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Iran arrests two top actors who removed headscarves, says state media

Regime shaken by more than two months of women-led demonstrations sparked by the death of Mahsa Amini, 22, while in custody over dress code

In this file photo taken on February 3, 2016, Iranian actress Hengameh Ghaziani poses upon her arrival for a screening during the 34th edition of the Fajr Film Festival at the Milad Tower in Tehran. (ATTA KENARE / AFP)
In this file photo taken on February 3, 2016, Iranian actress Hengameh Ghaziani poses upon her arrival for a screening during the 34th edition of the Fajr Film Festival at the Milad Tower in Tehran. (ATTA KENARE / AFP)

PARIS — Iran has arrested two prominent actors who expressed solidarity with the protest movement and removed their headscarves in public in an apparent act of defiance against the regime, state media reported Sunday.

Hengameh Ghaziani and Katayoun Riahi were both detained after being summoned by prosecutors in a probe into their “provocative” social media posts and media activity, the state-run IRNA news agency said.

Iran’s clerical leadership has been shaken by more than two months of women-led demonstrations sparked by the death in custody of Mahsa Amini, a 22-year-old woman of Kurdish origin who had been arrested by the morality police in Tehran.

Authorities in the Islamic republic describe the protests as “riots” and accuse the country’s Western foes of fomenting them.

Ghaziani, a vocal critic of the crackdown on protesters, was arrested for inciting and supporting the “riots” and for communicating with opposition media, IRNA said.

The 52-year-old film star had already indicated she had been summoned by the judiciary and then published a video on Instagram of herself removing the obligatory hijab.

“Maybe this will be my last post,” she wrote late Saturday.

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

The video, which appears to have been filmed in a shopping street, shows Ghaziani bareheaded facing the camera without speaking and then turning around and binding her hair into a ponytail.

In a post last week, she accused the “child-killer” Iranian government of “murdering” more than 50 children.

‘Voice of oppressed people’

Riahi was later arrested in the same probe, IRNA said.

The actor, 60, who has appeared in a string of award-winning movies and is also known for her charitable work, had in September given an interview to London-based Iran International TV, an outlet despised by the regime, without wearing a hijab.

She had expressed solidarity with the protests that have swept Iran since the death of Mahsa Amini, as well as opposition to the obligatory hijab.

A young Iranian woman crosses a street without wearing her mandatory Islamic headscarf in Tehran, Iran, Monday, Nov. 14, 2022. Anti-government protests have swept Iran over the past two months, because of the death of Mahsa Amini, a 22-year-old woman who had been arrested by the morality police in Tehran for allegedly not covering her hair. (AP/Vahid Salemi)

According to the judiciary’s Mizan Online news website, Ghaziani was among eight people who were summoned by prosecutors over “provocative” material posted on social media.

They also included Yahya Golmohammadi, coach of Tehran football team Persepolis FC, who had strongly criticized players on Iran’s national squad for not “bringing the voice of oppressed people to the ears of the authorities”.

The comment came after the national football team last week met President Ebrahim Raisi ahead of their appearance at the World Cup, which began Sunday in Qatar.

Mizan said other prominent actors including Mitra Hajjar and Baran Kosari had also been summoned.

Earlier this month Taraneh Alidoosti, one of Iran’s best-known actors remaining in the country, posted an image of herself on social media without the mandatory headscarf.

Alidoosti vowed to stay in her homeland at “any price”, saying she planned to stop working and instead support the families of those killed or arrested in the protest crackdown.

Iranian cinema figures were under pressure even before the start of the protest movement sparked by Amini’s death.

Prize-winning directors Mohammad Rasoulof and Jafar Panahi remain in detention after they were arrested earlier this year.

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