These days, the west is being introduced to fear, limitation, and enforcement as a result of COVID-19. Iran has been on lock down, restricted curfews, and social distancing four decades in a row now. Therefore, they are immune to COVID-19 symptoms: depression, despair, imprisonment, and death. Kahrizak, Minefield of Dreams is a project of metaphoric exploration and the conditions of modern Iran, as seen through the guise of a mental health institution.
In and amongst all of the despair currently being suffered around the country, there dwell 650 mentally challenged and disabled individuals in two semi-private institutions. One of the buildings is in disrepair with barricaded windows. The rooms are cramped, overcrowded, and must remain locked. The living circumstances are wretched, unhygienic and upsetting, and the limited staff must reside in rooms that are heavily secured. In the other, the situation is slightly better; but the feeling of hopelessness, sadness, desolation, and anxiety is still there. And there is an ever-present and inescapable feeling of being trapped. As it seems like the patients of these two institutions are doomed to be forgotten, as so are the people of Iran.
To make matters worse, Forty kilometers south of Iran’s capital city Tehran lays a remote area that was once the location of the Iraqi prisoner’s camp of war; it has been home to drug addicts, the destitute, homeless encampments, mental patient institutions, and was recently the location chosen for the torture and slaughter of political activists and dissidents of the 2009 protests. Within the last forty years, this small area, just a few kilometers in size, has silently observed hardships, suffering, cries, insomnia, regrets, death, namelessness and lost hope.
Shattered glass from shock waves, walking on landmines while playing as a kid, imprisonment of relatives, forced migration, long lines for food and medicine, a black market for everything, the fear of being apprehended for a nonsense crime, in the street, in a friend’s house, or even for lovemaking.
Being captured while passing a border, the border of a country, the boundary of new and old, the border between staying or leaving. These are the memories of childhood, adolescence and youth belonging to four generations of Iranians. Whether we are free to walk the streets, or political prisoners, or people who are imprisoned by their minds, Iranians suffer the fates together in a country that is wounded and suffering.