A Year After Mahsa Amini’s Death, Artists Have Even More to Say

Embraced by Iranian protesters following the murder of Mahsa Amini, the rallying cry “woman, life, freedom” continues to galvanize resistance to the Islamic Republic and now inspires a series of four powerful new pieces of protest art in Edinburgh, Paris, and Dublin.

Image courtesy Maison Européenne de la Photographie

Saturday marked a year since Mahsa Amini, a 22-year-old Kurdish woman, died in the custody of Iran’s morality police on allegations of violating the country’s strict hijab law. “Her vicious and unjust murder unleashed a lot of pent-up rage,” the Iranian artist Shirin Neshat told Harper’s Bazaar after Amini’s death, which stirred the world’s conscience and ignited months-long protests led by women and girls. “It was almost like the women of Iran had been waiting for something to happen.” Across the country, women publicly unveiled and demanded an overhaul of the government in what some deem as the most serious challenge to the Islamic Republic since they took power in 1979. A violent crackdown ensued—security forces arrested thousands and killed at least 500 protesters, including children and teenagers.

The phrase “woman, life, freedom” became a rallying cry during the protests, and its message continues to reverberate as the Iranian fight for liberation soldiers on. To commemorate the anniversary of Amini’s death and highlight the work ahead, four artists—Koushna Navabi, Anahita Razmi, Abbas Zahedi, and Hadi Falapishi—have unveiled posters on the streets of Edinburgh, Paris, and Dublin underscoring the slogan’s message of defiance. The project was initiated by Artists for Woman Life Freedom, an organization founded by Navabi that partners with museums to display public artwork raising awareness of Iranian dissent and resistance. 

Posters by Hadi Falapishi and Abbas Zahedi
Posters by Anahita Razmi and Koushna Navabi

Each poster displays the slogan “Woman, Life, Freedom” and pays tribute to the powerful visual art that has painted countless streets around the world thanks to grassroots activists. Each is uniquely attention-grabbing: Navabi’s poster superimposes a uterus onto an Iranian heritage site; Zahedi asks the handwritten question: This poster has more rights than most women living on this planet, how? “As an artist, I believe that aligning the Iranian women’s rights movement with the universal human rights cause against the oppression of all women globally is vital,” Zahedi told The Art Newspaper. “Art transcends borders, just as the struggle for equality does. Iranian women’s challenges are a poignant reflection of broader patterns of female oppression worldwide.”

The launch coincided with a day of “art, activism, and reflection” this past weekend at Edinburgh’s Fruitmarket Gallery and Paris’s Maison Européenne de la Photographie, which both screened moving-image works by Iranian filmmaker Mina Keshavarz. It also follows the release of editor Malu Halasa’s Woman Life Freedom: Voices and Art from the Women’s Protests in Iran, an anthology that captures this pivotal year of uprising in artwork and first-person testimony.

All Stories