2021 Award Recipient

Sima Choubdarzadeh

SRH Berlin University of Applied Sciences

My Name is Fear

The lotus seeds waiting to sprout

A swamp is where living things are imprisoned, and most of them, like grass and straw, are limited to stagnant and motionless water. The plants must be able to survive in the wet mud with low oxygen level. A lotus flower, which mysteriously grows in a swamp, is a unique, beautiful and amazing flower. Even though it comes to life from beneath the mud, it does not allow the dirt that surrounds it to affect its growth or beauty.

My story, along with the stories of many other Iranian women, is very similar to the lotus flower.

My whole identity was defined by my father’s name, my husband’s name, and my future unborn son. As a woman, I had no identity or power without a man. I was living in a swamp, alive but unaware. I was just like grass that had grown in a swamp, with no roots and identity.

I had not paid attention to the rules and traditions before my marriage, which ended up in a tragic divorce. Then, I was confronted with this question, “Who am I?” My life was just like a portrait overshadowed by men. In the search for myself, I discovered the seed of growth in me. I faced towards the sun and let that seed to flourish into a lotus. From that point on, I was able to see other lotus seeds that were about to sprout. They were those women who were stuck in a swamp and faced many challenges. But despite everything, they continued to grow and seek the light.

I have captured some women’s portraits based on their difficult situations. It may seem sketchy and superficial approach, but this was an attempt to shed light on their real lives.

The focus in my story and photos is on the rules and the traditions that are stemmed from religions, and religious principles. Some of these religious teachings have institutionalized inequality between men and women. These religious principals have been implemented to the constitution by the Islamic Republic of Iran. For example, men inherit twice what women inherit; men are entitled to blood money

twice the women. In a Shari'a court, the testimony of one man equals that of two women. Unquestionably, these unjust laws have contributed tremendously toward violence and discrimination against women.

In this project, I have demonstrated some women who have been discriminated against and faced cruelty and injustice. These are women who have started a movement, whether consciously or not, to improve their conditions.

A young girl, known as the Blue Girl, sat herself on fire as a protest to being barred from watching a soccer match at a stadium, just because she was female.

Many women are in the government prison as guilty of showing their hair. All they wanted was to let the breeze dance with their hair. Singing is forbidden for girls and women. A girl committed suicide because she fell in love against the rules of the book, and they deprived her of this love. Some girls dreamt of going to college, but found themselves in bridal gowns being forced into arranged marriages. In this swamp, freedom is suffocated in the womb. There is no space to develop and grow. The tyrant government always uses the religion as the best and strongest lever to control the people.

Yes, these women are in a swamp, but their seeds will sprout someday. No one can stop a lotus from growing and beautifying its surroundings. Each lotus will bring forth more. A lotus knows that in order to survive, it should ponder and then grow and change the direction.

Sima Choubdarzadeh

My Name is Fear

Anchell International Documentary Photography Scholarship