By Nazanin Boniadi and Roxana Saberi
Nazanin Boniadi is an actress, activist and spokesperson for Amnesty International USA. Roxana Saberi is an Iranian-American journalist, author and human rights advocate. www.roxanasaberi.com
The imprisonment of Iranian filmmaker Behrouz Ghobadi appears to be the latest attempt by Iran’s regime to silence the country’s artists. Hollywood has united with Amnesty International to call for his release; now others can join them by sending a message of concern to Iran’s supreme leader.
Behrouz, a younger brother of exiled Iranian film director Bahman Ghobadi, was arrested on November 4 in western Iran. Since then, he has had no contact with either his family or an attorney. His family has asked the Iranian authorities for information, but no one has told them why or where he is detained.
Incommunicado detention typically increases the likelihood of ill treatment and torture. Behrouz already suffers from numerous medical conditions, including respiratory problems, gout, and a weak heart.
His arrest may be related to the work of Bahman, who has criticized the censorship of artists in Iran. The Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance regulates film, journalism, television, and the arts in Iran, and the regime often jams satellite signals beamed in from foreign TV networks. Artists and journalists are in a unique position to communicate to the masses. The authorities are apparently afraid of ideas that are contrary to their own and have intensified crackdowns on these groups as a result.
Behrouz, who has directed short films, has also worked on six of Bahman’s films, three of which are prohibited in Iran. Bahman’s latest film, Rhino Season, was shot in Turkey and follows a husband and wife torn apart by a wrongful imprisonment in Iran, a topic sure to have angered the Islamic regime.
Behrouz is the latest filmmaker imprisoned in Iran. In 2011, directors Naser Saffarian, Hadi Afarideh, Mojtaba Mirtahmasb, and Shahnam Bazdar were detained. In 2010, Jafar Panahi and Mohamad Rasoulof were arrested and later given six-year prison sentences. Rasoulof’s sentence was then reduced to one year by an appellate court. Panahi was also given a twenty-year ban on filmmaking activities, leaving Iran, and speaking to the media.
Two years ago, Hollywood called for justice for Panahi and Rasoulof, and now prominent directors and actors are uniting for Behrouz Ghobadi. Martin Scorsese and Paul Haggis are again joining forces with Amnesty International by signing a petition demanding his release. Actors Liam Neeson, James Franco, Mila Kunis, Adrien Brody, Frieda Pinto, Rainn Wilson and Behrouz Vossoughi have also signed, as have major film industry organizations and festivals.
Like Bahman, several Iranian dissidents and outspoken journalists living abroad have seen their family members back home harassed and detained. These actions are often aimed at coercing activists and journalists outside Iran to stop their professional activities.
Please join us in demanding that the Iranian government uphold its responsibilities as a signatory to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and put an end to the increasing clampdown on the freedom of expression.