No, this flag made of hair does not refer to protests in Iran

For more than a month, Iran has been affected by demonstrations on an unprecedented scale since the Islamic Revolution of 1979, the outcome of which remains uncertain. This protest movement was triggered on September 16 by the death of Mahsa Amini, three days after her arrest for violating the wearing of the veil. On social networks, a flag made of black hair is massively shared as a symbol of these protests. However, it is actually a work made by the Belgian artist Edith Dekyndt in 2014, entitled “Ombre Indigène”. Contacted by AFP, the contemporary art gallery Greta Meert, which represents the visual artist, confirms that this creation is not linked to the Iranian demonstrations. According to the NGO Iran Human Rights, more than 120 demonstrators have been killed since the beginning of this movement.

This image of hair cut and hoisted in a flag will be the photograph of the century #IranProtests2022“, had first written the Indian director Leena Namimekalai, on September 22, accompanying her tweet with a photo of a flag made of black hair, floating in the sky and hoisted on a wooden stick.

Very quickly, this photograph was taken up by different accounts and shared several thousand times on Twitter and Facebook (1, 2, 3), as a symbol of the protests in Iran. Netizens commenting: “Iranian women. They cut their hair and make a flag out of it. The admirable power of this symbol in the face of the brutality of the mullahs’ dictatorship.

Screenshot of a Twitter post made on October 18, 2022.

1666120125 399 No this flag made of hair does not refer to

Screenshot of a Twitter post made on October 18, 2022.

Similar content was also broadcast in Hindi, English, Turkish, Portuguese and Catalan.

These messages started circulating after the deathon September 16, of Mahsa Amini, a 22-year-old Iranian Kurd, after her arrest by the vice police for violating the wearing of the veil, which sparked a wave of protests in Iran.

Since then, many young women have been the spearhead of the protestsshouting anti-government slogans, removing and burning their headscarves, cutting their hair, and standing up to security forces in the streets.

A month later, the protest movement that began in Iranian Kurdistan, Mahsa Amini’s native province, has spread across the country, reaching schools, universities and even oil refineries. This movement places the Iranian authorities in the face of one of their greatest challenges since the Islamic Revolution of 1979.

1666120125 449 No this flag made of hair does not refer to

Map of Iran locating the main places of demonstrations since the death of Mahsa Amini on September 16.

A work by a Belgian visual artist from 2014

However, the photograph of the hair flag has nothing to do with these events.

A reverse image search on Google showed it to be a work by the Belgian artist Edith Dekyndttitled “Indigenous Shadow” and produced in 2014.

The photograph can be found in this interview of June 2020, with the caption: “Edith Dekyndt, Indigenous Shadow, video, 2014″.

A similar picture was published on the website of the contemporary art center Wiels, in Brussels, on the occasion of the Dekyndt exhibition, in 2016. In the corresponding catalog, we find the description of the work on page 31 : “A flag made of hair was nailed to the ground and filmed on rocks on the Diamant coast, in Martinique. There, precisely, where on the night of April 8, 1830, a clandestine slave ship carrying a hundred African captives was dragged on the rocks before being completely destroyed.

The Caribbean island of Martinique is an overseas region of France and historically a port of call for slave ships.

1666120125 794 No this flag made of hair does not refer to

Screenshot of the catalog of the Dekyndt exhibition, at the Wiels contemporary art center in Brussels in 2016, taken on October 18, 2022. (Chloé RABS)

Edith Dekyndt also said she was inspired by the work of the author and philosopher Edouard Glissantone of the most important French writers in the Caribbean, whose texts deal with colonialism, slavery, racism and cultural diversity.

Contacted by AFP, Magali Wyns, spokesperson for the Greta Meert contemporary art gallerywhich represents the artist, confirmed that the work had no connection with the protests in Iran linked to the death of Mahsa Amini.

The work entitled ‘Ombre Indigène Part 2 (Île de la Martinique)’ is a video installation, not an image, created in 2014 by Edith Dekyndt“, specified Magali Wyns.

More than 120 dead

On Wednesday October 5, many French actresses and singers – including Isabelle Huppert, Marion Cotillard, Isabelle Adjani – cut a strand of hair in solidarity with the struggle of Iranian women, in a video posted on the Instagram account “soutienfemmesiran”.

The Iranian people, women in the lead, demonstrate at the risk of their lives. These people only hope for access to the most essential freedoms. These women, these men, ask for our support“, they say in a written message accompanying the video.

More than 120 protesters, including 27 children, have been killed in the crackdown on protests in Iran, according to a report by the Oslo-based NGO Iran Human Rights (IHR).

According to Amnesty International, the protests are “brutally suppressed” by security forces who opened fire with live ammunition, firing lead pellets at the protesters at point-blank range.

Authorities have also made a growing number of arrests, targeting journalists, activists and artists in particular.

Monday, October 18, more than 40 human rights organizations expressed “their serious concerns” in front of “the machine of repression deployed by the Iranian authoritiesand called on the UN to investigate urgently.