Vote for Zahra

The Vote for Zahra campaign was a collaboration between United for Iran and Zahra’s Paradise – a real-time, historical fiction graphic novel which shared stories concerning the aftermath of Iran’s fraudulent and heavily contested 2009 elections. The collaboration took place in the months leading up to Iran’s 2013 elections, and focused around a presidential campaign for a fictional character (the titular Zahra) who used her campaign to focus on human rights, democracy, and the flaws and failures of the Iranian government and its election processes. 

The campaign put a particular emphasis on:

  • Flaws within Iran’s electoral system and processes,
  • The ongoing imprisonment and executions of political prisoners,
  • The exclusion and vetting of candidates based on gender, ethnicity, religious, and political affiliations,
  • The stifling of free press and expression,
  • The brutal suppression of political dissidents.

The campaign was widely covered in global media, reaching some 3.5 million people on social media, and receiving coverage in 60 media outlets in a dozen countries. Islamic Republic media also took note of the campaign, calling it “anti-revolutionary” and lamenting how Zahra would “beat up on the existing candidates.”

Zahra’s Paradise author, Amir Soltani, noted: “If our human rights campaign had no appeal and impact inside Iran, the Islamic Republic would ignore us. The fact that they feel forced to condemn Zahra – a cartoon character they cannot ban or silence – is high praise.”

The campaign was successful because it relied on our audience’s capacity to imagine what a free and democratic Iran would look like. Zahra responded to campaign events in real time, and called out Iran’s vetted presidential candidates for their shortcomings and broken promises to the Iranian people. We believe this process of imagining a better Iran helps build the energy and capacity to truly make it happen – and Zahra’s campaign was emblematic of this practice. 7 Nobel Peace Prize Laureates, including Shirin Ebadi, Rigoberta Menchu, Leymah Gbowee and others, supported Zahra’s campaign. 

Covered in 60 media outlets in a dozen countries

3.5 million reached on social media

Campaign endorsed by 24 international human rights and civil society organizations

Supported by 7 Nobel Peace Prize Laureates