Iran releases Oscar-winning film actress held over protests

Iran releases Oscar-winning film actress held over protests

Iran released a prominent actress from an Oscar-winning film on Wednesday, nearly three weeks after she was jailed for criticising a crackdown on anti-government protests, local reports said.

Irans semi-official ISNA news agency said Taraneh Alidoosti, the 38-year-old star of Asghar Farhadis Oscar-winning The Salesman was released on bail. Her mother, Nadere Hakimelahi, had earlier said she would be released in a post on Instagram.

Alidoosti was among several Iranian celebrities to express support for the nationwide protests and criticise the authorities violent clampdown on dissent. She had posted at least three messages in support of the protests on Instagram before her account was disabled.

One message had expressed solidarity with the first man to be executed on charges linked to the protests, which were triggered by the death of a woman in police custody and have escalated into widespread calls for the overthrow of Irans ruling clerics.

The protests mark one of the biggest challenges to the Islamic Republic since it was established after the 1979 revolution. Security forces have used live ammunition, bird shot, tear gas and batons to disperse protesters, according to rights groups.

Mohsen Shekari was executed on December 9 after being charged by an Iranian court with blocking a street in Tehran and attacking a member of the countrys security forces with a machete. A week later, Iran executed a second prisoner, Majidreza Rahnavard, by public hanging. He had been accused of stabbing two members of the paramilitary Basij militia, which is leading the crackdown.

Activists say at least a dozen people have been sentenced to death in closed-door hearings over charges linked to the protests.

“His name was Mohsen Shekari,” Alidoosti wrote on an account with some 8 million followers before her arrest. “Every international organisation who is watching this bloodshed and not taking action, is a disgrace to humanity.

At least 516 protesters have been killed and over 19,000 people have been arrested, according to Human Rights Activists in Iran, a group that has closely monitored the unrest. Iranian authorities have not provided an official count of those killed or detained.

Hengameh Ghaziani and Katayoun Riahi, two other famous Iranian actresses, were arrested in November for expressing solidarity with protesters on social media. Voria Ghafouri, an Iranian soccer star, was also arrested that month for insulting the national soccer team and propagandising against the government. All three have been released.

The protests began in mid-September, when 22-year-old Mahsa Amini died after being arrested by Irans morality police for allegedly violating the Islamic Republics strict dress code. Women have played a leading role in the protests, with many publicly stripping off the compulsory Islamic headscarf, known as the hijab.

The protesters say they are fed up after decades of political and social repression. One of the main slogans has been Death to the dictator referring to Irans 83-year-old Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who has held the countrys highest office for more than three decades.

Iranian officials blame the protests on the US and other foreign powers. State-linked media have highlighted attacks on security forces, while authorities have imposed heavy restrictions on coverage of the demonstrations, including periodically cutting off internet access.

Khamenei, who has said little about the protests, spoke about Islamic dress on Wednesday in a meeting with women, saying the hijab is necessary but that those who do not completely observe the practice should not be accused of being non-religious or against the revolution.

Even before the protests, many Iranian women wore the headscarf loosely, and authorities sometimes eased off on enforcing it, particulary during the presidency of Hassan Rouhani, a relative moderate who governed from 2013 to 2021. His successor, the hard-liner Ebrahim Raisi, had moved to tighten the restrictions.

Alidoosti had previously criticised the Iranian government and its police force before this years protests.

In June 2020, she was given a suspended five-month prison sentence after she criticised the police on Twitter in 2018 for assaulting a woman who had removed her headscarf.

Other well-known movies Alidoosti has starred in include The Beautiful City and About Elly.

(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by The Federal staff and is auto-published from a syndicated feed.)

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