The Coffee Shop: Changing Hate Into Beauty

The Coffee Shop is an open thread-style discussion forum for human interest news of the day.

Paint for Shiraz murals UNHRC


There are several hosts, each host being responsible for picking a “theme of the day” and starting the discussion. But in an open thread, there’s no hard and fast rule about staying on topic, especially if you have a personal story burning a hole in your pocket trying to escape.

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Coffee cup

This is an Open Thread. Grab your cup, pull up a chair, sit a spell and share what’s on your mind today.


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)
in Shiraz.

Saadi neighbors starting the transformation

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.

Saadi volunteers taking a break

Saadi Tree of Life growing


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

About wordcloud9

Nona Blyth Cloud has lived and worked in the Los Angeles area for the past 45 years, spending much of that time commuting on the 405 Freeway. After Hollywood failed to appreciate her genius for acting and directing, she began a second career managing non-profits, from which she has retired. Nona has now resumed writing whatever comes into her head, instead of reports and pleas for funding. She lives in a small house overrun by books with her wonderful husband and a bewildered Border Collie.
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