair that led to her murder by the morality police.
Building on the award winning success of its first art car in 2021, PaykanArtCar, a nonprofit organization, partnered with the renowned Iranian artist Simin Keramati to launch the 2023 edition of its art car in support of the Woman, Life, Freedom Movement.
The Paykan was the first automobile produced in Iran and it is an iconic source of national pride for all Iranians. Despite being no longer in production, the Paykan is a ubiquitous presence to this day on the streets of Tehran and across Iran.
PaykanArtCar enlists talented Iranian artists and the power of art to turn the iconic Paykan into a vehicle in support of human rights in Iran. In 2021, PaykanArtCar partnered with the artist Alireza Shojaian to launch its first art car in support of LGBTQ+ rights in Iran. Shojaian’s gripping depictions of scenes taken from Ferdowsi’s Shahnameh’s epic poem The Book of Kings brought attention to and protested the brutal treatment of the LGBTQ+ community within Iran. The 2021 PaykanArtCar was awarded the Vaclav Havel Prize for Creative Dissent in recognition of its profound effect in support of the LGBTQ+ community.
For PaykanArtCar’s second edition, the organization worked with the renowned multidisciplinary Iranian-Canadian artist, Simin Keramati. Keramati donated her time and talent to create a protest symbol that reflects women around the world cutting their own hair in solidarity with the women of Iran who are forced to cover their hair under a hijab. Keramati’s contribution is visceral and disturbs the conscience. She incorporates cut human hair to fully adorn a 1970 model Paykan for this year’s PaykanArtCar.
Speaking about her work, Keramati remarked that “the presentation of the hair, face, and body of Iranian women has always reflected the patriarchal nature of the government ruling over Iran.”
She added that through her work with PaykanArtCar, which first began in July of 2022, her goal was “to acknowledge the resistance of Iranian women of every background and ethnicity and their fight for their rights.”
The repression of women in Iran is so great that the mere showing of a few strands of hair outside a hijab can result in arrest, imprisonment, torture, and death. Yet, within Iran, there is significant resistance to the government’s imposition of these restrictions. The courageous women of Iran have stood in protest against the theological dictatorship of the Ayatollah.
Women around the world have supported the revolution in Iran. The respected diaspora leader Masih Alinejad, who founded the NGO My Stealthy Freedom in 2014 to fight against the mandatory hijab, has now teamed up with PaykanArtCar to launch its second artwork.
“Following the murder of Mahsa Amini, the Islamic Republic’s systematic and brutal oppression of Iranian women finally began to receive the global attention it deserves. The Iranian women are on the frontlines of fighting the gender apartheid regime in Tehran and global solidarity is very important to support their sacrifice. The global community must act. PaykanArtCar exists to carry the message of resistance to the international community.
PaykanArtCar unveiled Keramati’s work in Oslo, Norway, on June 13, 2023, the first day of the Oslo Freedom Forum.
Céline Assaf-Boustani, President of the Human Rights Foundation, described the PaykanArtCar as a “wonderful and creative way to highlight the Women, Life, Freedom revolution.” Assaf-Boustani noted how “the Iranian people need the support of everyone around the world who have the luxury of living in a democracy.”
Dr. Hiva Feizi, PaykanArtCar’s executive director, was on hand with Keramati and Alinejad to reveal the art car in front of the large crowd.
Commenting on the project to ARTnews, Feizi said, “Tragically, international attention is increasingly diverted elsewhere, leaving these courageous protestors at the mercy of a regime.” She added that “Through this incredibly impactful new artwork created by Simin Keramati, we want to bring the world’s attention back to where it belongs and play our part in galvanising support for the Woman, Life, Freedom revolution.”
The PaykanArtCar will continue to be featured and exhibited around the world in support of the Woman, Life, Freedom revolution.
Keramati’s work is the latest in a series commissioned by PaykanArtCar LLC, a nonprofit that commissions Iranian artists to use this legendary vehicle as their canvas in support of human rights in Iran.
Former ambassador to the United Nations Mark D. Wallace, the chief executive officer of PaykanArtCar, said: “Regrettably, Simin’s commission and planning foreshadowed the horrific killing of Mahsa Amini and the outrage that ensued over the mandatory hijab laws and repression of Iran’s women. The many strands of hair in Simin’s work mirrors the countless acts of brutality against women in Iran and the women who have cut their hair in solidarity to this oppression. The work is disturbing to the conscience, and it should be. It stands against horrific brutality.”
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