March 24, 2023

Iranian authorities arrested two well-known local actresses after they showed their support for the country’s protest movement and appeared in public without their hijabs or headscarves.

Hengameh Ghaziani, who has appeared in feature films such as Parviz Sheikh Tadi’s days of life (2012) and by Reza Mirkarimi As simple as that (2008) and Katayoun Riahi, winner of the Best Actress Award at the 2002 Cairo Film Festival for Fereydoun Jeyrani’s film. The Last SupperThey were detained after posting “provocative” posts on social media, Iran’s state news agency IRNA reported.

The latest arrests come amid nationwide protests in Iran sparked by the death in custody of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini, who had been arrested by the country’s morality police for allegedly not wearing her hijab correctly. The authorities have violently cracked down on protests they say have been sparked by Western governments hostile to Tehran.

Ghaziani posted a video of herself on Instagram on Saturday removing her hijab, a symbol of many of Iran’s religious authorities and persecution. “Maybe this is my last post,” she wrote. “From this moment on, whatever happens, know that, as always, I will be with the Iranian people until my last breath.”

In the accompanying video, a hijabless Ghaziani looks into the camera and, without speaking, turns around and ties her hair into a ponytail.

She has been outspoken online, last week she uploaded a post calling the Iranian government “child killers” for the “murder” of more than 50 children. According to figures from Iran’s human rights group, the state crackdown on protesters has killed at least 378 people, including 47 children. At least six protesters have been sentenced to death for participating in the protests. Amnesty International reports that at least 21 people have been charged with crimes that could carry the death penalty.

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Iranian state media said Ghaziani was arrested for inciting and supporting “riots,” the government’s term for street protests, and for communicating with opposition media.

Riahi was arrested after giving an interview, without wearing a hijab, on Iran International TV, a London-based channel that is strongly critical of the Tehran regime. Riahi has also expressed her solidarity with the street protesters.

These high-profile arrests follow a wave of protests over the resignations of some of Iran’s state-run broadcaster’s best-known TV hosts and presenters. Farhad Fakhrbakhsh, Kimia Gilani and Davoud Abedi, all familiar faces on Iranian television, have resigned in recent days, citing the protests.

Iran’s crackdown on protesters is likely to come into focus later today when Iran’s national soccer team takes the field at the 2022 World Cup in Qatar for its opening match against England. Before the match, Iran’s team captain Ehsan Hajsafi said his country’s players “stand by” those who have been killed in protests. “We have to accept that the conditions in our country are not adequate and that our people are not happy,” he said.

In the build-up to the tournament, there were calls for Iran to be disqualified, with activists pointing to the country’s human rights record, its treatment of women and Iran’s alleged military support for Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

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