Sara Ramirez
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A Dictator's Car Is Transformed Into Symbol for LGBTQ+ Iranians

PaykanArtCar

A historic Iranian car has been reimagined as a powerful symbol for LGBTQ+ rights in the Middle-Eastern nation.

PaykanArtCar is a new art project unveiled October at the Human Rights Foundation’s Oslo Freedom Forum in Miami; it means to raise awareness of the persecution faced by LGBTQ+ people in Iran.

The 1974 Paykan Hillman Hunter limousine is an iconic and historic car that was once a gift from the shah of Iran to Romanian president Nicolae Ceaușescu. Now, it’s been reimagined as a symbol of gay rights, same-sex love, and queer resiliency.

“This vehicle once was a dictator’s car, but from this moment forward, it will be known as the PaykanArtCar, restored as a symbol of pride, calling for advancing human rights in Iran,” Ambassador Mark D. Wallace, CEO of PaykanArtCar, said in a statement.

The car features a beautifully painted portrait of a naked reclining man with a jeweled band on his arm. The figure holds a flower over his crotch on one side and an ornately-dressed man holding a flower on the other side. The two figures are shown embracing on the car’s hood.

The PaykanArtCar was painted by Alireza Shojaian, an emerging artist who was born and raised in Tehran, but had to leave the country because he is gay. His work reflects on the queer history of the Middle East and “aims to fight societal prejudice against LGBT people while making space for non-heteronormative masculine identities.”

He was inspired by the thousand-year-old Iranian story of Rostam, who accidentally killed his son, Sohrab on the battlefield for his piece. He used the beloved Iranian tale to draw parallels between the 2021 murder of Alireza Fazeli Monfared, a 20-year-old gay man who was beheaded by family members in an “honor killing.”

“The story of Rostam and Sohrab for me was an inspiration for highlighting the brutal injustices that the LGBTQ+ community faces every day in Iran due to the laws imposed by the government,” said Shojaian. “The PaykanArtCar will help shed light on the deadly abuse of the LGBTQ+ people in Iran, a tragedy that has been repeatedly denied by the regime and neglected by Iranian society.”

The car was first unveiled in Miami, and was originally scheduled to go to Paris for the Asia Now art fair, but was disinvited from participating. According to Shojaian and Dr. Hiva Feizi, the executive director of the project, the PaykanArtCar was disinvited because of pressure from regime-approved galleries from Iran. Dr. Hiva Feizi has also been threatened with legal action for speaking out against the revoked invitation.

"Where I come from, Iran, the government is controlled by clerics who claim that homosexuality does not exist and who execute the gays they discover. They thus erase us doubly. This is why I was forced to leave my country," Shojaian told La Regle du Jeu. "But that sort of thing is not supposed to be possible here in France."

“We are immensely proud of what Alireza has done with the car - it is a beautiful story of romance and tragedy. I’m shocked that the Iranian regime that drove him from his home country has now found another way to silence him and his pro-LGBTQ art in France, supposedly a bastion of free speech and liberalism," Feizi said in a statement. "The PaykanArtCar will not stop advocating for the rights of those oppressed inside Iran and we will continue to display this car.”

In response to this censorship, the PaykanArtCar is collaborating with 3.19.27.(2), a foundation that focuses on artists who have had their freedom of speech undermined or erased.

The PaykanArtCar will now be displayed at a pop-up exhibition titled Twice Erased, which will take place in Paris. It will then move to Toronto. For details of the dates, check out PaykanArtCar on Instagram and Twitter

"Since its inception, 3.19.27(2) has held a number of exhibitions highlighting “at risk” artists," the organization's Executive Director Kyle Beattie said. "PaykanArtCar is undoubtedly the most important installation we will be exhibiting to date. The tragic, and violent deaths of countless gay, lesbian, and transgender people needs to end, and the only way to end these attacks is to confront the ones responsible. The best way of doing so is to act. Our way of acting is giving the stage to people who have lived to tell the story.”

RELATED: Report: 62 Percent of LGBTQ+ Iranians Experience Violence From Family

Tags: News, Art
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