UN Special Rapporteur Should Visit Iranian Prisons, Says Husband of Imprisoned Actress
In an interview with the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran, celebrated Iranian filmmaker Nasser Taghvai said that despite statements made by the Prosecutor General last week, his wife, actress Marzieh Vafamehr, who was arrested more than a month ago for acting a role in the documentary “My Tehran For Sale,” has not yet been released. During a 26 July press conference, Prosecutor General Gholamhossein Mohseni Ejei said that actresses Pegah Ahangarani and Marzieh Vafamehr were going to be released soon, but Vafamehr remains in prison. Taghvai also asked the United Nations to dispatch Iran’s Special Rapporteur to Tehran as soon as possible to observe the conditions of prisoners up close and to somehow defend them.
“Last week, Mr. Ejei said that the actresses will be released. I read the names of Pegah Ahangarani and my wife, Marzieh Vafamehr, as the ones to be released. Two days after Mr. Ejei’s statements, Ms. Ahangarani and [Director Mahnaz] Mohammadi were released, but my wife was not. The Judge in my wife’s case sent her case to court. I believe sending the case to court was the only legal means he could have used to prevent carrying out Mr. Ejei’s order. Now I await two things: one, I wait for the Prosecutor General’s opinion about the situation of my wife’s case, and the other, my wife’s trial date. If they are going to put my wife on trial, they should determine its time as soon as possible. I am worried that it might take too long to schedule the trial and for her to remain inside the prison like this.”
“To the extent within my power, I go to people [to ask for help]. If this were for me, I would never go to seek anybody’s help, just as I have never done in my life, but this time, this is for another individual who could benefit from my help, my wife. With the backlog I see in courts, however, I don’t believe her trial will be held anytime soon. This means that she will have to remain in prison for a long time,” said Taghvai.
“It is a bitter tale why our artists should end up in prison for their profession; this is so painful. An actor cannot say I would do this in a film, or I wouldn’t do that in a film. [If they did,] nobody would give them work anymore. This film has a producer and a director. If there is a problem, they should be accountable. Why should my wife be punished for them? These arrests have a bad reflection both inside and outside the country. Right now, members of the Cinema House are worried that these events might keep happening. Over the past few days, Rakhshan Banietemad, Parviz Parastouee, and Amin Tarokh went and spoke with the Judge in Marzieh’s case, but it was useless,” added Taghvai.
“If the UN is going to send a Special Rapporteur to Iran, I would like to ask to include the names of all prisons and prisoners on his list, so that he may visit them, because they must be defended. When I went to prison to visit my wife, I saw really painful things.”
Asked whether he knew why despite the Prosecutor General’s statements his wife remains in prison, Taghvai said: “I believe the Judge in this case is acting arbitrarily, because he didn’t even agree to setting a bail. Now they claim that the reason Marzieh is not released is because of my interviews with foreign radio and television stations. But I started my interviews 16 days after his decision. Many people from the press knew that my wife had been arrested, but they respected my wish for not publicizing it and didn’t report it. I talked only when Judge Haji Mohammadi extended my wife’s temporary detention orders. I mean, I realized that my silence only accelerated his actions.”
“One morning, I woke up to learn that my wife’s detention news had been published in a lot of national and foreign media. There were problems with the way the news was published, and there were statements there that were not true. I had to talk to clarify matters. One of the statements was that the film did not have production and screening licenses and that it had been produced underground. All this was wrong. How can a film be made underground when most of its filming took place on Tehran streets?! How can they film the movie on Tehran streets for 15 days without a license?! What did they show the police when they were stopped?! Regarding the screening license, this was not a cinematic film and was not qualified to be shown in movie theaters, so of course it didn’t have a screening license! This is a 60-minute student/experimental film. I don’t know how the film’s CD was smuggled into Iran.”
Regarding the conditions of Gharchak Prison, where his wife is being held, Taghvai said: “It is a prison after all. It is not a five-star hotel. My wife says it would have been better if she was sent to Evin. But I don’t think so. Of course, I hope that Evin would be better than the Gharchak Prison as I have seen it.”