Hearing at Christiansborg

On November 22, 2023, the Danish Parliament’s Legal Affairs Committee held a hearing at Christiansborg on the government’s bill L65. I was invited to give my opinion. Here is my speech and video:: (KLIK FOR DANSK)

Thank you for giving me the floor today.
My name is Firoozeh Bazrafkan and I am here to speak out against Bill L 65.
Twenty years ago, I started as a young student at the Jutland Art Academy in Aarhus, Denmark.
I clearly remember my first class. Our teacher said:
“You must be the watchdogs of society!”
Today, this first tenet of my career as an artist seems more true than ever.
Some say that art and culture are like the whipped cream on a cake.
That little extra on top.
I disagree.
Art and culture is what turns cream into whipped cream.
It’s the yeast that raises the dough.
It’s the heat that melts the chocolate coating.
Invisible to many, but part of it all.
A part of us.
Art creates something in us. Whether it’s written, painted, carved in stone, whether it’s music – whatever.
Without art, we stagnate. Slowly but surely.
And without freedom, art stops. Slowly but surely.
Art and freedom are each other’s prerequisites.
You can no more take freedom out of art than you can take art out of freedom. They belong together.
People ask:
“How can artists get around the government’s upcoming law?”
“Which artworks will be legal and which will be banned?”
“Will any artists go to jail?”
It’s a mistake to think like that.
And it’s dangerous to think that way.
Because the thought itself takes us away from freedom. Away from democracy.
In a democracy, it is not the job of those in power to challenge artists.
It is the job of the artists to challenge those in power.
The government’s bill is a mistake of the kind you can write books about.
So far, I’ve only made a 5-minute video.
It will be on the screen in a moment.
Thank you.

see the performance | read an explanation of the symbols in the performance

Transcription of the above video:

Lars Løkke Rasmussen has made it clear that it is misinformation that makes it necessary to intervene:

Lars Løkke Rasmussen, TV2 Nyhederne, July 30, 2023:
“When we show up with police around a single protester who is burning a Koran, it is translated into Denmark being behind this. And that simply won’t do.”

I understand the frustration. It’s not okay when others lie about us.

Lars Løkke Rasmussen, TV2 Nyhederne, July 30, 2023:
“We have Islamic State and we have Al-Qaeda and all sorts of people running this through a misinformation machine.”

We also saw this kind of misinformation during the Mohammed crisis in 2006. A photo was shown as proof of Danes’ mockery of Muslims. But the photo had nothing to do with Denmark or Mohammed. It was from a city festival somewhere in France. The lie was even disseminated
of men residing in Denmark. These men were never convicted.

On the other hand, anyone who protests against the oppression of women could soon be convicted. At least if they allow themselves to do violence to objects that symbolize the power on which most societies that oppress women are based: the so-called holy books. Written by men, for men.

A performance like the one I did in front of the Iranian embassy on August 5 would be criminal.
My performance was a protest. And Lars Løkke Rasmussen can also explain why it was necessary:

Lars Løkke Rasmussen, Iran conference on October 17, 2022:
“Iran is emerging – albeit with stiff competition – as one of the world’s most despicable and darkened regimes, where tyranny and brutal violence are the order of the day. When an oppressed people risk their lives and reach out for freedom, we must do what we can to seize them. Do what we can,
for success.”

These were the words of Lars Løkke Rasmussen in his opening speech at the Iran Conference at Christiansborg on October 17, 2022. The purpose of the conference was to focus on the freedom struggle of Iranian women.

Lars Løkke Rasmussen, Iran conference on October 17, 2022:
“Firstly – and this is where we can each make a contribution – we can keep the world’s attention intact. And that’s important in a time of many crises and a media landscape that shifts from day to day,
where it’s hard to stay focused. That’s where each of us can help. We can write, we can demonstrate. We can hold conferences like this one today. We can be active on social media to make our small – in reality, poor – contribution to keep the struggle alive and show both the Iranian people and the eclipsed clerical regime where we stand. We can do that.”

I did what Lars Løkke Rasmussen had encouraged me to do when I performed in front of the Iranian embassy. But afterwards, the government men turned their backs on me.

Minister of Justice Peter Hummelgaard, to B.T. on August 25, 2023:
“I would encourage her and other artists to create something, uh write something, uh paint something, uh carve something in stone, uh make some music, whatever. Instead of destroying things.”

Many others could understand why my performance had to be the way it was. You can’t use words in a protest against oppression that is created by words. In this case: the words of the Quran.
Therefore, the book and the words had to be torn apart. I did what the oppressed women themselves cannot do without being executed.

It is wrong to show more consideration to objects than to the human body.
It is wrong to criminalize actions simply because they can be misused for OTHER people’s misinformation.
It is wrong to restrict free citizens from protesting on behalf of the world’s oppressed.
It is wrong to protect books written by men as long as they are misused to oppress women.

Let us Danes set a good example. Let us remind each other that ability is obligation. This applies to the fight for the climate, the fight for uncensored art, and the fight for equal rights and human rights. The government’s bill is a mistake.