Zahra, the heroine of a popular graphic novel, goes looking for her son who disappears during the Green Movement of 2009. The book’s title, Zahra’s Paradise – which is also the name of Tehran’s largest cemetery – is where the protagonist eventually finds her son.
The two authors Amir and Khalil launched Zahra’s Paradise as a creative way to challenge power and engage people across the globe.
“Zahra represents all of Iran’s grieving families, and like them, she knows that the personal is political,” Amir told Al Arabiya.
The graphic novel was launched in 2010; it became a global phenomenon and has now been translated into 15 languages.
In 2013 Amir and Khalil decided to take their novel one step further and bring Zahra to life by making her the first woman to run for President in Iran.
The Zahra for President Campaign was launched, a collaboration between United for Iranand Zahra’s Paradise. The campaign’s purpose was “to create a collaborative space for the voice, vote and vision of the Iranian people.” Through Twitter and Facebook many people have expressed their support by posting photos of themselves with Zahra posters.
The campaign’s symbolic message was:
“In 2009, Zahra and her family, along with millions of Iranians took to the streets to demand fair and free elections. Despite a brutal crackdown, the promise of an Iranian spring—democracy, dignity, and justice—is far from extinguished. Today, Zahra is running for President, the promise of a new day. Join her. Let’s win back our Iran.”
On Election Day Zahra for President tweeted:
“Have you voted for Zahra yet? #Iranelection”
The campaign received a lot of international attention including the support of Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Shirin Ebadi, who declared “Fair and free elections are the first step in forming a democracy.”
In addition Christiane Amanpour reported on the campaign saying,
"This election may change the man at the top in Tehran, but it's only when all Iranian citizens, including its women, truly have the opportunity to lead as well as dream, that real progress will come to the country."
The polls have now closed for Iran’s 2013 elections and a new president has been elected, but Zahra’s fight continues. Today Zahra is “only” an inspiring graphic heroine, but young Iranian women are preparing to take her place.
By Christine Petré