Ashura is a day of mourning marked by Muslims around the world to commemorate the martyrdom of the grandson of the prophet Muhammad, Hossein, and his compatriots. As a day of commemoration, it has been marked by people of all faiths across large swathes of South, Central, and Western Asia for centuries. This photo essay documents presents a look at the ritual in Istanbul’s Zeynebiye neighborhood in 2013, the center of the city’s Shia population.
The work of Tehran-based street artist Ghalamdar exemplifies a new direction in Iranian street art. While the majority of artists operating in Iran are heavily influenced by motifs and techniques popularized outside of Iran, Ghalamdar is inspired by endemic calligraphic styles and miniature paintings that have been the primary targets for 20th century modernist art. In several conversations with AjamMC, the artist discussed how Iranian visual and literary culture influenced his work and how dominant trends in Iranian street art have solidified.
Ahmad Zahir, the major Afghan pop singer of the 1970s, died mysteriously in 1979, a year of upheaval and turmoil in Afghanistan’s political history. Since then, many Afghans, in diaspora and in Afghanistan, maintain a special relationship with Ahmad Zahir and his music. This article explores the memory of one family in using Ahmad Zahir as a way to connect to their homeland.
Municipal politics around beautification programs reveal the complexity of governance in Iran and shatter illusions about the monolithic nature of the Iranian state. By exploring how local actors express often-contradictory opinions about the nature and future of Iranian cities, a fuller picture of modern life and politics in Iran emerges — one that highlights the diffuse nature of power and local decision-making in the Islamic Republic.
Like the city itself, the Imam Reza shrine complex grew gradually over time as political elites tried to establish their legitimacy. Rulers strove not only to appease the local religious establishment by funding elaborate building projects around the site, but also hoped to create physical testaments to their political authority. Due to the inherent political nature of these structures, the site was destroyed and subsequently rebuilt as it changed hands from dynasty to dynasty.
How could cultures not mix? Walking and cabbing through Ahvaz, I could not help but feel like I left Iran and had entered the kind of place people envision when they think of the predominantly Arab states of the southern Persian Gulf; complete with men wearing Arabic dishdasha (white robes) and families eating at roadside falafel stands. Even listening closely while walking in the streets, you hear Arabs and Persians conversing, living, and working alongside of each other.
To visit Dezful in Khuzestan province is to see a city that has an active and developed understanding of its own history. As I continued my travels through Iran’s southwestern province, I encountered histories tied intimately to dynamic and constantly developing understandings of the past.
Reciting the history-mythology surrounding the figure of Shahrbanu and her role in the dissemination of Islam to Iranians is a significant method of (re)producing a seamless continuity between the lineage of the Prophet Muhammad and Iran’s pre-Islamic and Zoroastrian culture. In this sense, the validity of the historic objective “truth” of these stories seems to be far less important than the cultural import that these stories convey to us about the nation’s sense of itself.
This piece was originally published on The Tuqay before it became part of Ajam Media Collective. In the beginning of April, three alpinists (mountain climbers) from Uzbekistan made another ascent…
During the Iranian Revolution, International Worker’s Day became an ideological battleground as competing political organizations— secular and religious— organized their constituents and articulated their interpretation of worker’s solidarity. Visual ephemera related to May Day, such as posters, are testaments to the pluralistic nature of the early years of the Revolution. By looking at various posters disseminated by organizations of the time, one can see how various political factions used similar visual motifs and iconography.