I went along yesterday evening to listen to a panel discussion on the ‘Iranian Election 2013: Questions of Cultural Identity’ at the British Museum.
Surprisingly, the event – which went on for around one and a half hours did not discuss much about the Iranian presidential elections due to be held this week at all. One of the panellists, Rose Issa (I think she was described as being a curator somewhere – but I could be mistaken) said that she had misgivings about being on the panel because she was not very interested in the Iranian elections especially as ‘women are not allowed to stand’. She did have a point.
We were told that today’s Iran was a very bleak environment for the arts and that many talented Iranian filmmakers had been forced into exile as too many restrictions were being placed on their work in their own native country. Still, many artists were trying to find ways to get their message and works seen and heard. We were shown this artwork from the Iranian Hossein Valamanesh which apparently says – in perhaps an implicit criticism of current Iranian government policies – ‘This too shall pass’.
It is a shame that more was not discussed about the forthcoming presidential elections. The last elections in 2009 resulted in huge controversy and protests over the outcome with allegations of massive vote-rigging to ensure the victory of the incumbent Mahmud Ahmadinejad. Whether these allegations were true or not, it is clear that Iran is facing huge Western-led pressure to curtail its nuclear programme with the Saudi puppet King Abdullah famously calling on the USA to ‘cut off the head of the snake’ as the Wikileak cables revealed.
The Islamic Revolution in Iran in 1979 served to provide a huge boost to Islamic movements in the region. It would have been interesting to hear what impact the panellists thought that the subsequent thirty-odd years experience of the Islamic Republic had taught the regions Islamic movements, if anything.