Bahá'ís to keep creativity flowing in Not A Crime effort

A mural-size artwork, created collaboratively by 18 youths and junior youths and declaring “Education Is Not a Crime” in nine languages, hangs in a gallery at El Centro College in Dallas, Texas, as (from left) Sina Sabet, Solyo Dandar, Erfan Hosseinkhani, Negar Ramezanpour, Noura Haghar, Nanda Dandar and Rooha Haghar stand by. The project was initiated after an Iranian-American Bahá’í youth approached Carol Zou, program manager of an art foundation in the Vickery Meadows neighborhood, home base of an involved junior youth group. An article from D magazine is at tinyurl.com/zobubbc Photo courtesy of Sina Sabet

Bahá’í involvement in the Not A Crime campaign will continue to go strong through the summer. Bahá’ís and their communities nationwide are invited to continue creating public artworks that support freedom of education in Iran and sharing the images on social media, while large-scale mural projects will again be concentrated on New York City.

The campaign will be picking up momentum that started in September, when street artists created more than a dozen prominent murals across New York City and their images were shared using the #NotACrime hashtag. The unveiling generated widespread news coverage through the Associated Press and many other news outlets.

Across the United States through autumn, Bahá’ís of a variety of ages took part in creating and displaying artworks upholding the right of young people to have access to higher education, which has been systematically denied to Bahá’ís in Iran. Over the years Bahá’ís have been barred or expelled from universities because of their religion, and the informal Bahá’í Institute for Higher Education (BIHE) has been attacked through arrests of participating educators as well as raids and equipment confiscations at the homes and other locations where classes were quietly conducted.

Iranian-Canadian journalist Maziar Bahari, creator of the film To Light a Candle, spearheaded the Not A Crime campaign in solidarity with BIHE, as well as with journalists unjustly deprived of their rights. The National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá’ís of the United States is endorsing Bahá’í participation in the campaign.

The first public murals were completed around the time the United Nations General Assembly convened for its 2015 session at the international organization’s headquarters in New York. That assembly approved a resolution in December expressing “serious concern” about religious discrimination and other human rights violations in Iran. Such actions typically lead to continued monitoring of that country’s human rights situation.

Since then murals for the campaign have also appeared in various cities in Australia, Brazil, Canada, France, South Africa and the United Kingdom.

As weather warms up in our part of the world, Bahá’ís and their communities may consider acting to spread the message further. The campaign website (notacrime.me) includes information on its motivations and missions, examples of public art it has inspired so far, and a “handbook” page detailing how any community can get involved.

Social media updates on the campaign can be found on:

The National Spiritual Assembly reminds anyone hoping to participate that it is important to abide by all local laws and ordinances governing public street art, and to obtain clear consent from the owners of a wall before using it for artwork.

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