Look Closer is a photo series by OZY that encourages readers to see beyond a seemingly normal photo. Hover over the circles to explore the photo more deeply.
The quilt was often the only opportunity survivors had to remember and honor the lives of their loved ones. Many who died of AIDS-related illnesses didn’t have funerals because of the social stigma early on. In fact, some funeral homes and cemeteries even refused to accept the bodies of the deceased.
There were more than 44,000 individual panels in the quilt, weighing more than 10,000 pounds.
Look Closer: A Patriotic Scene ... or Something More Sinister?
The scene seems downright motivational. Until you see that it’s not just U.S. flags, but also the flag of Israel, and its emblematic Star of David, that’s hanging loosely on clothespins. The scene is neither a domestic nor a positive one. This is an Iranian factory — and they are making flags so they can burn them.
Using a silkscreen, workers at the Diba Parcham Khomein factory in Heshmatieh village (a suburb of the larger Khomein City) are a major producer for American, British and Israeli flags that are often burned at demonstrations throughout the Islamic Republic. And those demonstrations are on the rise, given Iran’s tormented relationship with Washington, worsened most recently by the killing of Iranian General Qasseim Soleimani by a U.S. drone strike last month.
The facility produces as many as 2,000 flags a month, totaling more than 1.5 million square footage of fabric each year. Its owner has told reporters that the factory’s complaint is not with the American or British people, but rather with their governments. Yet despite the Islamic Republic’s state-sanctioned fanning of the flames, there are also signs that some locals are sympathetic to Americans: “Our enemy is not the US. Our enemy is here,” Iranians chanted in street protests over oil prices last November.
Photograph by Ebrahim Noroozi/AP
Look Closer: Rugs, Giant Board Game, or Something Far More Poignant?
The scene seems patriotic, with workers carefully applying all 50 stars to American flags before hanging them to dry. Some 1.5 million square feet of red, white and blue fabric are used each year at this factory.
The idea for the quilt was hatched by activist Cleve Jones during the candlelight march in remembrance of the 1978 assassinations of San Francisco city supervisor Harvey Milk and Mayor George Moscone.
The first display of the quilt was in 1987, in Washington, D.C., and it was displayed again in 1996 to be visited by President Bill Clinton and Hillary Rodham Clinton. It was shown again at the time of the XIX International AIDS Conference in 2012.
Look Closer is a new photo series by OZY that encourages readers to see beyond a seemingly normal photo. Hover over the circles to explore the photo more deeply.
This could be Washingtonians standing beside a giant board game on the National Mall. But look beyond a glance and you’ll see that the spectators are gathered around the NAMES Project AIDS Memorial Quilt on a crisp October day in 1996. The expansive, colorful AIDS Memorial Quilt — with more than 44,000 panels weighing over 10,000 pounds — was designed to be an eye-catching tool for a national prevention campaign that portrayed the humanity behind the statistics. The idea for the project was hatched in 1985 by activist Cleve Jones and other volunteers during a candlelight march in remembrance of the 1978 assassinations of San Francisco city supervisor Harvey Milk and Mayor George Moscone.
In more ways than one, 1996 was an inflection point. It was the first year since the epidemic started that saw the AIDS incidence rate and deaths decline. In the same year, Time magazine Man of the Year was granted to AIDS researcher Dr. David Ho. The doctor was a pioneer in the use of drug “cocktails,” or combinations, to fight the virus. At the time, 23 million people worldwide were estimated to be living with HIV/AIDS, and more than 6 million people had already died.
“When the history of this era is written, it is likely that the men and women who turned the tide on AIDS will be seen as true heroes of the age,” Time wrote about Dr. Ho. By 2017, more than two decades later, nearly 37 million people had HIV/AIDS worldwide, according to UNAIDS.
Today, remembrance and commitment to LGBTQ rights are no less pressing. Pride Month, which commemorates the Stonewall riots of 1969 in Manhattan, is simultaneously a time for resistance and celebration. Among those both within and outside the LGBTQ community, this month evokes an intentional remembrance of decades of hard-fought progress that LGBTQ activists have made in demanding equal rights in American society. At the same time, it’s a reminder that democracy requires the active participation of all — and that the battle for equality is neither over nor won.
Photograph by Shayna Brennan/AP
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By Nick Fouriezos
The burning isn’t confined to American flags: the factory also creates Israeli and British flags, which are rolled out depending on what nation the Islamic Republic is most frustrated with at the moment.
As of late, American and Iranian relations have been particularly heated, given the assassination of Iranian Gen. Qasseim Solemaini by a U.S. drone strike in January.
It turns out that this production space is not in the United States at all. It’s actually a factory in Iran, hundreds of miles southwest of the capital of Tehran. Some 2,000 flags are made during the busiest months … so that they may be burnt in state-sponsored protests against the United States.