and others


Sakineh Ashtiani

Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani (1967) is an Iranian woman who, from 2006 to 2014, was imprisoned on death row in Iran. In 2010, her controversial case gained international recognition through reports that said she had been sentenced to death because of adultery.

In a number of successive processes she was first sentenced to be lashed, later to death: initially by stoning, which after strong protests was changed to hanging. Meanwhile, it appears that she has been paroled.

Begin 2011  --  Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani became known through the media. She was ‘falsely’ accused of adultery, imprisoned, then lashed and threatened with stoning. Through international pressure and actions such as a signed petition, the stoning did not take place. Due to ‘new’ accusations of murdering her husband she was tortured again and awaits execution by hanging on death row. Her first lawyer has fled the country, her current lawyer waits to be executed and her son is also in prison; all three fought for her release.

More information about Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani - click - click - click

Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani in 2010

December 2011  --  On Christmas Day, messages come from Teheran that the execution will still be carried out or has perhaps already taken place. Not by stoning, but by hanging.

News in the media - click - click - click - click - click

March 2014  --  After almost eight years in prison, Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani has been granted parole. Due to good conduct, she may now leave prison, after being sentenced to death twice after the breakdown of her marriage.

News in the media - click - click - click - click - click

Image of Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani in the media

Article in the NRC newspaper, 14 December 2010, headline: 'Stars in the breach for stoning Iranian' /  With an open letter and a worldwide campaign, stars, writers and politicians hope to get an Iranian free.' 

At the end of 2010, in the period around the signing of the petition for her release, I became interested not only in her situation but also in Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani’s image. I noticed that the same image was used almost everywhere. An image where she looked younger than she in fact was. What’s more it was an unusual and iconic image: she looked like a veiled Madonna.

Early in 2011, I decided to use the combination of her situation and her image for a series of works. At that time, the petition for her release had already been signed by over 440,000 people, including many celebrities.

News about the action and petition - click - click - click - click - click I - silver, 1-3636 / print on canvas, silver marker / 143x188x4cm  / 2011 I - silver, 1-3636
Exhibition Zomerexpo 2011, group exhibition, Gemeentemuseum, den Haag

In my works about her I used the names of those who signed the petition for her release on the website started as an open letter to the Iranian authorities, signed by 80 international celebrities continued at the end of 2010 as an online petition on the website ‘’ with the goal of preventing her stoning and later with the goal of gaining her release from prison. The website is in the meantime offline again.

In the first work her image is placed vertically. The names of the first 3,636 petition signatories are written over her portrait. Photos of the first 40 signatories frame her portrait in medallions. – II / print on banner cloth, led-display / 193x142x10cm / 2011

In the second work her image has been used horizontally. 1,000 names are branded across her portrait; these are the names of those who signed the petition for her release on ‘’. Each name stays visible for ten seconds. 1,000 ‘new’ names from the extensive list of signatories are used per exhibition. – II
Exhibition Zomerexpo 2011, group exhibition, Gemeentemuseum, den Haag 


freeSakineh and You

freeSakineh and You / print on banner cloth, wood, led-display, laptop, internet / 193x142x10cm / 2012
Salon 2012, group exhibition, Arti et Amicitiae, Amsterdam

Both previous works include an implicit reference to the signing of the petition for Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani’s release. During 2011 I decided to focus on the theme further by introducing an explicit link between her situation and ourselves.

By directly signing the online petition for her release, your name becomes part of an installation with her image. In freeSakineh and You the actual act of adding your signature means that your name lights up on top of her image. This testimony remains visible until the next person carries out the same action.

freeSakineh and You / print op bannerdoek, hout, lichtkrant, laptop, internet / 193x142x10cm / 2012
Salon 2012, groepstentoonstelling, Arti et Amicitiae, Amsterdam

We have a growing need to put ourselves out there and show ourselves, 15 minutes of fame is massively pursued and experienced. '15 minutes of fame’ stands for short-lived media attention or the fleeting fame of a person or phenomenon. The phrase is attributed to Andy Warhol, who used the words "In the future, everyone will be world-famous for 15 minutes" in the program for an exhibition of his work in 1968 in het Moderna Museet in Stockholm.
Source: Wikipedia

We proudly ‘post’ images of ourselves and our achievements on all available fora; the farther the reach, the better.

At the end of 2011, everyone in Amsterdam had the chance of their own ’15 seconds of fame!’. That was made possible by participating in American artist John Baldessari’s Your Name in Lights. Referring to Warhol’s ‘15 minutes of fame’, he said Be famous for 15 seconds! Be a celebrity, a living legend and an idol….

At the same time, we have a pressing need to show what we think of society and what our place is within that society. These days, online networks such as Avaaz mobilize international support to deal with practically every problem that has a public interest.

freeSakineh and You refers to both the fascination with fame and the need to do good and to strive for a better world. Here, you could make a difference. By responding to the petition to save an Iranian woman from execution by hanging you could be a (local) celebrity and experience the sensation of seeing your name in bright lights.

>>Your own moment of fame and a chance to help someone at the same time!<<

This was the headline in the press release about freeSakineh and You. This statement and the work itself have led to numerous reactions. They varied from people who (proudly) signed and posed for their name in lights to people who enthusiastically signed the petition and casually accepted their name in lights or people who categorically did not want to sign. There were also people who wanted to see their names in lights and asked themselves whether they wanted to sign first.

Signatories in action and discussion with supporters and opponents – only supporters are shown.