“Why Should We Be Silent?” Colleagues Condemn Photographer’s Unjust Detention
Nooshin Jafari’s Supporters Push Back Against Social Media Smear Campaign
Several members of Iran’s film industry have spoken out against the detention of Nooshin Jafari, a film and theater photographer, who has been detained at an undisclosed location in Tehran since August 4, 2019.
The authorities have meanwhile refused to provide information about her to her family since she was arrested, the Center for Human Rights in Iran (CHRI) has learned.
“[The authorities] have always encouraged people to be silent about unlawful and extra-judicial misbehaviors and detentions,” said theater director Mohammad Yaghoubi on Instagram on August 9. “The only thing silence has done is embolden those who assault the people’s rights. They would love to go on abusing citizens.”
He continued: “Why should we be silent when the most basic civil protests are met with violence and brutality? Silence has always been a big mistake. The only way we can establish our rights is by raising awareness. Nooshin Jafari has been arrested for baseless reasons and keeping quiet will not be to her benefit. We should put ourselves in her shoes and imagine what she would expect. If one of our relatives gets arrested, what do we expect others to do?”
This is the second time Jafari has been taken into custody. In 2010, while working as a photographer for the reformist Etemad newspaper, she was arrested on suspicion of having participated in the mass protests of 2009 and ultimately issued a two-year suspended prison sentence on national security charges.
Suspended prison sentences in Iran function like parole in the U.S., wherein detainees are expected to follow specific rules to stay out of jail.
Jafari has supported social and human rights causes. In August 2016, she donated proceeds from her photo exhibitions to female victims of acid attacks from the city of Isfahan.
Anonymous Persian language Twitter accounts that operate as echo chambers for hardline politicians and policies speculated that Jafari’s latest arrest was due to her alleged cooperation with human rights investigators and alleged ties to a so-called “counter-revolutionary” account on Twitter.
These accounts, referred to as “arzeshi” in Persian—meaning someone who advocates Islamic Republic state policies and values—work to rally public opinion against citizens who’ve been detained under politically motivated charges, spread rumors about their alleged crimes, and create an atmosphere of fear.
Specifically, Jafari was accused of operating the Yare Dabestani (School Mate) anonymous Twitter account that posts commentary and articles that are critical of the Iranian government and its policies.
“I heard that Nooshin J., one of the agents working with human rights activists linked with Ahmad Batebi’s team, has been netted by one of the revolutionary organizations,” tweeted one of the arzeshi accounts on August 7. “The important point here is that Nooshin is also the author of an offensive anti-revolutionary Twitter account.”
Friends and Colleagues Push Back Against “Arzeshi” Claims
Jafari’s friends and colleagues in the photo and film industry, as well as journalists and former political prisoners, questioned the arzeshi’s unsubstantiated accusations in coming to her defense.
Former political prisoner Hossein Nooraninejad wrote: “The fact that news about someone’s arrest by the security forces first turned up in the Twitter accounts of online thugs shows the arbitrary and unlawful nature of this business, and even if the prisoner confesses a hundred times, certainly no one is going to believe them under these circumstances.”
“Nooshin was the stage photographer for a few of my films,” director Reza Dormishian wrote on Instagram on August 9. “During our work, I witnessed nothing in her but professionalism and a sense of responsibility and she was awarded Best Photographer of the Year at the 2nd Iranian Cinema Photographers Festival.”
“I hope this misunderstanding will be cleared soon,” he added.
Prominent theater and film actress Sahar Dolatshahi wrote: “The Nooshin I got to know was always a kind, affable girl. And a fantastic photographer. The talk and strange accusations being said about her are very distressing, worrying and beyond belief. So much so that I cannot match them with her image in my mind.”
Reacting to the accusations against Jafari, journalist Farzane Ebrahimzade tweeted, “Nooshin Jafari has always been my little camera-carrying friend… She is not any of the things you have written against her.”
Actor Asieh Bakeri tweeted, “Nooshin Jafari is a professional theater photographer who was putting all her time in her work. Anyone who has spoken to her for an hour knows that she’s not political at all. You are accusing her of having that account (Yare Dabestani) but the stuff in there is not her style at all! What you are doing is really nasty.”
According to journalist Mehdi Mahmoudian: “If you want to know how these dirty, forced-confessions are carried out, follow Nooshin Jafari’s case. [Security agents] first create [false] accounts and post all kinds of insulting things on it. Then their trolls start spreading dirt all over social media and then they arrest someone and accuse her of being the admin.”
Journalist Mira Ghorbanifar tweeted: “Nooshin Jafari was arrested a few days ago. The news was strange to us because in all these years we have only seen her as a calm, quiet girl who was just focused on her photography. Even more strange has been some of the things said against her by conservative account holders. They are so incompatible with Nooshin’s character that I don’t think even the accusers believe them.”
Read this article in Persian.