[ANONYMOUS]: „Censorship Was Internalized But Failed“
As someone who has been interested in theatre since the age of twelve, the organized censorship of this kind of art is nothing new. A concept called revision has plagued the performing arts ever since the revolution.
For those unfamiliar with the term, it is worth explaining that a revision is an overview of a dramatic work of any scale by the official and unofficial forces of the ruling government.
In the beginning, theatre revisions were carried out by non-experts. In the 80s, when the government’s only concern was the observance of Islamic laws, the reviewers were mere censors with no knowledge of theatre. But since the mid-nineties, the government realized that if it wanted to maintain its influence in the performing arts, it had to use a „trained“ group of people. A force that „understands“ the theatre as well as the prevailing religious and social values. With this in mind, the Centre for Performing Arts was filled with people who, in addition to being loyal to the prevailing religious ideologies, had also studied theatre, feeding the groups with the government’s dry ideology mixed with theatrical references and shortcomings to ease their consciences. They did it – with the justification that it was purely artistic criticism – and the hard shell of censorship for the artists gradually lost its color in an illusory sense of compulsion/principle.
But now, after Jina (Mehsa) Amini’s movement, as a theatre person, or at least as a theatre enthusiast, I ask myself: What have they done to us? Why have all the theatres, from the most state-run to the most independent, succumbed to this censorship for many years? Today, the answer is straightforward. A solution that took more than forty years of suffering to reach. Censorship has become internal.
This is the big answer that we Iranians have forgotten in every social situation. It is as if in this almost half a century, all of us people had two lives and lived in two ways, one for ourselves in the private dimension of life and the other for the ruler in the social dimension. For many years, I have been in both respectable and unrespectable theatres, which have always submitted to a non-selective veiling, regardless of content and form. As approved by the government, covering a woman’s body had become a matter of fact for us. Censorship had penetrated the bone marrow and was cemented in our minds. To the extent that seeing a woman in a full hijab at home with her child was perfectly acceptable not only to the artist but also to the audience. But today, after the Iranian women surprised the world with their freedom and, for the first time in the world, they echoed the slogan of women-life-freedom, they had a great lesson for all Iranian people – double life is enough! – This great lesson broke the hard shell of appeasement with the ruling taste.
It should be known that the true art of any society is a reflection of the facts of that society. Today, despite all the restrictions and limitations, there are stages whose artists, both men and women, no longer want to have the form approved by the ruler and want to move forward with their society, and they inevitably pay the price with rejection, imprisonment, or even death. But perhaps we Iranians today understand Marshall Berman best: everything that is hard and solid will burn up and go up in smoke.
Tehran, 5th August 2023