Naser Malek Motiee, 88, once hailed as the “King of Iranian Cinema,” passed away from kidney failure on Friday. At his funeral in Tehran Friday, mourners protested the regime’s censorship of his films, lifted only after his death.
Although Motiee was barred from appearing in movies and on television series for four decades, since the Islamic Revolution of 1979, thousands of Iranians took to the streets to pay homage to him and turned it into an anti-regime protest:
— ManotoNews (@ManotoNews) May 27, 2018
According to Radio Farda, funeral attendees also expressed anger over Iran’s state TV’s refusal to allow two recent interviews with the superstar to be aired. The protesters also chanted slogans, including a catchphrase from one of his best movies, “Qeysar! Where are you! Help! They slaughter the people!”
Qeysar is a 1969 film noir that Malek Motiee starred in.
Mourners reportedly also chanted anti-government slogans, including, “Our disgrace, the state broadcaster” and “Our disgrace, the law enforcement.”
A Canada-based nongovernmental organization, Human Rights in Iran, tweeted a video showing people covering their mouths with their hands and coughing. The caption said, “Police used tear gas against people during the funeral of Naser Malek Motiee. A number of people were arrested by police”:
نیروهای پلیس امروز در مراسم تشییع پیکر #ناصر_ملکمطیعی در برخورد با مردم گاز اشکآور پرتاب کردند.
شماری از شهروندان از سوی نیروهای پلیس بازداشت شدند pic.twitter.com/vzVGaNP9Kb
— Human Rights In Iran (@ir_humanrights) May 27, 2018
Radio Farda noted that “in an unprecedented event, the voice of one of Malek Motiee’s fellow actors, U.S.-based exiled actor Behrouz Vosouqi was aired for the people attending the funeral ceremony.” Vosouqi reportedly told the crowd the Islamic regime had banned artists like him and Malek Motiee from the screens for forty years.
Radio Free Europe reported that a “reformist” newspaper in Iran – one that wishes to see the current regime maintain power but implement incremental change – named Aftab-e Yazd (the Sunshine of Yazd) wrote, “The End of the Media Ban” to highlight the irony of the country’s state media coverage of Malek Motiee’s death.
“The news of his death was announced by state TV, though his presence on TV was restricted before that,” the publication reportedly wrote.
Conversely, Iran’s hardline daily Kayhan newspaper – not to be confused with the pro-Western, anti-Iranian regime publication with the same name in London, England – did not have Malek Motiee on its front page. Instead, it featured an image of mourners at a cemetery for martyrs in Tehran having iftar, the dinner eaten after breaking the evening fast during the holy month of Ramadan.