Iranian Celebrities Shun President Rouhani’s Ramadan Dinner Invitation
Several Iranian celebrities publicly turned down President Hassan Rouhani’s invitation to attend a Ramadan “iftar” dinner scheduled for May 30, 2018, in protest against social and economic issues with the hashtag, “We_will_not_go_to_Iftar” #ما_به_افطاری_نخواهیم_رفت.
Actress Mahnaz Afshar tweeted on May 28, “I thank Your Excellency for the invitation but would like to ask you to instead invite human rights activist and political prisoner Atena Daemi, who just turned 30 in Gharchak Prison in Varamin and has now been moved to Evin Prison. She is not a criminal. All she has done is fight for people’s rights.”
Daemi has been serving a seven-year prison sentence since November 2016 for the charges of meeting the families of political prisoners, criticizing the Islamic Republic of Iran on Facebook and condemning the 1988 mass executions of political prisoners in Iran.
Shila Khodadad, also an actress, criticized the president via her Instagram page on May 29 for not honoring his campaign pledges: “Do you need our help again, Mr. President? Do you need the support of actors, the elite and athletes again? I will not attend the reception because I am disappointed in you for the smaller plates of food on people’s tables, for the high price of the dollar, for the lack of attention to the children who are mistreated and abused, for the high prices of drugs, and for the narcotics that are easily available to teens and young people.”
Reacting to the rejected invitations, government spokesman Mohammad Bagher Nobakht told reporters on May 29 that the president had carried out his promises “as much as the country could take.”
“Nobody likes to lose the support of his friends,” he added. “The government is reasonable and wants to do the right thing. Tell us where we came up short and we will take action.”
That same day famous actor Parviz Parastui wrote on his Instagram page, “Given the bad economic times and the people’s mental state, my colleagues and I are of the humble opinion that these expensive events, of which there are more than a few, are not so necessary.”
He continued: “In recent years experience has shown that you are more aware of these problems than we are and you have mentioned them on various occasions. But it looks like we only have to be content with the fact that you are only going to talk about these problems and you understand them as we do.”
Veteran actor Amin Tarokh also wrote on Instagram, “Mr. Rouhani, we celebrated and danced when we voted for you. Now is no time to celebrate. We are in mourning for voting. Leave us alone.”
Actress Anahita Hemmati wrote on Instagram, “Hello Mr. President, I will not come to your Iftar event… Every day the people have less and less to eat… Every day there’s more disease and poverty in Sistan and Baluchestan Province… Earthquake victims continue to suffer for years in Bam and now in Kermanshah, the water and the air in most provinces are full of dust, our Kurdish compatriots suffer almost on a daily basis, the kulbar couriers continue to be shot and killed and even their horses are riddled with bullets, the women’s situation is getting more deplorable in every field you can imagine… They continue to be targets of acid attacks and backward laws have not been fixed… Families have to beg in order to get treatment and buy medicines and they are even willing to sell their body parts… There are artists who are banned and works of art that are censored… For years we have been suffocating under the drip of iron claws… These are the realities of poverty that the people and I are grappling with and every little protest is suppressed. Under these conditions, I don’t think it’s appropriate to attend such a reception.”
Actress Parastou Golestani wrote on Instagram: “Dear Mr. President, the Honorable Hassan Rouhani, when our people are in hardship, and some of them don’t even have anything to eat, we will not be able to swallow the food at these Iftar receptions. So, I will not be attending. You can sit around and enjoy the food by yourselves and maybe when you hear the call to prayers, you might think about the poor.”
Actress Fatemeh Goudarzi wrote on Instagram, “Supporting you carries a heavy price, Mr. President. If I attend your reception, how can I answer the people who are facing so many difficulties today on top of past problems?”
Actress Felor Nazari noted on Instagram hat many of her colleagues were either banned from working in the movie industry or from traveling freely inside and outside Iran, adding, “I will not come to this reception. We and the people had put our trust in you. I wish you had not turned our hopes and dreams into despair and regret. I wish.”
Musician Mehrnaz Dabirzadeh wrote on Instagram, “Art naturally creates joy. But I don’t see my people happy these days. I don’t think it’s appropriate to attend this event.”
The Fars News Agency, a mouthpiece for the hardline Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, devoted full coverage to the artists’ boycott and claimed that many who supported Rouhani’s re-election in May 2017 were now abandoning him.
Defending the president’s work, government spokesman Bagher Nobakht told reporters on May 29 that the largest funds allocation in the current national budget, 97 trillion tomans or approximately $23 billion USD, had been slotted for welfare projects.
Nobakht also denied the notion that the people have been worse off economically since Rouhani came to power and called on the country’s experts and elites to help the government make improvements.