Iranian actor Taraneh Alidoosti (The Salesman) Arrested after criticism of death penalty
Patrick Wintour Diplomatic editor, guardian.org Sat 17 Dec 2022 19.21 GMT
Detention of one of Iran’s most famous performers sign state wants to crack down on celebrities who challenge regime.
Taraneh Alidoosti, one of Iran’s most famous actors, has been detained by security forces in Tehran days after she criticised the state’s use of the death penalty against protesters.
She had previously posted a picture of herself on her Instagram page 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 the fight against the current Iranian regime.
Alidoosti is regarded as one of the most influential Iranian actors of her generation, and her arrest is a sign that the state wants to crack down on celebrities, artists and sports personalities who have used their platform to challenge the regime.
It is not known which department of Iran’s multilayered security services took her from her home, but the Tehran prosecutor’s office alleged Alidoosti had failed to provide documentation to justify her provocative remarks. News of her arrest was conveyed by Samia Mirshamsi, a film director.
Mirshamsi said Alidoosti’s home had been searched and it was not known where she was. Later, the judicial news agency Mizan confirmed Alidoosti’s arrest, saying her case was being investigated further.
Alidoosti has won multiple awards in her career, most notably when The Salesman, in which she starred, won an Oscar for best foreign film in 2016.
The Tasnim news agency, which is close to the Islamic Revolutionary Guards, said she had been arrested due to her decision to publish false and distorted content that incited riots and supported anti-Iranian movements.
The picture of Alidoosti without a hijab has been liked more than 1m times. It appeared that her Instagram account, which had more than 8m followers, had been shut down. In her last Instagram post, the actor said: “His name was Mohsen Shekari. Every international organization who is watching this bloodshed and not taking action, is a disgrace to humanity.”
Shekari was executed on 8 December after being charged by an Iranian court with blocking a street in Tehran and injuring a member of the country’s security forces with a machete.
Alidoosti’s father, Hamid Alidoosti, played football for Iran’s national team and was the first Iranian to play for a foreign team.
Fluent in German and English, Alidoosti has also translated books by Alice Munro and Nicole Krauss from English to Persian.
She had vowed not to leave Iran, writing: “I do not have a passport or residence anywhere except Iran. I’ll stay and look you straight in the eyes like all these normal people when I scream for my rights.
“I’ve inherited this courage from the women of my land, who for years have been living their lives, every day with resistance … I will stay, I will not quit, I will stand with the families of the prisoners and murdered and demand their rights. I will fight for my home, I will pay whatever it takes to stand up for my rights, and most importantly: I believe in what we are building together today.”
In the latest phase of the crackdown, Iran appears to be targeting celebrities and journalists who they believe are inculcating western values into a young generation.
A press photographer and former member of Iran’s national rowing team was sentenced to seven years in prison, a ban on leaving the country for two years, and 74 lashes for allegedly participating in rallies and propaganda against the regime.
Aria Jafari is a member of the trade association of press photographers of Iran and, in November 2014, was arrested for photographing the protest gathering of the people of Isfahan against acid attacks and social insecurity. His recent arrest took place in his house in Isfahan.
The verdict is not final and it is possible to appeal. If the sentence is confirmed, a five-year prison sentence will be implemented.
In another blow to judicial independence, Mohammad Ali Kamfirouzi, the lawyer of two female journalists detained after reporting the death of a woman in custody, was himself arrested.
Kamfirouzi’s own lawyer, Mohammad Ali Bagherpour, was cited as saying his client had not received a summons, was unaware of the charges he faced and that he had been detained without any legal formalities.
His brother said he held the judiciary “responsible for protecting my brother’s life and health”.
Among Kamfirouzi’s clients were Niloofar Hamedi and Elahe Mohammadi, the two female journalists arrested after covering Mahsa Amini’s death and its aftermath.
Hamedi, who works at the reformist newspaper Shargh, was detained on 20 September after visiting the hospital where Amini had spent three days in a coma before her death.
Mohammadi, a journalist at Ham Mihan, was taken into custody on 29 September after she travelled to Amini’s home town of Saqez in Kurdistan province to report on her funeral.
The pair were charged on 8 November with propaganda against the state and conspiring against national security – capital crimes under the sharia law in force in Iran.
According to the latest report of the Iranian Human Rights Organization, which was published on Saturday, at least 469 people, including 63 children and 32 women, have been killed by the security and law enforcement forces of the Islamic Republic since the beginning of nationwide protests.