If you take a walk down the streets of Teheran, you are most likely to see large murals on the sides of buildings. These murals are state-sanctioned, which means they are allowed and promoted by the government and they depict the political leaders, martyrs from the Iran-Iraq war and anti-Western messages. Anything else is strictly prohibited as graffiti are not allowed, especially those that would convey a message that is not in line with Islamic ideals.
But some young people decided to put their lives on the line for peace and freedom of speech.
One of the first graffiti artists known by the name A1one couldn’t keep quiet anymore. He started painting the walls of Teheran in order to get heard and to rebel against the oppression, and he inspired many other artists to join him in his mission. With his art, he is usually trying to promote peace and love, and mitigate anti-Western politics.
When he first started doing his art, people of Iran didn’t know what graffiti was. Scared to death, he dared to make his first graffiti one night. He just sprayed “searching for friends” next to an expressway. He had no idea what kind of revolution he was about to cause. It didn’t take long for other people with similar opinions to join him in his cause. It was amazing how many people wanted to send their own message and defy the government’s politics. Soon, the city was filled with anti-government messages.
But by doing this, A1one and other artists put their lives at danger.
If these young vigilantes are caught, they get arrested. Their work is considered treason against the country and is treated as a crime. And not only that – since the state’s murals promote only religious Islamic messages, graffiti is also seen as sinful. A1one has been arrested several times and kept in ward 209 of Evin penitentiary, where prisoners are interrogated and often tortured. This, however, hasn’t broken his spirit and he continues to spread the voice of the people across the streets of Teheran.
A documentary from 2014 with a symbolic name – Mutiny of Colors – depicts the lives of these brave artists.
The five artists talk about their art, the reasons for it and their daily lives. In the controversial documentary, they are wearing masks and their identities are hidden for the sake of their safety. The group has started a fundraiser on Kickstarter in order to raise money for their next movie in 2016. With their art and their documentaries they are trying to send a powerful message to the world.
They are trying to reach out and show the world that not everybody in Iran thinks the same; that people of Iran are not the same as their government; that some of them live for peace and love and are not afraid to risk everything for it.