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A Graphic Novel Illustrates Cybersecurity, Gender, and Sexuality in Contemporary Iran

Graphic novel website 'Jensiat' tackles these issues with reader guides, expert advice, and the 6-part story of Leila, a young Iranian entrepreneur.

Jensiat is a newly launched online graphic novel addressing cybersecurity, gender, and sexuality in contemporary Iran. The site, designed and developed by UK-based Small Media, is the combined effort of a team of journalists, writers, and artists seeking to bring light to these issues through a story any young Iranian can relate to. Leila, the story’s protagonist, is a 34-year-old aspiring entrepreneur returning to Iran after over a decade spent studying and working abroad. In her six-part series, written by satirist Kioomars Marzban and illustrated by Vahid Fazel, Leila encounters all the trials and triumphs of a single, ambitious woman: the competition of the tech industry, the frustration of slippery gender politics in the workplace and beyond, the support of similarly minded friends—including the story’s central love interest Jamshid, an Iranian-American digital rights activist—and the thrill of heading a startup, a project Leila calls jensiat.io. 

Leila and her story, however, are only a fraction of Jensiat’s function. The site also aims to serve as a tool for readers—especially Iranian readers, as the site is written entirely in Farsi—to learn about the issues raised in the narrative, such as gender inequality and internet security. “From our knowledge of the Internet space and Internet users in Iran, we know that digital security practices are not necessarily concerns that come naturally to Iranians,” Mahsa Alimardani, Jensiat’s producer, tells The Creators Project. “We’re hoping to get fans who genuinely care about Leila’s life and struggles, and to follow along, and start raising more awareness and discussions about how to implement day-to-day technologies such as Signal or PGP into their daily lives.” The Jensiat team achieves this through an incorporation of digital security guides, blog posts, and alternative browsers aimed at encouraging an informed consciousness of personal social media and online activity. “It’s not revolutionary,” says Alimardani, “just a way to implement thinking about day-to-day practices and discussions.”

Jensiat launched its first episode last week, along with the site’s corresponding Facebook Page, Twitter, and Instagram. Below, see a snippet from Leila's story. 

The second episode of Jensiat will be released on March 24. Follow the story at jensiat.io or via the series’ FacebookTwitter, and Instagram. Check out Small Media’s previous projects on their website

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