Passion for tattoos leads to lashings in Iran

One hundred lashes and six months in jail – when it comes to tattooing, Iran’s regime takes a harsh line. Tattoo artist Mohsen Karimi experienced just that and is determined to continue his work anyway.
The day he was arrested Mohsen Karimi wanted to kill himself. Although it is now a year and a half ago that day still haunts him. Mohsen Karimi is not his real name. He was released from jail only a short time ago. Using his real name might endanger him again.

We are in the courtyard of a fancy art gallery in northern Tehran, where the chic boutiques and cafés line the busy boulevards. High walls shield the tables from the noise of the traffic, which never stops in Tehran. Although it is fairly cold, Karimi and his friends are sitting outside. Cups with steaming tea, packages of cigarettes and mobile phones are scattered on the table.

Karimi is around 30. With his stubbly hair and moustache, he would blend into any of Berlin’s hip neighborhoods. Until last year he had his own studio at his home. His skills with the tattoo gun were well-known in Tehran, and his customers included famous athletes from the national soccer team. So he thought he was safe. And then one day 25 revolutionary guards with a warrant forced their way into his studio.