Performance/video work “Detention Camp (ordugah)”

I use the suggestion of confinement and geographical control over Afghan refugees in Iranian suburbs, of invisible wired fences and walls surrounding refugee communities living on the fringes of main cities, through the use of thread and string which I have wrapped around trees, concrete columns, across roads and intersections along the edges of Dahmetri Sahkteman suburb, in an attempt to make visible the walls of the ordugah. I spread more than 10 rolls of thread, hand-unpicked by my mother from garments and fabric gathered from the refugee community, connecting them together. The use of this fragile and weak reclaimed material links the domestic, the community, to the space that surrounds them in an attempt to activate and reveal the invisible barriers that confine them.

The performance in its entirety took 7 hours to compete, from 12noon until dusk at 7pm, stretching from the entrance of the suburb to my parent’s home where I had previously lived. The work title, Ordugah, also refers to the official detention camps specifically built for Afghan refugees where many Afghan men have been detained, including myself and many of my friends and relatives. These camps were designed to keep illegal Afghan migrants, or those who were caught working without official permission.

However, in many cases, legal and legitimate Afghan refugees, a majority of which are Hazara, have also been kept there and there are horrific stories of torture, beatings, humiliation and murder in these camps. In one such horrific injustice, between 400 to 650 Afghan refugees who had escaped from Sefid Sang detention camp were killed by Iranian military forces on 22 July, 1999. This incident was featured in a film, Neighbour (2009) by Afghan director Zobair Farghand. The word ordugah carries for many Afghan refugees a hard and sad truth, memories associated with the deportation and loss of their loved ones.

Photography by: Mojtaba Jalali & Reza Shah Bidak