The advocacy group Journalism Is Not A Crime has commissioned murals in London and New York pushing for the release of Iranian artist/activist Atena Farghadani. The four-story New York mural — which depicts Ms. Farghadani with her mouth missing — is in place to greet the arrival of Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani for a United Nations summit meeting beginning on September 25th.
The murals compliment the ongoing cartoon protest, #Draw4Atena, launched by journalist/cartoonist Michael Cavna. Amnesty International has declared Ms. Farghadani a prisoner of conscience and is petitioning for her release. Cartoonists Rights Network has issued an open letter to President Rouhani and Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Sayyed Ali Khamenei, demanding the same.
Atena Farghadani was handed a 12 year, nine month, prison sentence for posting a cartoon critical of legislation that would curtail the reproductive rights of Iranian women, and for going public about her mistreatment by prison guards. Ms. Farghadani was presented, in absentia, with CRNI’s 2015 Courage in Editorial Cartooning award, to the enthusiatic applause of an audience of international cartoonists, in Columbus, Ohio, on September 10th.
The non-profit group International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran reports that Ms. Farghadani went on a hunger strike on September 10th to protest defamation and verbal abuse from guards. Following a prison visit, Atena’s mother, Eshrat Ardestani, is quoted saying: “Atena was looking really bad when we visited her on September 13, 2015. She could barely walk and could not stand on her feet … On the fourth day [of her hunger strike] her blood pressure had dropped so low that they had to take her to the clinic on [a makeshift stretcher made of] a sheet.”