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Graffiti in Tehran

Categories: Middle East & North Africa, Iran, Arts & Culture, Citizen Media, Freedom of Speech

Iran is not known for its freedom of expression or popular demonstrations in the public. But urban art is alive there [1].

Frescoes, mosaics and other ‘approved’ art adorn the walls in certain cities, underground art, although not as apparent as in Europe, is still visible in Tehran: graffiti, tags and stencils are discretely [2] or more openly present in cities.

Some walls are completely covered with propaganda paintings—of a martyr, for example. But this can also be an abstract image, simply ornamental. Some are true works of art.

A few weeks ago, a Tehran photographer sent these photos of graffiti via email; he enclosed this remark:

I took these in Tehran, near a bus stop. I think someone is fighting with the municipality of Tehran. One day he or she draws a graffiti, the other day the municipality removes it. This goes on and on.

Graffiti in Tehran. Photo: Melinda Legendre


Graffiti in Tehran, November 2012. Photo: Issa

Graffiti in Tehran, November 2012. Photo: Issa

Three weeks later, when I asked him for permission to quote him and to publish his photos, he said that it would be an honour for him and he wanted to add:

Now they painted something like a drawing or pattern on that wall to prevent that person from adding more graffiti. But before that this wall was really dirty. But now at least it's not dirty. So the enemy of the municipality is now a friend of people because that wall is not dirty anymore.

Those who express themselves in Iran are more at risk than those in Europe. Currently, no law exists in Iran, but if authorities consider the work to be subversive; in that case, the art might become a crime.

Street art is only springing up in Iran. Let's hope it prospers.