The two owners of the Aun Gallery in Teheran – Karan Vafadari and his wife Afarin Niasari – have been held in Evin Prison since last July. At a hearing, Judge Abolqasem Salavati listed the charges against the couple. They are accused of having drunk alcohol in the foyer, of having associated with foreign diplomats, of having been involved in a conspiracy against national security, and of spying. Most of these initial accusations were abandoned by the Iranian state for lack of evidence but have now been reintroduced. The authorities have also criticised the gallerists for mounting “unethical” and “inappropriate” exhibitions. They will be judged on 17 April.
Karan Vafadari’s sister describes the suffering of the gallerists on her blog Free Karan & Afarin. She claims that the agents that searched their house destroyed certain works of art and stole others. Following the couple’s arrest last summer, their gallery has remained closed.
Since the family publicised the arrest, the international community has expressed support for the pair. Roberto Toscano, formerly Italy’s ambassador to Iran, pointed out in an open letter that the gallerists had “introduced many diplomats to Iranian culture”. Opened in 2009, the Aun Gallery presented the work of young local contemporary artists.
On her blog, Karan Vafadari’s sister denounced the suspicion that falls on people with dual nationality in Iran, like this Iranian-American couple. “The government and judiciary of Iran often equate dual nationals and dual citizenship with spying and seditious activity”, she claims. And Roberto Toscano refers to repression against contemporary art and Zoroastrianism, Karan Vafadari’s religion.
Karan Vafadari and Afarin Niasari are not the only Iranians in the art world to have been incarcerated in Evin Prison in Teheran. This is where the writer Golrokh Ebrahimi Iraee, accused of having written a fictional story about a lapidation, has also been held.