#NotACrime uses murals to spread education, human rights message

HARLEM, New York City (WABC) -- There are a several murals going up with strong messages about human rights and education across Harlem, all part of a campaign started by a journalist who was once imprisoned in Iran.

The area is home to plenty of murals, but the new ones have their roots in a provocative campaign called Not a Crime. The message is that getting an education shouldn't be a crime, but it is in some countries like in Iran, where thousands are barred from school because of their Baha'i religion.

"If you're denying a group of people of their rights, it will cost the whole community," Maziar Bahari said.

Bahari, who was working as a reporter for Newsweek when he was held captive, now lobbies for those without a voice after he spent four months in prison.

"I think I decided to do things like this while I was in prison," he said. "Because I knew there was an amazing campaign for me (to be released)...and I promised myself when I come out of prison, I will do the same for other people who do not have a voice, to be the voice of the voiceless."

He started the mural project last year, and there are now murals around the world. A few were put up in Harlem, and they were so well received that the area of Manhattan is now a focal point.

"They understood the message of the campaign," he said. "With the specific history of Harlem, the history of civil struggle here, and it was not an alien subject to them. It was something that they could really relate to."

Currently, the sixth mural is going up as part of this summer's campaign, and at least nine more will go up in the coming weeks.

"As a street artist and being able to put my work publicly, it's so nice to be able to raise awareness for certain causes," artist Elle said. "It feels so much nicer to have something behind the wall than just a nice image."

Elle's mural is on West 126th Street and will be 20 feet by 65 feet.

"I thought it was a really great concept to collage together different faces of different humans and different women," she said, "To bring together the idea that we are all one in humanity."

It's art on the walls to educate and inspire, and if you're not planning to walk through Harlem to see them, Not a Crime will also post digital versions to spread the word with the hopes of changing policy.

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