article below from Der Spiegel, June 6, 2010, in (web-generated) translation—a few inaccuracies notwithstanding…
Iranian Internet Comic
Terror, Black on White
Comic novels are booming. But no work has yet drawn such a courageous and timely comments on the horrors of a regime: the web-going history, “Zahra’s Paradise” is set in Iran and shows relentlessly, like a state destroys its citizens.
Mehdi has disappeared. Will he ever return alive to his mother? Whether the story has a happy ending? The reader will learn the end of this year,” says Amir, the author of “Zahra’s Paradise” The online comic serial novel is not for the impatient: Only three times a week its makers make a new episode online. Slowly, black and white drawing the tragedy so your run.
“Zahra’s Paradise”, the diary of a search is on 16 Juni 2009 ein. One in June 2009. Four days have passed since the controversial re-election of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad passed. On the streets of Tehran raging street battles between dissidents and government-appointed thugs. Hundreds of demonstrators have now been arrested, hours have been the first time, security forces opened fire on the crowd. The first dead are mourned.
Mehdis mother on that day in an empty house: My son has not returned from the last demo. His mother begins a desperate search that takes them to hospitals and, in prison gates, in government offices and cemeteries. With the reader in tow, she descends into the underworld of the Iranian regime. Women looking for her missing son, she is a shadow world of horror.
Pop culture makes history
Historical events that are processed to image novels have made in recent years furore. “Persepolis”, which reported the Iranian exile Marjane Satrapi about her childhood during the Iranian revolution, and “Maus,” Art Spiegelman discussed in the persecution of the Jews in the Third Reich: The mix of history and comic is a recipe for success. What is “Zahra’s Paradise” special is the lack of temporal distance to the events described, for history Mehdis, which is the history of many Iranians, is far from over. She continues as it is implemented in real time in a comic.
Still sitting hundreds of regime opponents in Iranian prisons, the fate of the disappeared in the past year is unclear. Every week meet their mothers, organized in a group called “Mothers in mourning” in the parks of Tehran, to commemorate their fate. Amir calls his novel a collage, a story that has many narrators. In it processed the exiled Iranians residing in the U.S., what he hears from relatives and friends from home, what he reads on Iranian reform websites and blogs. “But what they say, is thanks to the censorship in Iran not to see in the picture.”
The genre of the comic allows him to throw light on what the regime wants to keep hidden, “says Amir. It is his first comic strip, writes the former journalist. That he does not want his last name appear in print, the political situation is due in his homeland. “”My family would have enormous problems there, come out if that I am the author.”
Odyssey for thousands
Without a large advertising campaign is “Zahra’s Paradise” has become an Internet phenomenon. Tens of thousands of readers follow Mehids mother’s odyssey through Tehran. Comic book companies from eleven countries have already secured the rights to the novel, which once completed will be printed in book form. Already, the new chapter at the date of publication are translated into ten languages: Persian, Korean, Hebrew and Spanish, a German translation is being prepared.
Many authors drawn novels illustrate their stories themselves Amir Khalil, the artist has found a partner, who is the touching images, which pull the reader in its spell. “”Khalil breathes the history of a life, thanks to his imagination, the reader get an idea of the reality in Iran,” says Amir. Khalil has Arab roots, he prefers to remain anonymous. “What drives us is the desire to tell of a different Middle East,” says his partner.
In flashbacks show both a cosmopolitan, cosmopolitan Iran. It is the Persia that Amir has experienced as a child, as he says. “I was twelve when the revolution took place and my family had to go into exile.” His compatriot Satrapi, which is in “Persepolis” just conjures up those Iran, as well as his role model. “She gave her voice to our generation. It has torn down the walls of silence that surrounded us exiles.”
Lethal time reference
“Zahra’s Paradise” is full of allusions to put the Persian culture, whose brilliance is overshadowed by the politics of the Islamic Republic: The hero of the novel awaited Mehdi name as the savior who will come to the Shia Islam, according to rescue the world. The title of the picture story refers again to the dead city outside Tehran. “Zahra’s Paradise” is the name of the largest cemetery in Iran. Numerous opponents of the regime are buried here, in June last year, probably shot by government security forces Neda Agha Soltan has here found their final resting place.
The name Zahra is also a tribute to Zahra Kazemi. The Iranian-Canadian photojournalist in 2003, devoted himself to what motivates Mehids mother: the search for missing in Iranian prisons for men and women. For a documentary project Kazemi family accompanied her to the notorious Evin prison in Tehran, where they intended to ask for their relatives. On 23. June she was forced by prison guards on the other side of the walls, nineteen days later she died as a result of torture, had to suffer it.
Despite the terrible stories he hears from his childhood, Amir is full of hope. “The Iranian regime is finished,” he says. The brutal violence, which it applies and which he represents in his novel, was a sign of the decadence of the system. With his comic, he wants his countrymen to take courage to deal the death blow to the regime, he says. “It is time that we Iranians reclaim our country and our dignity.” As long as this did not happen, he will bear witness of what happened at home. “We need to show that there is another Iran.”