Skip To Content
JEWISH. INDEPENDENT. NONPROFIT.
Culture

Persian Gates

Krista Nassi, an Iranian Jewish artist in her 30s, made it through Tehran’s Institute of Graphic Design and Architecture and earned a master’s degree in art from Tehran’s University of Art. But when the installation artist tried to have her work displayed in one of the state-funded archives in 2000, she was turned away. She tried to enroll in a doctoral art program at Tehran University but was denied — four times.

“When I asked them why they would not allow me to register, they gave me different absurd reasons and I slowly realized it was because I was Jewish,” Nassi said in a recent interview with the Forward. “Finally one of the assistants at the college told me flat out, ‘Miss, you are from the worst of the minority groups, so don’t waste your time trying to register.’”

Perhaps she shouldn’t have been surprised. After all, Nassi has spent more than 10 years making a name for herself in the art world by focusing on some controversial themes — women’s rights, marriage and other touchy societal issues. She won a number of international art competitions, including a Gold Medal at the prestigious 10th Asian Art Biennial competition in 2002. And yet, because of this acclaim, she continued to encounter antisemitism from her colleagues in Iran, and was even slandered at one point after being called “Joohood,” a derogatory Persian word for a Jew.

“In one instance, after I won one of my awards a number of people came up to me and said, ‘You are a Joohood girl who thinks she can be something, but we’ll stop you from going any further,’” Nassi said.

In 2004, Nassi left Iran and settled in the large Persian community of Los Angeles, where she has literally started with a fresh canvas. She has been creating more of her installation pieces, with themes of Judaism and the Holocaust, which she had never been able to explore in the past, closest to her heart. At right is a selection of her work.

I hope you appreciated this article. Before you go, I’d like to ask you to please support the Forward’s award-winning, nonprofit journalism during this critical time.

Now more than ever, American Jews need independent news they can trust, with reporting driven by truth, not ideology. We serve you, not any ideological agenda.

At a time when other newsrooms are closing or cutting back, the Forward has removed its paywall and invested additional resources to report on the ground from Israel and around the U.S. on the impact of the war, rising antisemitism and the protests on college campuses.

Readers like you make it all possible. Support our work by becoming a Forward Member and connect with our journalism and your community.

Make a gift of any size and become a Forward member today. You’ll support our mission to tell the American Jewish story fully and fairly. 

— Rachel Fishman Feddersen, Publisher and CEO

Join our mission to tell the Jewish story fully and fairly.

Republish This Story

Please read before republishing

We’re happy to make this story available to republish for free, unless it originated with JTA, Haaretz or another publication (as indicated on the article) and as long as you follow our guidelines. You must credit the Forward, retain our pixel and preserve our canonical link in Google search.  See our full guidelines for more information, and this guide for detail about canonical URLs.

To republish, copy the HTML by clicking on the yellow button to the right; it includes our tracking pixel, all paragraph styles and hyperlinks, the author byline and credit to the Forward. It does not include images; to avoid copyright violations, you must add them manually, following our guidelines. Please email us at [email protected], subject line “republish,” with any questions or to let us know what stories you’re picking up.

We don't support Internet Explorer

Please use Chrome, Safari, Firefox, or Edge to view this site.