Filmmaker’s Family Blocked From Boarding Flight in Tehran: “Iran is Sick and Making Everyone Sick”
Several members of internationally acclaimed filmmaker Bahman Ghobadi’s family have been banned from leaving Iran and his mother has been summoned for questioning, Ghobadi told the Center for Human Rights in Iran (CHRI) on September 23, 2019.
Two months earlier, fellow independent filmmaker Mohammad Rasoulof was sentenced to one year in prison for the content of his films.
CHRI has documented multiple instances of the Iranian authorities banning critics of state policies, former political prisoners, and their family members from leaving the country to prevent them from speaking to foreign organizations and media outlets.
Security agencies have also imprisoned and harrassed family members of journalists who live abroad.
In August 2019, award-winning Iranian actress Pegah Ahangarani discovered that she had been banned from leaving the country for having participated in street protests in 2009—an event she was making a documentary about.
Maryam Mombeini, the widow of Kavous Seyed-Emami—an Iranian-Canadian sociologist and conservationist who died while held for interrogations in Tehran’s Evin Prison—has also been banned from leaving the country to join her two sons in Canada.
An Iranian citizen of Kurdish descent who left Iran several years ago after coming under intense pressure from the country’s security establishment, Ghobadi said he was expecting to meet his mother, Iran Hamzehie, and other relatives in the Turkish capital of Ankara.
But agents of the Iranian Intelligence Ministry blocked them from boarding their flight at the Imam Khomeini International Airport in Tehran.
“After several years, my mother, brother, his kids and my sister were supposed to come to Ankara so we could spend time together,” Ghobadi said. “But when they went to the airport on Saturday [September 21], their passports were confiscated and they were not allowed to travel.”
Ghobadi said his family’s passports were returned “after several hours” at which point they bought new tickets, “but when they went back to the airport, the Intelligence Ministry agents again took their passports and held them in a room for eight hours.”
Before leaving the airport, Ghobadi’s mother was given a summons to appear at the court in Evin Prison in Tehran.
A recipient of the Cannes Film Festival’s Un Certain Regard Prize, Ghobadi currently lives in New York City.
He told CHRI that his brother, fellow filmmaker Behrouz Ghobadi, was targeted because the Iranian government wants to prevent him from publicly discussing his prolonged detention in the custody of the Intelligence Ministry, which operates under President Hassan Rouhani.
Behrouz Ghobadi’s friendship with Mazyar Ebrahimi—an Iranian businessman who recently told the BBC that he was forced to make false confessions under torture while in the custody of the Intelligence Ministry—also put a target on his back, added Bahman Ghobadi.
Ebrahimi’s recent interviews with foreign media have become a source of embarrassment for Iran’s security establishment and sparked criticisms in Parliament.
“When Mazyar was arrested, several of his friends were also taken into custody, including my brother and one of my friends Rahmatollah Moadi, a fellow filmmaker, who was making a film in Sanandaj [capital of Iran’s Kurdistan Province) at the time,” said Ghobadi.
He continued: “My brother was detained for seven or eight months and when he was released, he wouldn’t speak to us. He was depressed and angry. He always displayed a bitter smile. His face aged 10 years. He became a completely different person. He still has that anger and sadness. I think the authorities are afraid that if my brother leaves the country, he would make revelations against them and talk about his time in detention.”
Ghobadi added: “When Mazyar courageously exposed the circumstances surrounding his case, Behrouz told me he had been ordered to keep quiet. Behrouz said two years after his release from detention, he was summoned to the Intelligence Ministry in Tehran and [given a bill] for the so-called expenses for keeping him in detention. They forced him to sign a receipt while being filmed. During these years, my brother has not spoken about these things out of fear.”
The filmmaker continued: “I came from New York to Ankara to see my family after many years. I scheduled an appointment for my mother to see a doctor. She has had three minor strokes. But suddenly all of them have been banned from leaving the country.
“My mother is 80-years old. No one in the world detains an 80-year-old mother. I hope one day Rouhani and (Supreme Leader Ali) Khamenei’s mothers are held-up and mistreated somewhere for just a minute so that they would understand what a means to humiliate a mother. My mother was insulted. They broke her spirit. They forced me to speak out after staying quiet for several years. Iran is sick and making everyone sick.”
Read this article in Persian.