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Not A Typical Persian Girl

Artist Feature of Atoosa Farahmand

At the beginning of the 20th century, the women’s movement grew by leaps and bounds in Iran. It reached its height between 1962 and 1978, when the Iranian Women’s Movement won many victories, including the institution of laws giving women the right to vote and to take part in public office. But when the Iranian Revolution ended in 1979 and Ayatollah Khomeini took power, the veil was introduced - an Islamic uniform for women. It was the first attack on women’s rights and their freedom in public space. And it was the moment that gender apartheid was introduced to Iran.

Basic rights like without male guardianship and the right to custody of children disappeared. Marriage law was changed to the disadvantage of women, and child marriage was legalized. Three weeks after Khomeini’s takeover, he issued a fatwa on mandatory coercion for women and girls of school age and in all public places. Women should not go out, go to their jobs, or to schools and universities “naked”, as Khomeini put it.

Not A Typical Persian Girl is an art project and a self-published book by Persian-Swedish multi-disciplinary artist duo Atoosa Farahmand (b.1991) and Oscar Hagberg (b.1994). The artworks consist of photographic works printed on both traditional paper and in different textile materials, and video and sound installation.

The project seeks to unveil the plight of women and girls in Iran by cataloguing some of the things that are forbidden to them - things like biking, riding a motorcycle, singing, and watching football in a stadium are some examples of everyday enjoyments that are strictly prohibited to women in Iran. But the exhibition also attempts to unveil the humour and vibrant spirit with which Persian women and girls confront their constraints.

The videos and photographs follow a young woman who symbolizes women living in the Islamic Republic of Iran. Even though political power continues to stifle the voices of women, this new generation is fighting back and taking the lead in the protest against the regime.

The publication summarizes a vast work of research spanning Irans' modern history and deep dive into the women's resistance movement. It is 200 pages in two languages (English and Farsi) and is a timeline for women's fight for equality from 1850 until now. It also consists of photographs and snippets from the video work from the exhibition. There are photographs in the publication documenting the Islamic Revolution in 1979 from the well-renowned war photographer Christine Spengler. An insight into the thoughts of people with roots in Iran is also given in the book and six known and less-known people are interviewed. People like Aram Bolandpaz (Journalist at Iran International), Iran Khanoom (92-year-old model and influencer), Samira Mohayeddin (Journalist at CBC Radio), Vivian Assal Koohnavard (Professional dancer at Staatsballett Berlin), Sanam (singer/songwriter), Adel Sarvari (Queer activist and model based in Mashhad, Iran).

The project has been exhibited at Gallery Redan, Malmö, August 20 - September 18, Hinterland, Vienna, February 2 - March 4 2023, Misschiefs, Stockholm, March 30 - May 6 2023 and this summer at OpenArt Scandinavia's biggest public art biennial between June 15 until September 8.