In Partnership with Cambridge College, 2022
Banner Art detail: Walter Crump, "A Reformist Rally, Tehran"
Although masquerading as a democracy, the Iranian government is ruled with an iron fist by the religious conservatives who have done so since the 1979 revolution that was appropriated by Ayatollah Khomeini. One of the photographs seen here was taken in Teheran, Iran in 2009 during a reformist rally, days before the national election. It depicts an individual, whose head is completely covered in a green shawl, holding a strange effigy of a potato on a stick. Green is the traditional color of Islam and during the election, the color was adopted by the reformist. Leading up to the election, the government seemed to have no restrictions on rallies, whether conservative, or the reformist. Rallies by the reformists were constant and occurred all over Teheran.
The story behind the potato effigy: Ahmadinejad, the president at the time of the election, was running for a second term. He claimed to be a champion of the poor. He was known to give off-the-cuff, without the advice of his economists, unrestricted sums of money to small villages and the like. In doing so, he depleted the country's coffers and almost ruined the economy. During the run-up to the election, Ahmadinejad advertised that he was donating large quantities of potatoes to the needy. This act of generosity was widely broadcast by the state-run media in hopes to win over large tracts of voters who would support his second term as president. The only problem was that all the potatoes were rotten. The duplicity of the president's scheme was highly touted by the opposition, especially at rallies, thus the sign of a scored potato signifying its spoilage.
The state-run media continuously referred to the president as “Dr” Ahmadinejad in order to promote him as a great scholar and thinker even though his questionable PhD was in traffic engineering; essentially he was an engineer, whose delusional sense of self verged on the megalomaniac. One of the more popular slogans referencing his credentials by the reformist was: “Doctor, you need to see a Doctor.” Hours after the last polling place closed, and long before the ballots would have been able to be counted, the conservatives declared Ahmadinejad the winner. The election was obviously rigged.