Starting a new life

Leila Ashtiani

2 December 2015


My name is Leila. I am an artist from Iran. I owned a gallery in Tehran and have created number of paintings throughout the years.

Life was not easy in Iran, since I am of Zoroastrian faith. Suspicion and hostility toward different faith other than Islam is supported by the country’s law. Conversion from Islam to another religion is punishable by death.

For artists, our expressions for art creation are very limited. Painting human forms are interdicted and are not allowed by the Islamic rule.

In 2013 my whole family left Iran for Australia. We came to Australia by boat from Indonesia. The journey was very difficult; we almost lost our life since the boat capsized. My husband and I were holding onto a lifesaver and I was holding my four years old son tightly. Eighty people died in the accident, we were very lucky.

As soon as I was released into the Australian community (community detention), I volunteered to teach art class in the detention centre. From there I met with few artists and together we formed MAFA – Melbourne Artists for Asylum Seekers. I’m very proud as an artist to exhibit my paintings alongside the other painters, telling the journey of our life.

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