Dozens of artists in Iran’s cinema, theater and music industries have been banned from work or expelled from the country for their support of the current anti-government protests.
In an article published by the reformist daily Shargh on Monday, Iran’s House of Cinema, formerly known as the Iranian Alliance of Motion Picture Guilds, said it had compiled a list of 100 filmmakers and other film, music and theater personalities both were arrested or banned from working.
The newspaper said the list was prepared in cooperation with the Iranian Theater Forum and the Iranian Music House, but was not published for security reasons. However, it said documentary filmmaker Mozhgan Ilanlou and actress Katayoun Riahi were among those currently arrested, adding that the detained artists were being held in Evin and other prisons around Tehran, as well as in Tabriz and Sanandaj prisons.
Documentary filmmaker Mozhgan Ilanlou
According to Shargh, a 10-person task force has been set up to keep a list of actions taken against artists and track their whereabouts. One of its members, Mehdi Kouhian, himself a producer and legal expert, said there is no accurate data on the number of artists arrested or banned because the authorities do not publicly announce such things. He added that the most recent detainees either protested online or took part in street rallies.
According to the article, in recent months, “the most famous actors and directors” have been banned from work and had some of their contracts terminated while working on projects.
No matter how long the list of artists banned or arrested, the list of celebrities expressing support for the uprising is larger. Every day more and more Iranian actresses and athletes appear in public or post photos of themselves without the obligatory hijab of the Islamic Republic as a show of solidarity, while many male artists express their support verbally or by attending protest rallies.
Iranian actresses Khazar Ma’soomi (left), Donya Madani (middle) and Taraneh Alidoosti
However, Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei called such acts of support “worthless” in a speech last month and urged the judiciary to deal with them.
Even before the current wave of protests began in mid-September, the Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance had started to take action against filmmakers and artists who were critical of the regime. About a month before the protests began, Mohammad Khazaei, the head of the ministry’s film department, spoke of a list of filmmakers and actors banned for various reasons. Such a list has existed on and off for the past several decades, but it was the first time a senior official spoke about it publicly.
In August, Culture Minister Mohammad Mahdi Esmaili defended the ban on artists and again threatened them to stop working “against the national interests” of the Islamic Republic.
Filmmakers arrested on Saturday Jafar Panahi and Mohammad Rasoulof issued a statement from Evin prison, warning of a serious deterioration in the health of dissident blogger Hossein Ronaghi, who has been on hunger strike for the past 50 days before being hospitalized on Sunday.
In July, the Iranian judiciary announced that award-winning film director Jafar Panahi was being held in Evin prison serve his six-year sentence. Panahi, who has won numerous awards including the Golden Leopard at the Locarno Festival, the Golden Lion in Venice and the Silver Bear at the Berlinale previously arrested while protesting the detention of two other award-winning filmmakers, Mohammad Rasoulof and Mostafa Alehahmad.
Rasoulof – another prominent filmmaker with several international awards such as the Golden Bear – and Alehahmad – known for his short films at international film galas – were arrested on July 8 as part of the Iranian crackdown on the signers of a collective declaration entitled “Put down your arms‘ Released by more than 100 film industry personalities at the end of May.
The statement had urged military and security forces, which “have become tools to crack down on the people,” not to repress protesters during a wave of protests across Iran sparked when a 10-story building collapsed in Abadan, killing at least 40 people and leaving dozens missing.