Citizens and residents of the United States alike pride themselves on their country’s freedoms. The first and foremost of these freedoms is our first amendment right to speak and publish whatever we believe or wish to express without fear of punishment. Over the last 230 years this right, or luxury even, has served as a system which keeps politicians and their political parties in check through challenging any arbitrary opinions when they seem to get a bit too loud. Other countries, such as North Korea and Iran, do not have this luxury. In these nations individuals who speak against the government in any way, shape or form are arrested; some are even killed.
One of the many individuals who have been incarcerated in the name of justice is Atena Farghadani, 28-year-old Iranian artist and activist. Farghadani, a graduate of University of Alzahra (degree in fine arts), was arrested in August of 2014 for releasing a political cartoon which criticized the Iranian parliament in their decision to restrict measures of contraception by portraying them as monkeys and goats (Amnesty International 2015). The government found the publicity of her political cartoon via her Facebook account to be an unacceptable form of propaganda which insulted not only Iran’s parliament but also its Supreme Leader, Ali Khamenei. As a result, she was sentenced to three months in Evin Prison which is located in the northwestern section of Tehran and was released in November of 2015. In attempt to raise awareness about the abusive treatment she received in the prison after her letters of protest to the Supreme Leader, the President, and the Head of the Prison Service of Iran were left unanswered, Farghadani posted a video online on December 29, 2014 in which she explained the ruthless and torturous treatment that was inflicted upon her during her time at Evin (Farghadani 2014). Several days after the video went online Farghadani was arrested by the Iranian government and in June of 2015, she was sentenced to twelve years and nine months of imprisonment in an undisclosed location- five years and two months longer than the maximum imprisonment time period allowed for an offense of that nature (Cavna 2015). She is currently serving that prison sentence.
The 2014 publication of the political cartoon was not Farghadani’s first time peacefully protesting against the social and political injustices occurring in her country. In 2009, Farghadani’s artwork protested the deaths of the families that were killed during the post-presidential election demonstrations in Tehran which likely garnered the attention of anti-reformist government officials and made her more susceptible to condemnation (Amnesty International 2015).
Individuals like Farghadani exist all over Iran and all over the world and they are constantly sacrificing their own good for the betterment of society. They believe that one person’s tireless fighting for justice can, in fact, make a difference and that regardless of the size or impact of that difference it is always significant. It is of acute importance that we, as college students, remember this as we learn and grow to become people that will directly impact future societies.