Mashid Mohadjerin, with her multidisciplinary work that combines photography, collage, text and archival images, leads the reader on a journey that has lost its temporal and spatial connotations. ‘Freedom is not Free’ is a book permeated by the ambivalent nature of documentary and artistic production, of past and present, pain and joy, war and peace, loss and creation. A contradiction rooted in post-1979 Iranian society.
The author’s work opens up on the public and private world of Iranian women after the Revolution and on the places in the country that meant something to her during her childhood: the Zagros Mountains, which stand out imposingly to the north of Tehran, and on whose slopes flourish bars that allow women to smoke narghile, a refuge for Western tourists eager for a small space of freedom; the Ghezel Ghal’eh prison, in Tehran, where the Shah locked up political opponents, now a museum; the tomb of her paternal grandmother, hidden among cedars and cypresses, who loved roses and sought answers to her vows among the pages of Hafez’s poems.
Mohadjerin’s collages are kaleidoscopic dives into the history of women’s resistance in the Arab World: ‘Shah leaves Iran for indefinite stay; crowds exult, many expect long exile,’ reads a New York Times headline. And again: ‘Tens of thousand people marched the streets to protest against mandatory veiling on International Women’s Day’.
A very personal journey but open to contemporaneity, which questions what ‘freedom’ means in a country devastated by an eight-year war in which thousands of young men lost their lives (the Iran-Iraq war 1980-88, in Persian Jang-e-tahmīlī ‘the imposed war’) and regularly under the international spotlight as a place where human rights are constantly violated.
For Iranian women born or raised after the advent of Khomeini, the political can no longer be separated from the personal: their bodies, their faith, their public and family lives have been and continue to be affected by the consequences of the Revolution.