Denmark: Art happening or hate speech?

Limits of free expression in the arts are currently being discussed and tested in court in Denmark. In a trial on 13 December 2012, the prosecutor claimed the artist Firoozeh Bazrafkan has violated the Danish “racism article” against hate speech, while the artist claimed it was an art happening and even turned her own trial into an art happening. On 18 December, the court found Firoozeh Bazrafkan not guilty of racism.

On 13 December 2012, 30-year-old Iranian-born artist Firoozeh Bazrafkan was in court in Aarhus, Denmark’s second-largest city where she recides, because she refuses to pay a fine of DKK 8,000 (1,400 US dollars) which she was given in October 2012 for violating the so-called “racism article”, Section 266B Paragraph 1, in Danish law. According to Police attorneys a blog post by the artist in the website of the newspaper Jyllands-Posten had infringed this paragraph.

The artist was reported to have turned the trial into an art happening.

“I disagree with section 266b. This is what I have written about. I am not a politician. I’m not out to change the clause, I just want to be allowed to disagree. I have nothing against Muslims. I myself have a Muslim background. My mother is a muslim. I am not out to mock anyone. I just want to create a debate and a discussion,” said Firoozeh Bazrafkan in the tiny court room which was had an audience of 16 people, among them a journalist from the national public service broadcaster DR, several law students, the artist’s sister and a handful of supporters of freedom of expression.

Photos from Firoozeh’s home page

Firoozeh Bazrafkan explained to the prosecutor that her blog post was an art happening, and that she works with creating debates and discussions through art.
In addition, she explained that because of her Danish-Iranian background she was very interested in the situation in Iran.

Not guilty

On 18 December, the court found Firoozeh Bazrafkan not guilty of racism and the government will have to pay court costs, writes FrontPage Magazine. “Police believe that the blog post was a violation of the law, but the artist herself has always insisted that it was a work of art and meant as a protestagainst Iranian law.”


Related articles in Danish language:

Jyllands-Posten, Firoozeh’s blog – 28 October 2012:
Bødeforelæg – 266b
Jyllands-Posten – 11 February 2011:
Artist tramples on Khomeini
Jyllands-Posten – 23 September 2010:
Police abandon death threats case



Firoozeh Bazrafkan’s official home page

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