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‘A personal attack on Muslim women’: Ms Saffaa mural defaced in Melbourne

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A Melbourne street-art mural featuring a Muslim feminist protest paste-up by prominent artist and activist Ms Saffaa has been defaced in an act of vandalism the artist has labeled a “personal attack on Muslim women”.

Featuring pictures of well-known Saudi activists and artists, women in headscarves, Saudi poetry and a pink stencilling of the words “radical Muslim”, the mural was defaced on Saturday night, with the faces of the women blacked out and the words painted over.

Ms Saffaa collaborated on the mural with a handful of emerging and well-known female artists, including the American writer and artist Molly Crabapple. Saffaa said she believed the vandalism was fuelled by a political climate of rising anti-Muslim sentiment.

“I almost wanted to cry … it’s quite disheartening,” said Saffaa, a Saudi-Australian artist. She expected the work to be tagged by other street or graffiti artists, but says the extensive defacing had more aggressive overtones.

The self-funded work, which went up in December, took months of preparation and ten eight-hour days to complete, she said.

“I feel like it’s not just an attack on me but them too,” she said, referring to the Saudi women represented in her work. “What do I tell these women? You have to fight the misogynist men back home and the Islamophobic racist bigots in this country?”

The mural forms part of the #iammyownguardian campaign, a movement protesting Saudi Arabia’s guardianship system which prohibits women from travelling, marrying or even leaving prison without the permission of a male guardian. Saffaa’s imagery – featuring a face shrouded in the Saudi shemagh – became emblematic of the movement.

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