Wednesday, December 20, 2023

Atena Farghadani awaits verdict from Iranian court

From Cartoonists Rights.

Atena Farghadani – a painter, cartoonist, and former political prisoner – faces the prospect of criminalisation for the second time in the Islamic Republic of Iran, having stood trial in recent days on charges of insulting the Supreme Leader, Intelligence Ministry officials, and the Minister of Intelligence with a cartoon.

Readers will recall that Atena Farghadani has long criticised the totalitarian regime in Iran through protest art and as a result was arrested, tried, and convicted in 2014. 

For this she received our Courage in Cartooning Award in 2015.

After her release in 2016, and for all the years afterward she faced ongoing pressure from security forces in the form of targeted harassment. 

Following the widespread popular protests in 2022, the Islamic Republic of Iran intensified their crackdown on political and civil activists.

It is within this context that Atena was unjustly accused of disrupting public order earlier this year. 

After being subjected to intimidation by intelligence agents while conducting a painting workshop in a public park in Tehran last February, both Atena and her husband were followed home and, she alleges, her husband was physically attacked.

Thereafter, she was summoned to the Ministry of Intelligence and instead of a piece of identification, presented a cartoon (above). 

It is our understanding that this same cartoon is the artwork that she posted to Instagram shortly before her arrest in June.

We wrote about her detention, the abuse that she alleged occurred while a prisoner – including an attempted poisoning – and the great bravery she demonstrated in speaking out after her release.

The charges currently laid against her include insulting the Supreme Leader, Intelligence Ministry officials, and the Minister of Intelligence through a satirical cartoon. 

Atena has already stood trial; if found guilty, she will have an opportunity to appeal.

Farghadani’s defence lawyer’s assessment of the case is that it has a poor basis, saying:
“These allegations are far from valid examples under the law. In reality, since artistic practice is pure freedom of expression, the Islamic Republic seeks to create a deterrent against protest by pressuring prominent and critical artists. However, experience has shown that any action against such freedom is ultimately destined to fail, even if is time-consuming and distressing for the target.” 
– Mohammad Moghimi
Our Executive Director adds:
“The courage of all oppositional voices in the Islamic Republic of Iran, and most especially the women speaking out against their oppressors, give us all hope. There are certain people there absolutely determined to break Atena Farghadani, that much is clear. But she will not flinch. I salute her determination and unending creativity.”

– Terry Anderson
Once again Cartoonists Rights extends its support to Atena Farghadani as she awaits the court’s decision. 
We urge the Islamic Republic to uphold the human and civic rights of all within Iran, the rule of law, and to respect the freedom of this independent and outspoken artist.

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