06/03/2022, 10.57
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Support for popular protest: actors and directors targeted by Tehran

Authorities are clamping down on support for the demonstrations. Crackdown on celebrities who joined the "‘Lay Down Your Arms" campaign, subject to threats and intimidation. A fatwa against the film 'Holy Spider', starring Zar Amir Ebrahimi. But citizens defy the bans and demonstrate to demand justice for the 37 victims of the collapse in Abadan.



Tehran (AsiaNews) - Tehran has stepped up repression against directors and actors, at the forefront of the campaign to protest against the difficult economic conditions of a population is taking to the streets loudly protesting against high prices and the stalemate in the nuclear talks (Jcpoa). Western sanctions, internal corruption and a failed economic policy promoted by the government drive more and more people to demonstrate, demanding rights, jobs and freedom. When asked by intellectuals, film and TV professionals to show 'demeanour' in confronting the demonstrators, the authorities reacted by further cracking down on public dissent and on social media.  

According to Iranian filmmaker Mohammad Rasoulof, the signatories of the declaration 'Lay Down Your Arms' have been subjected to threats and intimidation by plainclothes agents and militias close to the ayatollahs. Among the demands was that the signatures be cancelled and the campaign withdrawn, which, according to the authorities, would cast a bad light on the Islamic Republic. 'They think the cinema,' said the artist, 'is their barracks, where they can use militarism to silence discontent'. 

In the open letter published at the end of May, the promoters - directors and actors - call on the security forces and those involved in the harsh repressions to 'put down their weapons'. For weeks, the country has been the scene of demonstrations that have been increasing, despite attempts by the government to suppress dissent and discontent. In a note, the Iranian Minister of Culture and Islamic Norms threatened punishments towards those who "try to obstruct the Pasdaran and security guards by issuing useless statements and delusional remarks", with jail sentences ranging from six months to 10 years. 

Also in the crosshairs of the Iranian authorities is the recognition recently awarded by the Cannes jury to the film by the Danish-Iranian director Ali Abbassi, starring the Iranian Zar Amir Ebrahimi who won the Best Actress award in 'Holy Spider'. The artist has been living in exile for some time after being the target of a campaign of threats and defamation following a (private) video of her being intimate with her then boyfriend, which then went viral online. 

Unleashing the wrath of the ayatollahs was the theme of the film based on a true story recounting the crimes of a serial killer who struck in the world of prostitution in Mashhad. A holy city described, in the depiction of its concentric streets, as a spider's web into which its prey falls, with its citizens victims and prey. For the body affiliated with the Ministry of Culture, the film is a 'political crime' and tells the story in a 'false and disgusting' manner, with a 'distorted' portrait of Iranian society and 'open insults' to the beliefs of the Shiites. The religious leaders went even further with a harsh parallel, accusing the director and actress of "blasphemous acts" as happened in the past with Salman Rushdie's famous work 'Satanic Verses', which had earned a fatwa from the then Supreme Leader Ruhollah Khomeini in 1989, calling for the author to be killed.

In spite of fatwas, threats and violence, Iranians defy the bans and continue with the long wave of protest as happened recently at the funerals of the 37 victims of a building collapse in the oil-rich city of Abadan in Khuzestan (south-west). In response, the police present en masse to quell all forms of dissent intervened using force with batons, tear gas, shots fired in the air and arrests.

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