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Notre Dame showcases Iranian photo exhibit

| Tuesday, February 14, 2017

In an attempt to showcase a different side of Iran, the Persian Association of Notre Dame (PAND) is hosting a photo exhibit, titled “Iran Beyond Politics,” on Friday at McKenna Hall.

Fatemeh Elahi, an organizer of the event and a member of PAND, said the exhibit “emphasizes the diversity of the Iranian people — especially culture and ethnicity.”

The exhibit includes photographs of Iranian society, nature and architecture.

“This exhibit shows some very old parts of Iran and some very new parts, and I think this contrast is my favorite,” Elahi said.

PAND, which was founded in October, is hosting the exhibit in order to show Iran from an angle not usually seen in the media, Elhai said. 

“Especially with all the recent news about Iran, we’re trying to provide a different image of how eager Iranian people are to communicate with the west, and how what the media shows is not the true representation of Iran,” Elahi said.

Elahi, who emigrated to the United States from Iran when she was 16 years old, said she relates to the exhibit’s mission on a personal level.

“When I came to the U.S., a melting pot of different cultures, I realized how much my government, my media had skewed my mind to think a certain way about certain people,” Elahi said. “When I met those people, I realized that wasn’t true at all, or that was only part of the story.”

The exhibit is not seeking to show some sort of grand image of Iran, Elhai said. Rather, it seeks only to show a fuller vision of Iran, beyond its political and religious conflicts.

“It’s actually very mundane things … basically, we’re showing that no, they’re just people,” Elahi said.

Maryam Ghadiri, a Ph.D. student at Purdue and the curator of the exhibit, gave a TED Talk called “Iran from a Different Lens” last spring. After seeing the talk, several members of PAND proposed booking the exhibit. The event happens to fall just a few weeks after President Donald Trump issued an executive order temporarily banning foreign nationals and refugees from seven predominantly Muslim countries, including Iran, from entering the country. Catering to fears of “the other,” Elahi said, is nothing new.

“This is a very common strategy that many politicians have used in the past to establish their own government and gain popularity,” Elahi said.

Though many Americans have pushed back strongly against the travel ban, there are other ways to combat misconceptions and misguided fear, Elahi said. 

“Another strategy is communication, showing ourselves in the community and trying to represent ourselves,” Elahi said.

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