Drawing Paradise on the 'Axis of Evil'
Images from an art exhibition by Emily
This exhibition originated Emily Johns' participation
in a peace delegation to Iran in 2007. You can read Emily's letter
from Iran here,
and see some of her sketches here.
The pdf of the catalogue for the exhibition is here.
You can hire/borrow this exhibition from
Justice Not Vengeance. It
comes either as a framed exhibition for gallery spaces, as large
paper posters for more informal spaces or as small laminated posters
for outdoor events.
Earthquake - Underground Poetry
43,000 people were killed in the earthquake that destroyed the
ancient city of Bam on Boxing Day 2003. Some of the survivors
(including Shahrbanou Mazandarani, a woman of 97 rescued alive
after eight days in ruins) had sustained themselves underground
by reciting poetry from memory.
The human race is a single
Created from one jewel
If one member is struck
All must feel the blow
Only someone who cares for the pain of others
Can truly be called human
- Saadi, circa 1200-1291
An artifact in a museum case contains the soul of a society, of
a people. It holds the human imprint of the person who made it,
who can survive over thousands of years in that pot or in that
fragment of writing. In Iraq, over the past few decades of war
and sanctions, hundreds of thousands of people have died and an
enormous number of antiquities have been destroyed. We mourn the
people who have been lost, and we mourn the ancient history that
has been lost. We mourn the souls embedded in those artifacts
that have been destroyed, and their awe-inspiring creativity,
now snuffed out. This museum cabinet is a mixture of Persian artifacts
from the British Museum and the Tehran National Museum.
In Reading Lolita in Tehran: A Memoir in Books, Azar Nafisi writes
that until 1994, the chief film censor in Iran was a blind cleric.
He required assistants to describe to him the contents of the
films he was examining. Since the 1979 Revolution, Iran has had
a world-famous film industry, producing poetic and striking films
working within - and sometimes outside - the censorship system.
Gerald Talbot and the Tobacco Fatwa
In 1890, the Qajar Shah of Iran, Nasir al-Din Shah granted a tobacco
concession to a British company headed by Major Gerald Talbot.
In exchange for a large loan to the Shah, the firm was granted
a monopoly on producing, selling, and exporting tobacco crop in
exchange for a loan. Tobacco was popular in Iran, and the tobacco
industry employed large numbers of people. The concession provoked
a mass movement of protest, and led Grand Ayatollah Mirza Shirazi
to issue his famous fatwa against using tobacco. Tobacco merchants
ceased trading, and the two-month boycott was observed universally
- even by the Shah’s harem. The Shah was forced to rescind
the concession. Major Talbot and the forces he represented were
squeezed back into the bottle that the Shah had opened.
Gateway of All Nations - Persepolis
The ‘Gateway of All Nations’ is the entrance into
the ancient city of Persepolis, built 2,500 years ago. All the
subject nations of the Persian Empire, from the Greeks to the
Ethiopians, would come to Persepolis to offer tribute to the King
of Kings at the New Year celebrations at Spring equinox. In the
nineteenth century, representatives of Western nations chiselled
their names into the gateway, as if claiming territory. Western
nations exported nuclear technology to Iran, and now threaten
Iran with nuclear attack for developing this nuclear technology.
Physicians for Social Responsibility have estimated that nuclear
attacks on the Esfahan nuclear reprocessing facility and on the
Natanz nuclear enrichment plant would lead to the deaths of 2.6
million people within 48 hours. Behind the Gateway, a nuclear
mushroom cloud is rising - a possible future for our civilizations.
On this date oil was struck at Masjid-i-Sulaiman (‘The Mosque
of Solomon’), in western Iran, by the fore-runner to the
Anglo-Iranian Oil Company, later to become ‘British Petroleum’
or BP. This was the first oil well to be established in Iran.
Oil is bursting from the well at the Mosque of Solomon, piercing
the flying carpet of King Solomon, puncturing the fabric of Iranian
Mohammed Mossadeq was elected Prime Minister of Iran by the Majlis
or Parliament on 28 April 1951. Attempts to improve the Iranian
Government’s share of oil revenues - to bring them up to
the 50-50 profit-sharing enjoyed by Venezuela, for example - had
failed, and the Majlis voted to nationalise the Anglo-Iranian
Oil Company. The British Labour Government, which had just undertaken
sweeping nationalisations of its own, was outraged, and established
a naval blockade of Iran, blocking all oil exports, and seriously
damaging the economy. Britain also began plotting the overthrow
of Iranian democracy. With the help of the CIA, MI6 managed to
bring about a coup that deposed Mossadeq in August 1953, and imposed
a military dictatorship headed by the Shah of Iran. If oil is
a natural force, accompanied by spirits, Mossadeq was one such
nature spirit or genie - forced into a bottle by the US-UK intervention.
Rose and The Nightingale
The image of the rose and the nightingale, the lover and the beloved,
is a theme of Persian poetry and art. In Sufi Islam, it is a mystical
image representing the search for the divine. The oil of Iran
is the desired, the sought-after, poisoning the seekers.
of the Oil Spirit
Rivers, woods and seas have their own spirits. Oil has its own
spirit, that has been pent up underground, leaking sometimes through
the surface of the earth. As with the genies of The One Thousand
and One Nights, the spirit of oil can be liberated and controlled
by the human will, but its restless force threatens to break free
of human intentions with devastating consequences. The danger
runs alongside the melancholy waste of this mighty spirit, producing
throwaway products and burning oil with reckless abandon. Oil
companies store samples of crude oil from different wells in collecting
tubes, for analysis.
Weapons in Paradise
The word ‘paradise’ comes from the Old Persian word
pairidaeza meaning ‘a walled-in compound’ or garden.
The classic ‘paradise garden’ contains a rectangular
pool of water, with strictly-aligned rows of trees and flowerbeds,
and a grid of canals. Thousands of such gardens exist today in
Iran, full of pomegranate trees, birdsong and butterflies. This
picture was inspired by a meeting with survivors of chemical weapons
attacks during the Iran-Iraq War, who had had their eyes destroyed
by mustard gas. Some of them must have been gardeners, who now
can no longer gaze on paradise. One survivor I met now organizes
solidarity events with Hiroshima survivors, who plunged into the
river to cool their burns on 6 August 1945. In this picture, the
gardener stands in a canal to cool his chemical burns.
JNV exists solely
on donations. Any help towards our anti-war work is warmly welcomed
and gratefully received.
Please contact JNV with any submissions,
enquiries or information about forthcoming events.