Sadaf Ahmadi

LE MONDE: In Sweden, censorship hovers above the ghosts of the Iranian Resistance

By Anne-Françoise Hivert(Malmö (Sweden) correspondent)

Published on September 23, 2023, at 3:00 am (Paris), updated on September 23, 2023

The city of Borås has decided not to showcase Sadaf Ahmadi’s sculptures for security reasons. The Tehran-born artist wished to denounce through her work the regime’s repressive discourses against women.

Sadaf Ahmadi's sculptures on display during 'Suicide by police shot,' an interactive exhibition displaying victims of the Iranian repression, in Forcalquier (France), in 2023

She is still in shock, stunned by the decision; Once again, she can sense the “shadow” floating over her, a shadow that haunted her all her life, and from which she thought she would finally be freed by leaving Iran. Three years ago, Sadaf Ahmadi emigrated to Sweden with her husband. Since then, the artist born in Tehran in 1985 has lived in Borås, a town of 114,000 inhabitants, some 60 kilometers east of Gothenburg. On September 16, the first anniversary of Mahsa Amini’s death in Iran, she was due to present two exhibitions at the town’s cultural center. But, 10 days before the opening, the municipality decided to cancel one of them, for security reasons.

The banned works consist of a dozen veiled women’s faces, sculpted in concrete and suspended from the ceiling by a wire. In an interview with local newspaper Borås Tidning, director of culture Ida Burén justified her decision by citing “the general security situation” in Sweden. On August 17, intelligence services raised the terrorist alert level from three to four on its five-point scale. A few days earlier, Al-Qaeda had encouraged Muslims in Europe to “take revenge” against the Scandinavian kingdom for the Qurans burned there since the start of the year.