In this article we would like to give the floor to Mahdis Nikou, an Iranian artist and illustrator. We are very grateful and feel honored to be able to publish her work and tell her story, thereby shedding another light on the brave protest of the Iranian people sparked by the death of Mahsa Zhina Amini.

The initial moment that triggered my decision to take a political stand was a message I received from one of my Iranian followers on Instagram. She told me a 22-year-old woman called Mahsa Zhina Amini was killed by the morality police for wearing her hijab „improperly”. She asked me to share this news with the world to tell everyone that Iranians were not feeling safe, and the world should know about this. Her cry for help moved me very deeply. I realised how much I could relate to this, being an Iranian woman myself. Before moving to the UK, I had lived under this religious dictatorship for 18 years, too. I, too, had been arrested for my improper mandatory hijab as a teenager. I know how much of a frightening experience it is to be taken in by the morality police and the trauma it causes. The truth is, any woman could be the next Mahsa Zhina Amini at any given moment in Iran. When Mahsa was killed, it sparked an anger in me that I had buried deep down for many years and did not want to face.

Right at that time, I realised that I could use my artistic skills to help the protestors’ cause and I realised that I had a platform and a voice that could not be suppressed. So, I decided to dedicate my art to telling the story of Iranians who are fighting for their freedom – because their fight is my fight, even though I live in a different country.

When my work was discovered and shared by the Instagram channel „Iranian Women of Graphic Design“ I was incredibly inspired and motivated by all the new artists I got to know and their community. I feel like in the past few months we have been using art as a powerful tool to spread information, tell stories and raise awareness for the situation in Iran and the human rights violations in the country. Seeing how many creatives deeply care about this cause and how the art we create is influencing others, has brought a sense of unity but also a greater purpose that I have never felt before.

The younger generation is what gives me hope for change in Iran: Their outlook in life, their awareness and their strong mindset. Iran has a very young population, 60 percent of the people are under the age of 30. These are highly educated, intelligent people – they are the future of the country. And all these people have never felt what freedom feels like. They have lived under immense political, religious, financial and cultural pressures for all their lives. Yet, despite all the hardship they’ve endured in the past decades since the „Islamic Republic” took over Iran 44 years ago and the hostile environment they grew up in, the people of this nation have managed to keep humanity at their heart and stay resilient. 

I believe in the possibility of real change for Iran, because Iranians – some as young as schoolgirls – are fighting with nothing but their bare hands and standing up against one of the most brutal dictatorships in history that is murdering, raping, torturing, kidnapping, poisoning its own people to stop them from succeeding in overthrowing the regime. They have already made a change by still assembling in the streets despite the violence they have experienced so far when protesting. There are regular nationwide strikes across all businesses, factories, manufacturing and production sites all over the country that are weakening the regime and its power every day. All these small steps will help to create the change Iran and Iranians need. Iran is an ancient country with a rich culture in art, politics, history, music, engineering, architecture, culinary heritage, and possesses some of the world’s most crucial natural resources in abundance. Iran and its rich culture cannot be erased from history. And until we take our country back from the hands of criminals, remaining hopeful for a brighter future is our greatest weapon.

Record: Klara Zietlow

Mahdis Nikou (32) is an Iranian artist, based in the UK, who supports the protest of the Iranian people by selling her „Woman Life Freedom“ artwork as digital posters on her website and donating 100  percent of the proceeds to charities and organisations. Besides sharing reliable news on social media and signing and promoting petitions, she also translates news from Farsi to English enabling her English-speaking audience to gain a better understanding of the situation on-site. 

Picture Credit © Mahdis Nikou