Thu. Dec 8th, 2022

Iran has arrested two prominent actresses after they publicly removed their headscarves in solidarity with the ongoing protest movement, state media reported Sunday.

Hengameh Ghaziani and Katayoun Riahi were arrested for “provocative” social media posts showing uncovered hair as part of a crackdown on other high-profile Iranians who publicly supported protests across the country.

Protests in Iran have been going on for two months since the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini, who died while in the custody of Iran’s morality police. The demonstrations were initially aimed at protesting Iran’s modesty laws that dictate how women can dress, but have since expanded to include broader calls for regime change.

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The country’s authorities characterized the protests as “riots” and accused foreign governments of inciting violence in Iran. Meanwhile, media and human rights organizations in the country have documented mass arrests and government forces firing on protesters.

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As the protests continue, high-profile figures in Iran have begun to make inroads, and authorities have followed suit. According to AFP, eight prominent Iranians were arrested on Sunday, including famous figures from film and sports.

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Ghaziani, 52, an acclaimed Iranian actor, was charged by prosecutors with inciting and supporting “riots” and communicating with opposition media, according to state news agency IRNA.

Perhaps related to the investigation against her, Ghaziani posted a video on Instagram in which she wrote, “Maybe this will be my last post,” the night before she was arrested. In the video, Ghaziani stands facing the camera on the sidewalk of a busy street without a hijab or head covering. She turns around and then ties her hair into a ponytail.

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“From this moment forward, whatever happens to me, know that as always, I am with the Iranian people until my last breath,” she wrote in the post.

Last week, Ghaziani accused the Iranian government of “murdering” 50 children in an Instagram post.

According to estimates by Iran’s non-profit Human Rights Organization, government forces have killed around 378 protesters, 47 of whom were under the age of 18, since the start of the protest movement. Five protesters were sentenced to death.

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Riahi, another award-winning actor, is accused of colluding and acting against Iranian authorities along with Ghaziani, according to IRNA. Riahi (60) is known for her charity work and was one of the first major actors to publicly support the protests, the BBC reported.

In September, the actor gave an interview to London-based Iran International TV – which AFP says is Iran’s “regime-despised outlet” – without wearing a hijab.

A few weeks ago, she posted a photo of herself without a head covering on her Instagram page, writing that she was “grieving for the women of Iran.”

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Click to play video: 'Iranian schoolchildren allegedly killed for protesting'

Iranian schoolchildren allegedly killed for protesting

Among the eight celebrities sanctioned was Yahya Golmohammadi, coach of the Tehran football team Persepolis FC, for comments he made last week. Golmohammadi criticized the players of Iran’s national soccer team for not “bringing the voice of oppressed people to the ears of the authorities” after the team met with President Ebrahim Raisi ahead of their World Cup appearance.

Since the World Cup began on Sunday, Iran’s men’s national soccer team has become more vocal about the discontent that has gripped their homeland, with team captain Ehsan Hajsafi telling reporters: “We have to accept that the conditions in our country are not good and that our people are not happy. “

Click to play video: 'FIFA World Cup: LGBTQ+ treatment raises concerns over human rights record'

FIFA World Cup: LGBTQ+ treatment raises concerns over human rights record

On Monday, the team refused to sing Iran’s national anthem before kick-off against England, in an apparent act of defiance. The team stood stone-faced and stared straight ahead as the music of their national anthem played.

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That moment was not broadcast on state TV in Iran.

In previous tournaments, the Iranian men’s football team enthusiastically sang the national anthem.

Two more prominent actors were detained on Sunday: Mitra Hajjar and Baran Kosari.

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