NAZARIAN: That Oscar Win Was a Loss for Iran’s Freedom-Craving People

Anousheh Ansari
The Associated Press

The hypocrisy of the Iranian government following Iranian film director Asghar Farhadi’s boycott of the Oscars over what he described as President Donald Trump’s “inhumane” temporary travel ban is a hallmark of the regime’s injustice towards its own people.

“I’m sorry I’m not with you tonight,” Farhadi said in a prepared statement read by Iranian-American astronaut Anoush Ansari. “My absence is out of respect for the people of my country and those of other six nations who have been disrespected by the inhumane law that bans entry of immigrants to the U.S.” Dr. Firouz Naderi, a director of NASA’s Solar System Exploration program, accepted the award on Farhadi’s behalf along with Ansari; two Iranian-Americans who should be lauded for their exceptional accomplishments.

The talented Farhadi won the Oscar in the best foreign-language category for his gripping drama, The Salesman. It is his second Oscar. In 2012, his drama A Separation won him his first Oscar.

Farhadi’s criticism of America’s president as his own country’s people continue to suffer under an oppressive regime, with bloodied hands, must not be overlooked in light of his artistic achievement.

If Farhadi opposed Iran’s Supreme Leader the way he opposed President Trump, he would experience a far less fortuitous fate. Jail time and possibly death might have been in the cards for him. Instead of boycotting the Academy Awards, Farhadi could have used the opportunity of this great achievement, which highlights the brilliance of the Persian people, to make the case for Iran’s freedom.

On Monday, Iran’s top diplomat, Mohammad Javad Zarif, gave his stamp of approval to Farhadi’s message and echoed his government’s hypocrisy, tweeting, “Proud of Cast and Crew of “The Salesman” for Oscar and stance against “MuslimBan. [sic] Iranians have represented culture and civilization for millennia.”

Artists, including filmmakers, continue to languish in Iranian jail cells as the regime cuts deals with the West and suppresses its own people as one of the world’s worst offenders of human rights.

Here are just a few Iranian filmmakers and artists who have served jail time for expressing themselves in a manner welcomed with open arms in the United States:

  • Keywan Karimi: found guilty of “insulting Islamic sanctities” in 2015 and sentenced to one year in prison
  • Hossein Rajabian and his brother, musician Mehdi Rajabian: jailed for “insulting Islamic sanctities” and “illegal audio-visual activities”.
  • Mahnaz Mohammadi: filmmaker and women’s rights activist jailed for ‘collaborating with the BBC’
  • Atena Farghadani: jailed for “insulting members of parliament through paintings” and “spreading propaganda against the system.”
    • Her attorney, Mohammad Moghimi, was also jailed for a time because Atena shook his hand. Atena was later subjected to a virginity test in an attempt to take away her dignity.

Atena was jailed because she depicted Iran’s parliamentary members as animals through her artwork. The U.S. Constitution protects the rights of its citizens to express themselves. In Washington, D.C., a highly offensive, anti-cop panting depicting officers as pigs was given a prime space in the U.S. Capital.

The Iranian regime and its supporters have held disdain for Western culture even before the 1979 revolution.

In August 1978, Islamic militants and fanatics within the current Iranian regime set the famous Rex Movie Theatre in Abadan on fire, killing hundreds of innocent cinema-goers. Reports later revealed that several anti-Shah Islamists set the theater on fire using gasoline and lighting it with a match. They then ran to the exterior of the theater and locked the doors so no one could get out, except for those who were able to escape through the roof.

In a speech this month in the East Azerbaijan region of Iran, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei said the regime’s “real war” with the west is a “culture war” taking place on the TV and the Internet.

“The real war is a cultural war,” Khamenei reportedly said. “The real war is an economic war, the real war is the war of sanctions, the real war is the arenas of work, activity, and technology inside the country… This is the real war!” He added, “They draw our attention to a military war so that we ignore this war.”

Iran’s rich cultural history has never been in doubt, but to deprive Iran’s people of their true potential and subject them to such cruel injustice is a sin. The Rex Theater fire will forever remain the symbol of the Iranian regime’s true intentions: to stifle and suffocate its people’s ability to express themselves the way they would if they lived in the free world.

Follow Adelle Nazarian on Twitter and Periscope @AdelleNaz