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Asharq Al-Awsat
Asharq Al-Awsat
Asharq Al-Awsat

Film Stars Call for Release of Jailed Iranian Actor Alidoosti

Taraneh Alidoosti attends the photocall for "Leila's Brothers" during the 75th annual Cannes Film Festival, in Cannes, France, 26 May 2022 (reissued 18 December 2022). (EPA)

Hundreds of high-profile figures from the global cinema industry called Wednesday for Iran to release actor Taraneh Alidoosti, who was jailed over her support for the country's three-month-old protest movement.

Actors Emma Thompson, Penelope Cruz, Kate Winslet and Ian McKellen and directors Ken Loach and Mike Leigh were among a host of luminaries to sign an open letter demanding the star of "The Salesman" be freed.

"We demand the immediate release" of Alidoosti, "who was arrested on 17 December 2022 and has been taken into custody at Evin prison, Iran, where many other political prisoners also remain," the letter says.

Alidoosti, 38, was arrested last Saturday, official media said, after issuing a string of social media posts supporting the protest movement, including removing her headscarf and condemning the execution of protesters.

The actor is one of the most prominent figures arrested in a crackdown by Iran's hard-line regime that has seen the detention of lawyers, cultural figures, journalists and campaigners.

"The Iranian authorities have strategically chosen to arrest Taraneh before Christmas to ensure her international peers would be distracted," the letter continues.

"But we are not distracted. We are outraged. Taraneh Alidoosti, like all citizens of Iran, has a right to freedom of expression, freedom of association, and freedom from arbitrary arrest and detention.

"We hereby stand in solidarity with her and demand her immediate release and safe return to her family."

Iran has been shaken by protests since the September 16 death of Mahsa Amini in custody after her arrest by the morality police for allegedly violating the country’s strict dress rules for women.

At least 14,000 people have been arrested since the nationwide unrest began, the United Nations said last month.

The United States on Tuesday condemned Alidoosti's arrest as "part of the regime's effort to sow fear and suppress these peaceful protests."

The open letter came after "The Salesman" director Asghar Farhadi took to Instagram to demand Alidoosti's freedom.

Alidoosti appeared in two of Farhadi's earliest films before he won international renown, "Beautiful City" (2004) and "Fireworks Wednesday" (2006).

She then appeared in the 2009 film "About Elly," which earned Farhadi the Silver Bear for best director at the Berlin film festival, before reuniting for "The Salesman" in 2016.

"The Salesman" won an Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film in 2017.

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