Arrests of Women in Iran’s Film Industry Escalate
The pressure, threats, and arrests of members of Iran’s film industry that began immediately following the 2009 presidential election has been focused on Iranian women in cinema over the past several weeks. Several sources in Iran told the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran that the arrest of documentary filmmaker Mahnaz Mohammadi, followed by the arrest of actresses Pegah Ahangarani and Marzieh Vafamehr, have created anxiety in the Iranian film industry. The sources told the Campaign that Iranian authorities wish to severe all relations between Iran’s film community and the outside world. Distinguished Iranian film director Nasser Taghvai told the Campaign that he was told the issue of arrests of film artists has been discussed at a meeting between officials from the Intelligence and Culture Ministries. At a meeting convened for this purpose, the Intelligence Minister and the Deputy Minister of Culture for Cinema and a high ranking official from the Intelligence Ministry were present, where subject of the recent arrests was discussed.
One week after Pegah Ahangarani’s arrest, at a press conference on Monday, 18 July, Tehran’s Prosecutor confirmed her arrest, saying “investigations about her continue,” and postponed answering all questions. The actress’s family have preferred to remain silent in view of the pressure put on them by the authorities. The 27-year-old actress, who is the daughter of prominent Iranian director Manijeh Hekmat, was arrested on 10 July at her home and was transferred to Evin Prison. Reporting her arrest, Deutsche Welle (DW) Persian announced that the Iranian actress was scheduled to report on the Women’s World Cup news from Germany on behalf of the website. DW Persian also reported that a day before Ahangarani’s scheduled flight to Germany, she was summoned to the Intelligence Ministry and threatened that if she tried to leave the country she would be arrested. Despite Ahangarani’s decision not to take the trip, she was still arrested. Ahangarani’s latest film, “No Men Allowed,” is currently showing in Iranian cinemas nationwide. Her charges are not yet known.
Marzieh Vafamehr’s temporary detention orders were extended last week. Vafamehr, the wife of Iranian director Nasser Taghvai, has been at Gharachak Prison in Varamin for the past month. Her charges are related to her role in the film, “My Tehran for Sale,” which was made three years ago by a film student.
Many members of Iran’s film industry who supported opposition candidates Mir Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi during the 2009 election have been paying a high price for their choices. Artists such as Homa Roosta, Mahtab Nassirpour, and Sina Razani, well-respected Iranian stage and screen actors, were arrested during street protests and others were threatened, imprisoned, or banned from foreign travel. Most notably, Iranian actress Fatemeh Motamed Aria has been banned from foreign travel. Internationally acclaimed directors Jafar Panahi and Mohammad Rasoulof were arrested and imprisoned in 2010. Panahi, who was sentenced to six years in prison, a 20 year ban on filmmaking, and a 20 year ban on being interviewed and traveling abroad, is currently released on bail awaiting his appeal result. Rasoulof was also sentenced to six years in prison, and is currently out on bail awaiting his appeal result.
Iranian documentary maker Mahnaz Mohammadi was arrested by security forces on 26 June, and so far the reasons for her arrest and her detention location are unknown.