Red paintball spatters and white slashes of paint deface a Brooklyn mural, violent across the twenty-seven foot tall grayscale face of a woman. Her hair covered in a dark scarf, mouth erased as part of the original design, she still stares out at the viewer.
The mural was painted as part of an international protest campaign in support of Atena Farghadani, an illustrator who was sentenced to twelve years in prison this summer for a single political cartoon. The cartoon depicted several Iranian politicians as animals. The charges were for “insulting members of parliament” and “spreading propaganda against the system.”
While the mural was painted in a country where freedom of expression is protected and with the full permission of the building owner, it’s obvious that members of that community too believe in censoring art. Several times, this mural has been defaced by members of the neighborhood.
Several of the owner’s neighbors have told her they want it removed. Uninterested in learning the true story behind the mural, they prefer to focus on the fact that the subject is Iranian. “After 9/11, people don’t want to see that,” said one man, hiding behind anonymity.
The campaign’s organizer had hoped to extend their contract with Ms. Goodman, the property owner, after it expired this October, but now both Ms. Goodman and the artist, Faith47 out of South Africa, would prefer to have it painted over.
“If an Islamic person who lives in the neighborhood walks past that wall and sees the image splattered by a red paint gun, essentially it’s a message of war, death, intolerance,” she wrote. “I hate for my work to have any part in that.”
While her reasons are sound, the disappearance of that mural will be one more aggression of censorship directed at a woman who has already lost years of her life to that same issue.