Iran sponsored an international art exhibition highlighting the death of American George Floyd, who died while being arrested by Minneapolis police on Memorial Day.
The exhibition, titled “I can’t breathe” after Floyd’s own comments during his final moments, featured artwork depicting Floyd’s arrest, U.S. police as Nazis and white supremacists, and the United States as a systemically racist country. In one painting, a Guillotine for “black people” was decorated with an American flag blade, according to Iranian state television video shared by the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI).
Tehran Hosts “I Can’t Breathe” Cartoon Exhibition: America, Trump, Police Depicted with Nazi, KKK Imagery; Star of David Shown Crushing the Neck of a Dove pic.twitter.com/2YEbsfXaHo
— MEMRI (@MEMRIReports) June 14, 2020
Masoud Shojaei Tabtabaei, the director of the Center for Visual Arts in Hozeh Honari, explained the exhibition in an interview with state television.
“After we witnessed the bitter incident in which a black man was murdered by American police, we also witnessed a wave of protests in America and it has spread to other western countries. Since the pleading and the cries for help were accompanied by the words ‘I can’t breathe,’ we named the exhibition ‘I can’t breathe,’” Tabtabaei said according to MEMRI.
“In our view, the fire was smoldering underneath the ashes and it has now erupted. This is not only happening in America, we are witnessing a wave of protests against racial discrimination in all Western countries,” Tabtabaei continued. “We invited our friends, the artists, to accompany us in this. The result is 72 pieces by 45 artists from 27 countries.”
Floyd’s death has sparked a wave of civil unrest in major American cities that has spread internationally to countries such as Japan, France, and New Zealand. Iran has used the unrest to characterize the U.S. as a prolific violator of human rights while ignoring its own systemic problems.
For example, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammed Javad Zarif defended the government’s policy of executing citizens found to be gay last year, according to DW.
“Our society has moral principles. And we live according to these principles. These are moral principles concerning the behavior of people in general. And that means that the law is respected and the law is obeyed,” Zarif said in response to a question on the law from a German reporter. He continued to attack alleged human rights violations by the U.S. and Israel.
An increase in gasoline prices sparked a massive wave of protests against the Iranian regime last year. The government responded forcefully, killing potentially hundreds of its own citizens in an effort to quell the backlash against its government. An Iranian economy devastated by U.S. sanctions contributed to the unrest and anger against the regime.
“The recent use of lethal force against people throughout the country is unprecedented, even for the Islamic Republic and its record of violence,” Omid Memarian, the deputy director at the Center for Human Rights in Iran, told The New York Times in December.
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