“Celebrities demand release of Iranian actor Taraneh Alidoosti”
Tue 20 Dec 2022
By Patrick Wintour
Open letter signed by Emma Thompson, Mark Rylance and Steve McQueen expresses outrage at Oscar winner’s arrest
Film stars, playwrights, novelists and directors from across the world have rallied to the defence of the Iranian actor Taraneh Alidoosti, calling for her immediate release from the infamous Evin prison in Tehran.
The Oscar-winning actor was arrested at her home on Saturday and has since told her family she is being detained in Evin. She has been asked to explain Instagram posts in which she denounced the Iranian government for imposing the death penalty on protesters. She had posted a picture of herself in which she was not wearing the hijab and holding a piece of paper reading “women, life, freedom” – the slogan that has come to encapsulate a nationwide protest movement.
Iran’s government has been trying to extend its crackdown to cultural and sports celebrities that had been considered too popular for the regime to arrest.
The open letter has been signed by celebrities including Emma Thompson, Mark Rylance, Mark Ruffalo, Ken Loach, Mike Leigh, Steve McQueen, Ian McKellen, David Hare, Juliet Stevenson, and the American-Iranian actor Sepideh Moafi.
“The Iranian authorities have strategically chosen to arrest Taraneh before Christmas to ensure her international peers would be distracted,” the signatories write.
“But we are not distracted. We are outraged. Taraneh Alidoosti, like all citizens of Iran, has a right to freedom of expression, freedom of association, and freedom from arbitrary arrest and detention. We hereby stand in solidarity with her and demand her immediate release and safe return to her family.”
They add: “Taraneh was arrested for her condemnation on Instagram of the execution of Mohsen Shekari, the first protester receiving a death sentence since nationwide protests following the brutal police murder of Kurdish-Iranian woman Mahsa Amini began in September.”
Within Iran, protesters, including fellow artists, have rallied outside Evin jail calling for her release or news of her condition.
Asghar Farhadi, who directed Alidoosti in his Oscar-winning film The Salesman, said he stood by her. “I have worked with Taraneh on four films and now she is in prison for her rightful support of her fellow countrymen and her opposition to the unjust sentences being issued,” he wrote on Instagram. “If showing such support is a crime, then tens of millions of people of this land are criminals.”
In a sign of the resistance being mounted by celebrities, Hamid Farrokhnezhad, a renowned Iranian actor, sent a message to the supreme leader, Ali Khamenei, via his 2.6 million followers on Instagram.
“You are the cause and the culprit of all the recent events, you are the culprit of all the blood that is being spilled on the ground from both sides, the people and the security forces,” he wrote. “You are to blame for closing your ears to every peaceful protest and hearing nothing but your own voice … You are cruel and cruelty is doomed”
But Iran’s minister for culture, Mohammad Mehdi Esmaili, has urged artists to go back to work.
In Geneva, the UN human rights council president, Federico Villegas, has appointed the members of a recently established fact-finding mission, disclosing that he has asked Sara Hossain, a Bangladeshi lawyer, to chair the inquiry. Hossain has experience conducting a similar inquiry in the occupied Palestinian territories.
The committee is unlikely to receive any cooperation from Iranian authorities, but is seen as prestigious enough to carry global weight.
This article is from The Guardian and is republished under a creative commons license.