“Strength does not come from physical capacity.  It comes from an indomitable will”–Gandhi.

An actress named Marzieh Vafamehr made a movie in Iran titled, My Tehran For Sale, about the lack of artistic freedom in Iran and explores taboo subjects such as drug use.  The actress appeared in the film with a shaved head and didn’t wear a headscarf, and for her work in the film received a one year jail sentence and 90 lashes with a whip.  It is not unheard of for Iranians to be condemmed to death by stoning for those who violate the strict rules of the Koran.

The public may have forgotten that writer Salman Rushdie was condemned to death throuigh issue of a fatwa by the Ayatollah Khomeini in 1988 with a million dollar reward to anyone who would kill Rushdie.  The reward was doubled in 1997, and the Japanese translator Hitoshi Igarashi was stabbed to death for his role in bringing the book to Japan.  Rushdie’s publisher in Norway barely survived an assassination attempt.  The fatwa can only be recsinded by the person who issues it, and Khomeini has since died, so technically it can never actually be declared null and void.

To be rigorously honest in artistic endeavors is an unspoken necessity for all writers and actors, painters, poets, and filmmakers.  We in the U.S. take artistic freedom for granted, and tend to ignore book banning, even when the book is part of the Harry Potter seriesBook banning even increases public interest in the book which may be the only bright spot in prejudice against the works of an author or artist.

It takes a special kind of inner strength to persevere in the face of opposition, but if Gandhi is able to topple the entire British government’s occupation of India through nonviolent protest, what more can we do in our writer’s lofts and artistic spaces to make sure our voices are heard and that they matter?  In my mind, to tell the truth is the only artistic mandate. 

As others have noted, fiction is a lie that tells the truth.  Sometimes made up worlds convey more truth than any work of nonfiction.  We must be strong in the face of adversity because, in the end, all we have is our own truth, our own unique vantage point on the world.  If we don’t tell our stories, who will?

 

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