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Iranian authorities have arrested two well-known local actresses after they showed support for the country’s protest movement and appeared in public without their hijabs, or headscarves.
Hengameh Ghaziani, who has appeared in features such as Parviz Sheikh Tadi’s Days of Life (2012) and Reza Mirkarimi’s As Simple as That (2008), and Katayoun Riahi, a best actress winner at the 2002 Cairo Film Festival for Fereydoun Jeyrani’s The Last Supper, were detained after putting up “provocative” social media posts, Iran’s state-run IRNA news agency 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 failing to correctly wear her hijab. Authorities have violently suppressed the protests, which they claim have been stirred up by western governments hostile to Tehran.
Ghaziani on Saturday posted a video of herself on Instagram in which she removes her hijab, a symbol for many of Iran’s religious authority and persecution. “Maybe this will be my last post,” she wrote. “From this moment on, whatever happens to me, know that as always, I am with the Iranian people until my last breath.”
In the accompanying video, Ghaziani, hijab-free, faces the camera and, without speaking, turns around and binds her hair up into a ponytail.
She has been outspoken online, last week uploading a post calling the Iranian government “child killers” for the “murder” of more than 50 children. According to figures from the Iran Human Rights group, the state crackdown on demonstrators has resulted in the deaths of at least 378 people, including 47 children. At least six demonstrators have been given death sentences for participating in the protests. Amnesty International reports that at least 21 people have been charged with crimes that could result in the death penalty.
Iranian state media said Ghaziani was arrested for inciting and supporting the “riots” — the government’s term for the 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 sharply critical of the Tehran regime. Riahi has also expressed solidarity with the street protestors.
These high-profile arrests follow a wave of protest resignations by some of the most well-known television presenters and hosts on Iran’s state broadcaster. Farhad Fakhrbakhsh, Kimia Gilani and Davoud Abedi — all familiar faces on Iranian TV — have stepped down in recent days, citing the protests.
Iran’s crackdown on protestors will likely be in focus later today when the Iranian national soccer team takes the field in the 2022 World Cup in Qatar for its opening match against England. Ahead of the game, Iran’s team captain, Ehsan Hajsafi, said his country’s players “support” those who have died in the protests. “We have to accept that the conditions in our country are not right and our people are not happy,” he said.
In the build-up to the tournament, there were calls for Iran to be disqualified, with campaigners 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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