Celebrities in Iran face punishment for supporting protests over Mahsa Amini’s death

Subtraction, the dark thriller from award-winning Iranian filmmaker Mani Haghighi, will screen at the prestigious London Film Festival on Saturday.

But on Friday he joined a growing list of Iranian celebrities, including artists, filmmakers and athletes who have been arrested or banned from traveling for supporting a nationwide uprising which, despite a bloody crackdown, shows no signs of abating. approaching her second month.

“Maybe the authorities thought that by keeping me here they could keep a closer eye on me, maybe to threaten me and shut me up?” Haghighi said Friday in a video posted to his Instagram page. “Well, the very fact that I’m talking to you in this video right now kind of undermines that plan.”

Protests led by women and young people in Iran have quickly become one of the biggest challenges in years to the iron grip of Iranian religious leaders.

The murder of another teenage protester gives the Iranian uprising a new symbol

The protests began in mid-September after 22-year-old Mahsa Amini died while in police custody for an alleged dress code violation that sparked outrage. Amini’s death and authorities’ efforts to cover it up quickly became symbolic of decades of political repression, poverty, gender discrimination and state-sponsored violence, among other grievances fueling weeks of unrest.

Iranian leaders have blamed the protests on foreign “instigators”, launching internet and communications blackouts and a wide-ranging, violent crackdown that has included raids on schools, firing live ammunition to disperse protests and mass arrests. At least 144 people were killed, including 23 minors, according to Amnesty International.

Despite the crackdown, vivid videos of women defiantly removing their compulsory veils and protesters clashing with security forces have garnered global support. Oscar-winning actresses and European politicians have posted videos of themselves cutting their hair in solidarity.

Some Iranians and rights groups have called for a more forceful and coordinated response from Washington, the European Union and the United Nations.

“Without urgent action at the international level, this will only continue and get worse,” said Raha Bahreini, Iran researcher at Amnesty International, based in London.

The Biden administration early on expressed support for the protests and condemned Tehran’s violent crackdown.

The demonstrations of opinion in Iran have erupted in the world. What does the world say in return?

“Today I met with civil society partners to discuss what more the United States can do to support the people of Iran, especially their brave women and daughters, the Secretary of State said. Anthony Blinken. tweeted Friday accompanied by a photo of the meeting.

Iranian actress and activist Nazanin Boniadi, who attended the meeting, also met with Vice President Harris on Friday. The pair discussed ways to build US support, “including making it easier for Iranians to access the internet, and holding Iranian officials accountable for their brutality and abuse,” according to an account. report of the meeting.

But for those speaking out in Iran, even Iranians with international influence, the risks keep growing.

‘Bloody Friday’: Witnesses describe Iran’s deadliest crackdown on protests

Haghighi said authorities blocked him from boarding his flight on Friday and confiscated his passport.

They gave him no explanation for “this totally rude behavior,” he said in his video statement.

Haghighi said his ban came after posting on Instagram, “in which I criticized Iran’s mandatory hijab laws, and the crackdown on young people protesting this and so many other instances of injustice in their life”.

Prominent Iranian actor Hamid Farrokhnezhad said in an Instagram Story on Oct. 9 that he had been summoned for hours of questioning and banned from traveling.

“I was summoned twice, interrogated for 10 hours and banned from leaving the country to prove myself wrong when I said that even a peaceful protest is not possible in this country,” Farrokhnezhad said. , reported Radio Farda.

Other celebrities have faced work bans and harassment upon returning home.

Singer Homayoun Shajarian and his wife, actress Sahar Dolatshahi, had their passports seized after returning from a concert in Australia, ILNA news agency reported on October 9.

Iranian soccer legend Ali Daei said authorities also confiscated his passport when he arrived at Tehran airport. The former head coach of Iran’s national football team and star player in Germany’s professional football association Bundesliga has posted messages of support for the protests on social media.

“Our former player Ali Daei is no longer allowed to leave the country because he spoke out for women’s rights,” said German soccer club Hertha Berlin. tweeted on October 9. “Solidarity with all Herthanians and women in Iran who are fighting so bravely for their rights.”

Daei said on October 10 that his passport had been returned. At the airport, he said, he was given a receipt “to go to the public and revolutionary prosecutor in the capital to follow up the case”, AFP reported.

Dubai-based Ali Karimi, considered one of Iran’s greatest soccer players and an early supporter of the protests, was charged in absentia on October 4 with “encouraging riots”, the report reported. Mehr news agency.

How a viral song became the unofficial anthem of the Iranian protests

Some Iranian artists have become internationally known through state efforts to silence them. In late September, authorities arrested Iranian singer Shervin Hajipour after he shared a tribute to the protests on his Instagram page. The song, a compilation of tweets explaining why Iranians were protesters, quickly went viral as the soundtrack to the uprising. Hajipour was released on bail in early October.

Despite decades of state censorship, Iran has a thriving arts scene. Artists and other celebrities have long been frequent targets in times of turmoil.

In July, authorities arrested two award-winning filmmakers, Mohammad Rasoulof and Mostafa Aleahmad, for their participation in protests against the collapse of a 10-story luxury commercial building. Dozens of people were killed when reports surfaced that the municipality had a stake in the building and approved a shoddy building plan.

When internationally acclaimed filmmaker Jafar Panahi went to the prosecutor’s office to inquire about the detention of his colleagues, the authorities also arrested him.

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