Authorities Close Cultural Events in Tehran Despite Rouhani’s Recent Support of Artists
Over the past few days, Iranian authorities have inexplicably delayed and cancelled two cultural events in Tehran. The first was a well-publicized group exhibition of paintings commemorating the birthday of the beloved female poet, Forough Farrokhzad, scheduled to open in Tehran’s Vista Gallery on Friday, January 10. The exhibition, which promised to be a rich collection of works with the shared theme of her life, was scheduled to be accompanied by a series of seminars on poetry, cinema, and painting. According to Rooz-e-No website, “a state organization” informed the exhibition managers on the morning of January 10 that the exhibition must be shut down, without providing any reasons.
The exhibition opened two days later on Sunday, January 12, citing “technical difficulties” for its delayed opening, without further explanation.
Meanwhile, the annual cultural gathering organized by the popular magazine Chelcheragh was cancelled minutes before its start on Sunday, January 12, with hundreds of people held outside the venue in Tehran’s cold January. “A cultural program was scheduled, but unfortunately, we were unable to secure the necessary permits; therefore, tonight’s program is cancelled,” said Fereidoon Amouzadeh Khalili, managing editor of Chelcheragh. However, ILNA News Agency reported, “Although all necessary permits were secured from the Police, the Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance, and all the related organizations, the celebration was cancelled moments before its opening.”
Some of the 1,000 guests waiting outside said the reason for the cancellation was that former Iranian President Mohammad Khatami had been invited as a guest to the event. Khalili did not confirm this news and only told the crowd, “I have told you whatever I could tell you.” Among the many Iranian celebrities present to attend the event, film actress and Chelcheragh contributor Bahareh Rahnama apologized to the crowd and offered, “Chelcheragh does not wish to insult anyone. The staff has planned for this program for months. As a very small member of this group, I kiss the guests’ hands and to keep the matter from getting worse, we suffice it to this explanation. We don’t know the reason for the cancellation ourselves; all we can do is to apologize for it.”
General Hossein Sajedinia, the Greater Tehran Police Commander, said, “The ceremony was cancelled on orders from the Tehran General and Revolutionary Courts Prosecutor.”
The cancellations came almost immediately after Hassan Rounani addressed a group of Iranian authors, artists, musicians, actors, and directors at Tehran’s Vahdat Hall on Wednesday, January 8. Rouhani promised to revive the Tehran Symphony Orchestra and the National Orchestra, which both shut down during the Ahmadinejad era, and said, “No real art is created in an atmosphere that is not free; in the realm of arts, creativity and creation cannot happen on command,” adding, “the government’s responsibility is not to interfere in the arts.”
The statements met with an angry response from Javad Karimi Ghoddousi, a member of the Iranian Parliament’s National Security Commission. “Where required, the Parliament will use all its capacities against the administration. The Parliament tries to direct all efforts to where the country and the people’s best interests lie, and moving along this path, [the Parliament] will issue notices, ask questions, impeach, and summon the President to the Parliament to provide answers,” Ghoddousi told Fars News Agency.
“Some of the President’s actions, such as the statements he made to the artists, are extreme actions and we hope that they will not continue. Instead of discussing marginal issues, Mr. Rouhani should have submitted some bills to the Parliament in the area of economic issues,” said Javad Karimi Ghoddpiso.