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Shiraz is known as ‘the city of poets.’ Its Saadi neighborhood, named for one of Iran’s most beloved poets, is home to a large population of Afghans. Iran has shown great generosity in hosting almost 1 million Afghan refugees during a refugee situation which has now lasted almost 40 years. There are estimates that over a million additional Afghan refuges without legal status are scattered throughout Iran.
On Rules for Conduct in Life
by Saadi Shirazi
From Maxim 67 —
Take advice by the misfortunes of others
That others may not take advice from thee.
From Maxim 71 —
If people knew our faults
No one could have rest from interference by others.
From Maxim 73 —
Injure not the heart of the helpless
For thou wilt succumb to the force of a strong man
In the Saadi neighborhood of Shiraz, the walls used to be covered with graffiti spewing rage and ugliness above streets littered with garbage.
“It had become custom for Afghans and Iranians to blame each other – verbally and through graffiti and hate slogans – for the problems they saw around them,” explains
Alex Kishara, who heads operations for the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHRC)
A coalition fostered by the UNHRC and the Iranian government is making a difference. Working together with local artists, Afghan refugees and their Iranian neighbors – more than 60 community volunteers and students from both groups – paint over walls tagged with angry hate-filled messages. The new murals feature beautiful designs from Iranian and Afghan carpets, as well as other cultural symbols. Volunteers also pick up the trash.
This community project has helped to create a new sense of neighborhood unity and pride in the coalition’s accomplishments.
A little and a little, collected together, become a great deal
— Saadi Shirazi
The Huffington Post, Jesselyn Cook, World Post Fellow:
All photographs are part of the UNHRC record of this project.
- Paint of many colors to start the project
- Beginning the transformation from graffiti blight to Art
- Volunteers taking a break in front of the mural they’re working on
- A Tree of Life grows in the Saadi neighborhood