Interrupted Lives Exhibition in Chicago, 11-13 April 2012
This past week, the Northeastern Illinois University (NEIU) hosted Interrupted Lives, a human rights exhibit presented by the Boroumand Foundation. The exhibit was featured as part of NEIU’s Annual Asian American Conference. NEIU professors, staff, and student activists were readily available to help with the exhibit. It was truly a pleasure to see such enthusiasm and collaboration about human rights among the NEIU community.
The exhibit at NEIU was a success. Students passing by between classes stopped, drawn by the portraits of Iranian students that were killed or are in prison in Iran because of their religious or political beliefs or social status. It was a powerful moment to see many students actively reading victims’ stories and asking what they could do to help their fellow students in Iran. The NEIU students and professors wrote over 50 letters to the imprisoned Iranian students. The letters, featured on our Facebook, will be shortly mailed to the Iranian prisons hoping to find their ways to the students to remind them that they will never be forgotten and that students from America demand their unconditional release.
Roya Boroumand, the Executive Director of the Boroumand Foundation, spoke about the exhibit, the human rights violations of the Iranian students, and the challenges that the human rights community faces worldwide. The Asian American Human Rights Community awarded to Roya Boroumand a Certificate of Recognition for Human Rights work. Upon receiving the award, Roya, expressing her appreciation, stated that this award is in fact for the men and women of Iran who risk their lives by reporting the human rights violations. Hamid Akbari, a distinguished professor at NEIU, stated that “the work of ABF is fundamental to the human rights community –they provide the documentation essential to spreading awareness of what is actually happening in the Islamic Republic.”
Other events for the week included lectures on Burma and Syria as well as a book reading from Amir, author of the graphic novel, Zahra’s Paradise. The novel has brought much needed attention to the human rights situation in Iran and the plight of victims’ families and is a moving tribute to the victims of the 2009 protests in Iran. Amir spoke candidly about the Islamic Republic in his presentation, “I feel that Roya and I have a deep content for the judiciary system; if there was one part of the government that I despise more than anything, it would be that.” The gist of Amir’s novel is close to the heart of the Omid Memorial, created by the Boroumand Foundation, paying tribute to all those who were killed by the Iranian regime since the 1979 revolution. Omid contains names of thousands of men, women, and children, who were killed summarily by the Iranian regime, and has been translated in 12 languages.
Following Amir’s discussion on Zahra’s Paradise, Elise Auerbach, the Iran Specialist for Amnesty International USA, gave a presentation on Amnesty’s work and a documentary entitled “Education Under Fire.” The documentary, which was screened after Ms. Auerbach’s speech, highlighted the Baha’i’s struggle in Iran to continue their education in spite of the government’s systematic and decades-long ban of Baha’is from higher education. The event ended with questions from the audience and powerful testimonials from two young NEIU students who are of Baha’i faith and have recently left Iran.
ABF was honored to work with this group of committed individuals and the NEIU students, professors, and staff.