Top Iranian actors arrested for removing headscarves amid crackdown on celebrities

Screenshots of Instagram posts showing two prominent Iranian actors who were arrested by government authorities on Sunday for removing their head coverings and acting against the state. Global News

Iran has detained two prominent actors after they removed their headscarves publicly in solidarity with the current protest movement, state media reported on Sunday.

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

The Iran protests have been raging for two months since the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini, who died while in the custody of Iran’s morality police. At first, demonstrations centred around protesting Iran’s modesty laws that dictate how women can dress, but they have since expanded into broader calls for a regime change.

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Authorities in the country have characterized the protests as “riots” and accuse 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 protests rage on, high-profile figures in Iran have started to weigh in, and authorities have been keeping note. According to AFP, eight prominent Iranians were detained on Sunday, including well-known figures from film and sports.

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Ghaziani, 52, an acclaimed Iranian actor, has been accused by prosecutors of inciting and supporting the “riots” and communicating with opposition media, according to state-run news agency IRNA.

Perhaps in reference to the investigation against her, Ghaziani published a video of herself on Instagram, writing, “Maybe this will be my last post,” the evening 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 binds her hair into a ponytail.

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“From this moment on, 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 from the Iran Human Rights non-profit, government forces have killed around 378 demonstrators, 47 of which were under the age of 18, since the protest movement began. Five protesters have been sentenced to death.

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Riahi, another award-winning actor, is being accused of collusion and acting against Iran’s authorities along with Ghaziani, according to IRNA. Riahi, 60, is known for her charitable work and was one of the first major actors to publicly support the protests, the BBC reported.

In September, the actor gave an interview with London-based Iran International TV — which AFP says is “an outlet despised by the regime” of Iran — without wearing a hijab.

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

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Click to play video: 'Iran schoolchildren reportedly killed for protesting'
Iran schoolchildren reportedly killed for protesting

Among the eight sanctioned celebrities was Yahya Golmohammadi, coach of Tehran soccer 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 President Ebrahim Raisi ahead of their World Cup appearance.

Since the World Cup started on Sunday, Iran’s men’s soccer team has become more vocal about the discontent gripping their home country, with team captain Ehsan Hajsafi telling reporters, “we have to accept that the conditions in our country are not right and our people are not happy.”

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

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

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The moment was not aired on state TV in Iran.

In previous tournaments, the Iranian men’s soccer team has enthusiastically sung the anthem.

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

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