Designers share open-access posters to amplify #WomenLifeFreedom protests in Iran and beyond
In the face of protests triggered by the death of Mahsa Amini, a platform of open-access graphics calls for audiences to harness modes of visual revolt in protests and online.
- Liz Gorny
- 20 October 2022
On 16 September 2022, Mahsa Amini, a 22-year-old Kurdish woman, died in hospital three days after being arrested by morality police in Tehran; witnesses reported that she was beaten while in custody. In response to her death, protests have erupted across Iran, and #WomenLifeFreedom has become the rallying cry of the movement.
Though protests in Iran continue, government security forces have responded with deadly force. “What we are observing is that the more people in Iran are in solidarity with the protests, the more the Islamic regime tries to silence them by the most brutal means; girls and boys, students, women and men are obviously being killed,” design collective and protest platform Iranian Women Of Graphic Design tells It’s Nice That. “It is also through cutting access to the internet that the regime tries to oppress the movement and its diverse voices (see, for example, this report by Filter.Watch on the issue). “In this situation,” the platform states, “it is even more pressing that people outside Iran are becoming louder.”
To amplify this movement further, Iranian Women Of Graphic Design – originally a collection of graphic design from female-identifying Iranian designers – has evolved into a protest platform. When the protests started in Iran, the platform began to receive more and more works centring #WomenLifeFreedom. “The more posters we published on our account, the more we received.”
Today, Iranian Women Of Graphic Design is a platform featuring graphics by Iranian and non-Iranian designers who have submitted their work to be reused in protests “online, on walls and in the streets worldwide”. These are currently available for download from this linked database. Some of the designers featured within the collection include: Frank Arbelo, Gianluca Costantini, Laura Acquaviva, Sara Emami, Hamidreza Memari and Farzad Adibi.
Looking through the imagery collated so far, Iranian Women of Graphic Design states: “Many of the works reflect upon and, in a way, report on what is happening in the streets of Iran these days.” For example, many show images of protesters cutting their hair. “Cutting the hair refers to an ancient Persian tradition and can imply both protest and mourning,” says the platform. “After the death of Mahsa Zhina Amini, the act of cutting your hair was repeated by many women in the streets and on social media and became a symbol of protest against the Islamic regime.”
Posters from creatives including Mojtaba Adibi, Mahdis Nikou and Or Yogev, among others, all feature variations on this symbolic act. Here, “cutting hair becomes a rebellious act of escaping from the clutches of the morality police or any other kind of oppressor”, explains Iranian Women of Graphic Design.
Then there are posters that raise awareness about “more specific problems”, “such as the inhuman conditions in the notorious Evin prison, where many demonstrators are being kept”, the platform states. On 16 October, several prisoners died when a fire erupted at the prison. “It was very quickly after videos of the fire hit social media that numerous posters and visual artworks about the incident did so too.” Below, Iranian Women of Graphic Design highlights three posters that include references to Evin.
The platform also explains how some motifs within the posters recur across different subjects. Flames, for example, appear in works concerning Evin, but also as women’s hair. “Sadly, the cutting of the hair and flames reflects very well how the violent reaction to the protests produces a growing number of people to be mourned.”
Serving as both a documentation and visual aid to facilitate the protests so far, it is imperative that these works continue to be collated – but also that they are used. Iranian Women of Graphic Design outlines several ways readers can support the #WomenLifeFreedom movement, all centring on the amplification of voices in Iran.
“One way to amplify the protesting and freedom-fighting voices from Iran is to share the various ways of visual revolt through social media. It is equally important to take the rebellious imagery to the streets, and to join and to enliven the demonstrations in your city with these posters.” The platform is calling for designers and artists to contribute to the collection, post work under the hashtags #WomenLifeFreedom and #MahsaAmini, and to send them to Iranian Women of Graphic Design to be used as open-access protest resources where possible.
About the Author
Liz (she/they) joined It’s Nice That as news writer in December 2021. After graduating in Film from The University of Bristol, they worked freelance, writing for independent publications such as Little White Lies, INDIE magazine and design studio Evermade.