BIO

Kamran Ashtary is an artist, researcher, and human rights defender who lives and works in Amsterdam. Justice and the personal struggle with history as lived and as reported are at the heart of all of his work. 

His art is influenced by those who mentored him when he was beginning to work and study as an artist: the artists Hans Haacke, Helly Oestricher, and Marlies Appel, and the philosopher Bert Taken.

Kamran was born in Arak, the dusty capital of Iran’s Central Province. He was born into a Muslim family in Iran in the early 1960s. He came of age at a tumultuous time, when everything was in flux and revolution was coming. As a young teenager, Kamran became caught up in Iran’s political upheavals.  He was just old enough to be active during the time of the Shah and to participate in the revolution that toppled him. When it became clear that leftists and others in opposition to the new Islamist regime were being targeted for torture, imprisonment, and execution, Kamran fled the country. The Netherlands became his new home.

He became a citizen of the Netherlands where he graduated in art from the Rietveld Academy in Amsterdam. He also completed a one year scholarship at The Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art in New York City.

After graduating from the Rietveld Academy, Kamran was invited by the New York Transit Museum to direct the Children’s Photography Project which he had co-founded two years earleir. Kamran led and organized two summer long photography workshops for children from Brooklyn’s Gowanus housing projects. The project was featured on CNN and the Japanese news network NHK and was covered by multiple New York City newspapers. The children’s work was publicly exhibited to more than 100,000 people.

In 2006, to honor the 400th anniversary of Rembrandt’s birth, he was commissioned by Embassy of the Netherlands in Tehran to design and implement first exhibit of Rembrandt’s graphical work. After the success of the show, he designed the exhibit “Rembrandt & the Golden Age” exhibit which was hosted at the Saba culture center in Tehran The show was covered by the press in and outside Iran.

He has also been a member of several professional organizations and presented a number of lectures.

Currently Kamran is the executive director of Arseh Sevom, a civil society organization focused on Iran. He is frequently interviewed in the press about Iran and has given lectures on media in closed societies in Budapest, Athens, Berlin, New York, and Amsterdam. For several years he was also an invited speaker for Amnesty International’s Movies that Matter festival.

Since 2010, Kamran has spoken on human rights in secondary schools in the Netherlands as part of an Amnesty International effort.

Kamran’s work has been published and exhibited all over the world. He is also the co-author of the photo book Iran: View from Here (2007) and editor and art director of the book Hope, Votes & Bullets (2009).

His work has been exhibited in the Netherlands, Iran, California, and New York and published in various books and magazines.