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'Allahu Akbar' In Paris

(Photo by Ruben Vert)
(Photo by Ruben Vert)
Artists have taken over one of Paris's most popular shopping streets, Rue de Rivoli, to raise awareness about the lack of freedom in Iran.

Large numbers of Iranians, many of them young people, rose up in protest following the disputed election of Iranian President Mahmud Ahmadinejad last June. The government responded with a severe crackdown, jailing hundreds of people and further restricting the press. Opposition groups in Iran today still face severe pressure.

So, in response, Paris-based Iranian and French artists formed the group "Ruben Vert" (Green Ribbon). Starting May 5 on Rue de Rivoli, they are holding a performance featuring masked dancers -- the masks signify silence and the lack of free speech in Iran.

Dancers move constantly throughout the five-hour demonstration to represent numerous demonstrations that took place after June on the streets of Tehran and many other Iranian cities.

The performance, called "Action 1," is being staged alongside banks of televisions playing YouTube footage from the demonstrations in Iran. It's being held at Rivoli 59, a former artists' squat that has been turned into a performance space.

(Watch this video of Parisians reacting with curiosity to the performance.)
Photo by Ruben Vert

Valerie, the artistic coordinator of the dance company (who requested that her last name be withheld for security reasons), told RFE/RL that performers' faces were covered because "the group is what matters here."

"We don't want to attract the attention of people because of the beauty of someone's face, we want to get the attention of the passers-by by showing the pain, the violence, and the truth," she said.

The dance performance will be replaced on May 8 with an edited stream of amateur footage taken during the unrest in Iran and uploaded to video-sharing websites.

The demonstration reflects the central role the Internet has played (and still plays) in Iran, where activists used Twitter and Facebook to get information out of the country. Looking at the gallery from the outside, the top floor windows are covered by huge black-and-white posters displaying tweets sent from Iran.

The artists have also installed a sound display in a dark room. Visitors who go inside the gallery can press buttons on the floor and hear the infamous cry of "Allahu Akbar" (God is great), shouted by Iranians nightly from their rooftops as an act of protest.

The event runs until May 16.

-- Hannah Kaviani

About This Blog

Written by RFE/RL editors and correspondents, Transmission serves up news, comment, and the odd silly dictator story. While our primary concern is with foreign policy, Transmission is also a place for the ideas -- some serious, some irreverent -- that bubble up from our bureaus. The name recognizes RFE/RL's role as a surrogate broadcaster to places without free media. You can write us at

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