NEW YORK, NY--(Marketwired - Sep 22, 2015) - #NotACrime, a campaign to raise awareness of human rights abuses in Iran, today unveiled its latest project. Designed to provoke conversation about human rights violations during a new session of the United Nations General Assembly the third week of September, ahead of Iranian President Hassan Rouhani's appearance at the General Assembly on September 28, the campaign will feature murals by a dozen prominent artists from around the globe.

#NotACrime's mission is to effect change by forcing the Iranian leadership to acknowledge freedom of speech and the pursuit of education are not criminal acts worthy of imprisonment. Maziar Bahari, a former Newsweek journalist who was jailed in Iran and became the subject of Jon Stewart's film "Rosewater," started the initiative.

"This campaign marries old and new forms of communication -- street art (very similar to cave paintings) and modern social media activism. It will spark an important conversation," said Maziar Bahari.

"At a time when the Iranian government brutalizes its people with impunity, and some groups vilify Iran and its people and condone starting a war with Iran, we will try to distinguish the Iranian government from the Iranian people. We will condemn the atrocities of the regime, while celebrating many ordinary Iranian journalists, teachers and students who are risking their security for their basic human rights," he continued.

Street Art Anarchy, a New York start-up that works with internationally renowned street artists for contemporary art projects, curated the murals. The #NotACrime campaign is the most ambitious mural art project ever brought to New York City, extending to the five boroughs and New Jersey.

The artists started creating the murals in late August and will continue through September. Some walls are direct responses to Iranian propaganda murals in Tehran, some honor the individuals wrongfully imprisoned there.

The project involves prominent international artists including Icy and Sot (Iran), Sheryo (Singapore) & The Yok (Australia), 2501 (Italy), Faith 47 (South Africa), Nicky Nodjoumi (Iran), Marina Zumi (Argentina) among others, as well as several New York-based artists like Ron English, Jason Woodside and ASVP.

Murals that are now up include work by:

  • Jacopo Ceccarelli, aka 2501, on the corner of Lexington Avenue and 24th Street in Manhattan
  • Faith 47 at the corner of Woodhull Street and Columbia Street in Brooklyn
  • Cake at 612 Communipaw in Jersey City
  • Marina Zumi, Cyrcle and Alexandre Keto have individual murals and Jason Woodside painted the entrance at 2340 Frederick Douglass Blvd in Harlem

Walls currently in progress include Ron English at 823 Broadway in Brooklyn and Nicky Nodjoumi at 11-22 Welling Court in Astoria, Queens.

"Education Is Not A Crime"
The Baha'is, Iran's largest religious minority, are frequently jailed on false charges and denied access to higher education. There are 74 Baha'is currently imprisoned and more than 200 were executed in the early 1980s after the 1979 Islamic Revolution. Thousands of Baha'is are currently studying through an underground education system known as the Baha'i Institute for Higher Education (BIHE). #NotACrime is working to stop the human rights abuse of young people barred from studying because of their beliefs and is encouraging universities worldwide to admit Iranian Baha'i students.

The education campaign started in 2014 with an Education Is Not A Crime Day (the last Friday of February 2015) and screenings of a film Bahari made called "To Light a Candle" -- and now it has grown into a movement. Mark Ruffalo of "The Avengers," Rainn Wilson of "The Office," Desmond Tutu, the Nobel Peace Prize laureate and rights activist, and Shirin Ebadi, also a Nobel Peace Prize laureate, have spoken against the persecution of the Baha'is. Nearly 100 universities -- including Stanford and Yale -- currently accept the BIHE certificate.

"Journalism Is Not A Crime"
The journalism component of the campaign focuses on the Iranian government's attempts to stop the free flow of information by imprisoning journalists on unsubstantiated charges and torturing them for their work. With 51 journalists currently imprisoned in Iran, the country is second only to China for the number of journalists in jail. Many are citizen journalists who are not supported by high-profile media outlets like Bahari was during his 118 days in Evin Prison.

"The condition of the Baha'is and of journalists in Iran is the most accurate barometer of the Iranian government's treatment of all its people," said Bahari. "When the Baha'is and journalists are treated well, it indicates a more rational Iran. The opposite is also true."

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*Note to Editors: Please contact Victoria Grantham at 917-328-3287 for interviews as well as high-resolution images and videos of the murals.

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Victoria Grantham