As a reporter working in Iran, Maziar Bahari was bothered not to hear more people speak about the discrimination faced by the Baha’i, a persecuted religious minority. But he knew that if he wrote about their lives, it would mean the end of his ability to work in the country.
“I was always aware that I could not work on the Baha’i issue because that would be the last time I was working in Iran,” said the Canadian-Iranian Bahari, who was then reporting for Newsweek. “I had this guilt that I was not working on it.”
In 2009, Bahari was arrested and served 118 days in Evin Prison after reporting on Iran’s contested 2009 election. During his incarceration he was beaten by an intelligence officer in the Revolutionary Guards. His story became the subject of Jon Stewart’s 2014 film Rosewater.
When he was released and knew that he could not return to the country, Bahari decided he wanted to do something about the discrimination he saw in Iran.
In 2015, Bahari founded the Not a Crime campaign, using street art to call attention to the oppression of the Baha’i community. This year, Not a Crime commissioned artists to create a series of murals in Harlem, selected for its deep connection to the US civil rights movement, with the hopes of starting a new a conversation about discrimination. The murals have been curated by Street Art Anarchy, a New York-based firm that works with street artists from around the world to commission contemporary art projects.