Filmmakers Maryam Moghadam and Behtash Sanaeeha Face Persecution by Iranian Authorities

In a distressing turn of events, renowned Iranian filmmakers Maryam Moghadam and Behtash Sanaeeha find themselves entangled in the clutches of Iran’s hardline Islamist regime. Not only are they facing trumped-up charges, but they also had their passports confiscated. This article delves into the unjust persecution faced by these filmmakers and sheds light on the broader crackdown on artists, writers, and cultural workers in Iran.

The injustice inflicted upon Moghadam and Sanaeeha has not gone unnoticed on the international stage. A collective of 30 film organizations, festivals, professionals, and freedom of speech NGOs signed an open letter urging Iranian authorities to drop all charges against the directors and lift the travel ban. Esteemed entities such as the Berlinale and PEN America have joined forces to condemn the Iranian regime’s actions.

The Suppressed Voice of Filmmakers

The Iranian authorities’ treatment of filmmakers is one part of a larger pattern of suppressing artistic expression and dissent. The filmmakers’ latest project, “My Favourite Cake,” explores the struggles of a woman living in a repressive society. This film, along with the artists’ previous works, has seemingly incited the ire of Iran’s hardline Islamist authorities.

A Crackdown on Dissent

The plight of Moghadam and Sanaeeha is just one example of the increasing repression faced by artists, writers, and cultural workers in Iran. Over the past two years, there has been a surge in bans, arrests, and crackdowns, aimed at stifling dissent and curbing the pro-democracy movement. The crackdown began even before the Woman, Life, Freedom protests emerged, marking a troubling escalation of censorship.

Iran ranks second on the PEN America 2022 Freedom To Write Index’s list of top 10 jailers of writers, with an alarming distinction of also leading as the jailer of female writers. The open letter highlights the cases of other persecuted individuals such as director Saeed Roustayi, who faced imprisonment for screening his film without permission, and Nobel Peace laureate Narges Mohammadi, who remains incarcerated. These cases illustrate the pervasive climate of fear and hostility towards artistic expression in Iran.

Filmmakers, writers, and artists play a vital role in nurturing free and vibrant societies. Their work fosters communication, collaboration, and inspires citizens to envision better futures. Suppressing their voices not only stifles creativity but also impedes societal progress. Governments should recognize and celebrate artists for their invaluable contributions rather than perpetuating a culture of fear and oppression.

This is not the first time Moghadam has faced persecution. Previously, she was banned from travel for two years due to her involvement in Jafar Panahi’s acclaimed film, “Closed Curtain.” In 2019, she was even removed from a prominent Iranian film production at the behest of the Minister of Culture and Islamic Guidance. Such actions against artists further illustrate Iran’s hostility towards creative expression.

Moghadam and Sanaeeha’s previous collaboration, “Ballad of A White Cow,” faced a vicious legal battle with the Revolutionary Guards. Although they were eventually acquitted, the film remains banned in Iran to this day. This ongoing persecution highlights the systematic nature of oppression against artists and the ruthlessness displayed by Iranian authorities.

A Call for Change

The open letter serves as a clarion call for change, urging Iranian authorities to cease their relentless persecution of artists and activists who give voice to the aspirations, humanity, and dreams of the Iranian people. Recognition and protection of artistic expression are fundamental to creating a society that embraces freedom and innovation. It is high time for a transformation that respects the rights and contributions of artists like Moghadam and Sanaeeha.

Moghadam and Sanaeeha’s struggle against the Iranian regime’s persecution underscores the urgent need for a paradigm shift. The international outcry, signified by the collective open letter, serves as a reminder of the global community’s commitment to defending artistic freedom and human rights. By supporting filmmakers like Moghadam and Sanaeeha, we uphold the essence of a society that values creativity, empathy, and the power of storytelling.


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