George Floyd in Iran, Syria, and Afghanistan: Visual Commentaries in Islamic Lands

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George Floyd in Iran, Syria, and Afghanistan:

Visual Commentaries in Islamic Lands

Christiane Gruber


George Floyd was killed by an American police officer in May 2020. Although an individual who lived his own life, he became a larger visual metaphor and embodiment for discrimination and death that extended across the world, touching a nerve in Islamic countries as well. Whether in Iran, Syria, or Afghanistan, he could take on a variety of different meanings: whether it is a censure of violence and racism in the United States, a supplication for human solidarity and an end to discrimination, or a calling for the rights of minorities and immigrants across the world.


Al Arabiya, “Syrian artist paints portrait of George Floyd on Idlib wall.”

Gruber, Christiane. “‘We can’t breathe’—how George Floyd’s killing is shaping Middle Eastern protest,” Prospect Magazine, August 5, 2020.

Gruber, Christiane. “The Writing is on the Wall: Mural Arts in Post-Revolutionary Iran,” Persica 22 (2008), 15-46.

Gruber, Christiane, and Sune Haugbolle, eds. Visual Culture in the Modern Middle East: Rhetoric of the Image. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2013.

Reuters, “Afghan artists pay tribute to George Floyd.”


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Christiane Gruber, “George Floyd in Iran, Syria, and Afghanistan: Visual Commentaries in Islamic Lands,” Khamseen: Islamic Art History Online, published 28 August 2020.

Christiane Gruber is Professor of Islamic Art and Former Chair in the History of Art Department at the University of Michigan as well as Founding Director of Khamseen: Islamic Art History Online. Her scholarly work (available here) explores medieval to contemporary Islamic art, including figural representation, depictions of the Prophet Muhammad, manuscripts and book arts, architecture, and modern visual and material cultures. Her two most recent publications include The Praiseworthy One: The Prophet Muhammad in Islamic Texts and Images and The Image Debate: Figural Representation in Islam and Across the World, and her public-facing essays have appeared in NewsweekThe ConversationNew LinesJadaliyya, and Prospect Magazine, among others. Her current research projects include eco-Islamic art and architecture as well as the visual culture of the Nation of Islam.