In Brief

Artists’s Work Caught in Canadian Customs Quagmire

Sadaf Foroughi's rendering of her peep box currently being held by Canadian customs (screenshot via
Sadaf Foroughi’s rendering of her peep box currently being held by Canadian customs (screenshot via

Canadian Border Services have barred Iranian-born filmmaker Sadaf Foroughi from bringing an artwork into Canada because of the country’s sanctions against Iran, the Globe and Mail reported. Foroughi, who is a permanent resident of Canada, worked for two years on the piece, an adaptation of a traditional Iranian peep box, or shahre farang, inside of which she planned to project videos she’d filmed. But when the box arrived at Montreal’s Trudeau airport, Canada Border Services Agency refused to let it enter the country, citing the country’s ban on imports and exports from Iran. Foroughi and her lawyer are arguing that the artwork is not a commercial object but a personal one, and therefore should fall under an exemption, but the border agency seems unfazed.

“We can confirm that the sanctions on Iran contain an exemption for the import and export of personal effects. Whether or not a specific item counts as an exemption to our sanctions is subject to legal interpretation,” Foreign Affairs Canada told CTV News Montreal. Speaking to the Globe and Mail, a spokesman for the department added, “Canada will not apologize for standing up for the Iranian people.”

The border problems may signal a new wave of tensions between Canada and Iran. Canadian Prime Minister Steven Harper and his government have been critical of Iran, and a number of observers have noted Harper’s increasingly aggressive policy towards the country, which a prominent Canadian opposition politician called a ploy for votes.

Ironically enough, Foroughi’s project was subsidized by the Canada Council for the Arts. And, to add insult to injury, she’s being charged $105 a day for the artwork to be stored at an airport warehouse, even though she isn’t allowed to access it. Foroughi has spent $2,000 so far, and the storage company says it must turn the object over to customs for destruction after 30 days. Those 30 days are up in 10.

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