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Crackdown on Iranian filmmakers, activists escalating (Updated)

Crackdown on Iranian filmmakers, activists escalating (Updated)

Iranian authorities have been on an anti-opposition bender lately, arresting a number of female filmmakers and activists in recent weeks.

UPDATED (9/25): I’m re-posting this story, as yet another female member of the Iranian film community was confirmed to be arrested (though she was released on bail today). According to reports, actress Marzieh Vafamehr, who starred in “My Tehran For Sale,” an Australian-Iranian co-production about social problems faced by young Iranians, was held in a Tehran prison for a month.

That’s a half-dozen women who have been targeted in the last several weeks.

However, Iran’s judiciary spokesman Gholam Hossein Mohseni Ejeie announced today the release on bail of Vafamehr and filmmaker-actress Pegah Ahangarani, according to Agence France Presse, who was arrested earlier this month. See more details below.

Recently, the Guardian newspaper reported that popular Iranian actor Pegah Ahangarani, an outspoken supporter of the country’s opposition movement and star of the films “The Girl in the Sneakers” and “Women’s Prison,” has been arrested in Tehran after attempting to travel to Germany to take part in coverage of the women’s World Cup.

Mahnaz Mohammadi, an acclaimed documentary filmmaker and women’s rights activist, was also recently detained, according to reports. Director of the short documentary “Women Without Shadows,” Mohammadi was first arrested and released in July 2009 together with acclaimed Iranian auteur Jafar Panahi, who still remains under house arrest.

“Again, the government is trying to intimidate them and others,” filmmaker and scholar Jamsheed Akrami told me via email.

Akrami, who is working on a documentary about censorship in Iran called “A Cinema of Discontent: Film Censorship in Iran,” also informed me that Panahi wants to submit a new script to the government for approval to shoot in Iran. “I doubt it if they will allow him to make an approved film,” he added.

Industry sources in Paris told AFP that Mahnaz Mohammadi’s passport was seized recently, preventing her from going to Cannes in May for the screening of Reza Serkanian’s “Marriage Ephemeral,” in which she was the lead actress.

In a message from Mohammadi read out by acclaimed film-maker Costa-Gavras during a debate in Cannes, she said she was in the process of making a new documentary on Iranian women, the French sources said. “I am a woman, I am a film-maker, two sufficient reasons to be guilty in this country,” said the message, adding: “I have hope.”

Maryam Majd, a prominent Iranian photographer and activist, was also arrested last month before going to Germany, where she wanted to work on a book about women and sports, according to the Guardian. Also arrested were Zahra Yazdani, a journalist, and opposition campaigners Maryam Bahrman and Mansoureh Behkish.

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