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"Jailed humanity" highlights Amir Hekmati's plight

Sarah Cwiek
Michigan Radio

Supporters of Amir Hekmati held an art exhibit and fundraiser this weekend in Detroit.

Hekmati’s family is stepping up its public campaign to free the 29-year-old Flint Marine who’s been in prison in Iran for over a year.

The exhibition was held at Detroit’s 555 gallery. That’s a former police precinct turned artists’ space.

The idea was the brainchild of artist Manal Kadry.

Kadry said she wanted to do something to bring attention to Hekmati’s plight, in a medium she was comfortable with.

So she and some artist friends put together some pieces on the theme of “jailed humanity.”

“Art is approachable,” said Kadry. “We don’t need to read his story. I want people to make artwork based on this same injustice.”

Hekmati’s 2011 trip to visit his grandmothers in Iran turned into a living nightmare.

He was arrested and then sentenced to death on charges of being a CIA spy--something his family and the US government flatly deny.

The death sentence was overturned, but he’s still in prison.

Kadry’s contribution to the exhibit is called “freedom keys.” It’s a series of ceramic keys arranged in a circle around a tiny wooden sculpture of a jail cell. Inside is another key, glowing in a soft light.

“The key inside is a representation of him,” Kadry said. “Seeing all this energy around him. He’s not able to touch it, he can’t hear it…he has no idea what’s going on.”

Credit Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio
Michigan Radio
Artist Manal Kadry with her exhibit,

Hekmati’s family assumes he knows as little about what’s going on outside as they know about what’s happening to him. They can't talk to him.

The Iranian government has said it will re-try Hekmati on espionage charges. But it’s still unclear when, or even if, that will happen.

In the meantime, Hekmati’s family is trying to put more public pressure on Iran to free him—especially now that his father has been diagnosed with brain cancer.

Sarah Hekmati is Amir’s sister. She says the family is “humbled” by this kind of support--especially since her father’s recent diagnosis.

“And then my brother’s case in Iran--and feeling like there’s no new developments--has been really hard for us,” Sarah Hekmati said. “So this gives us hope, and it keeps the momentum going, in the public and in the community’s eyes.”

Proceeds from the “jailed humanity” benefit will go toward Amir Hekmati’s defense fund.

Sarah Cwiek joined Michigan Public in October 2009. As our Detroit reporter, she is helping us expand our coverage of the economy, politics, and culture in and around the city of Detroit.
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