Iranian actors arrested for ‘provocative’ social media posts

Two well-known Iranian actors who removed their headscarves in public have been arrested as protests continue to sweep the country.

Hengameh Ghaziani and Katayoun Riahi have been detained after prosecutors said they were investigating their “provocative” social media posts.

Demonstrations have taken place across Iran since September after a young Kurdish woman, Mahsa Amini, died after being arrested by the “modesty police” allegedly on the grounds her hijab was not being worn properly. The death of Ms Amini, who was on a trip to the capital Tehran to see family, caused outrage across Iran, with many protests targeted at the Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who has ruled the country since 1989.

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On Saturday, award-winning actor Ms Ghaziani, 52, published a video on Instagram of her removing her hijab. “Maybe this will be my last post,” she wrote. “From this moment on, whatever happens to me, know that as always, I am with the Iranian people until my last breath.”

Iranian actress Hengameh Ghaziani at a film festival in Tehran in 2016. Ms Ghaziani who in a video removed her headscarf in public in an apparent act of defiance, was arrested for inciting and supporting the "riots" official news agency IRNA said.
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She then faced the camera without speaking and turned around, twisting her hair into a ponytail. She has also written on her Instagram account the government “will be recorded in history as a child-killing regime”. The statement referenced a report from the Iran Human Rights Group, which has said at least 378 people have died in the past two months during the state crackdown on demonstrations, including 47 children.

Iranian state news agency IRNA described her as supporting “disruptions” when it reported on her arrest. Ms Ghaziani has won many awards for her performances, including two Crystal Simorgh, a Hafez Award and an Iran Cinema Celebration Award.

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Ms Riahi was later arrested as part of the same investigation, IRNA said. The actor, who has appeared in a string of award-winning movies and is also known for her charitable work, did not wear a headscarf during an interview with the London-based Iran International TV in September, during which she expressed support for protesters.

Meanwhile, the head of Iran’s boxing federation, Hossein Soori, said he would not return home from a tournament in Spain. “I could no longer serve my dear country, in a system that so easily sheds the blood of human beings,” he said.

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Ehsan Hajsafi, the captain of Iran’s football team, which faced England in both teams’ first games in the World Cup in Qatar on Monday, said at the weekend he wanted his team to be a “force for change” when they play on the international stage, adding the people of Iran “are not happy”.

“We have to accept the conditions in our country are not right and our people are not happy,” Mr Hajsafi said. “We are here, but it does not mean we should not be their voice or we must not respect them.”

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Mr Hajsafi added: “Whatever we have is from them. We have to fight. We have to perform and score some goals to present the brave people of Iran with a result. I hope conditions change as to the expectations of the people.”

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