Censorship

“If all mankind minus one, were of one opinion, and only one person were of the contrary opinion, mankind would be no more justified in silencing that one person, than he would be justified in silencing mankind.” John Stuart Mill

Censorship knows many guises, the likes of which, or at least in my country, Iran, force themselves on the public domain as much as they do on the private. Being it through the rough imposition of moral strictures, or the subtle filtering of the unconscious self, the impact of both ends up the same; suffocating, hurtful and, ultimately, destructive.

Not surprisingly of course, in this realm too, women once again find themselves singled out as a constituency particularly deserving of special attention and zeal.

As I happen to be one of them, I can not help but to voice my own part of this age-long story, however small, insignificant or subjective. A personal voice, that speaks mutely through a series of visual portraits, of myself, and someone close to me.

A license plate depicting a number, as if a prisoner, but also as proof of my existence, the physical appearance of which must be publicly denied, at all times, at all cost. How better to protect the dignity of my being, than having my naked flesh concealed by the crude ink strokes of the cultural guidance official’s “moral values” marker?

Or covered in white plastic sheeting, commonly used to protect the sacred white of the holy burial cloth from being spoiled with the blood of our wounds? Conveniently white-washing the crimes that were its source. The private suffering of a woman carefully concealed from the public eye, not to spoil the feigned public image of respect and reverence. An extra layer of dark plastic, to make clear that my identity as a woman with opinions and ideas is a mistake in need of correction, to be erased as one erases a misspelled word on paper. And then there is that shameful hair of course, ripped and torn, as they do with those street posters that are found not to meet our alleged standards of moral decency.

A woman, double-exposed with a puzzle, and so divided in many pieces, its uniqueness instantly destroyed, transformed into a toy not to be taken too seriously. Now so easy to take apart at will, exclusively by the hands of others. But the jig-saw does not extend fully to the mind, the sole domain where women can still hold on to their self-determination and autonomy.

These images speak a common language in the place where I live. Portraits of my generation, our common experiences and challenges in life. A generation that has experienced revolution, war, immigration and more. Experiences, any one of which are said to be sufficient to turn a boy into a man, but which are apparently assumed to leave the other sex wholly untouched.

In my own small, personal voice I say: Not so. Instead, it’s hard, sad and often unbearable.

—Katayoun Karami

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