Sexual violence#MeToo revelations rock Iranian film industry
In the first week of April, Iranian media published news about a statement signed by about 300 Iranian actresses, film producers, directors, screenwriters and other women working in the film industry. In the "Declaration of Women in the Film Industry", they speak of verbal sexual harassment, unwanted physical contact, forced sexual acts and coercion with the use of physical force and, finally, of being told to keep quiet about the incidents so as not to lose their jobs. Since its initial publication, the declaration has been signed by a further 500 filmmakers.
The declaration describes sexist behaviour and violence against women as systematic in various areas of the film industry. The signatories complain that there are no predefined ways or mechanisms to prevent powerful men in the film industry sexually assaulting women. Conversely, sexual harassment and assault appear to be the common norm by tacit agreement, with perpetrators unlikely, if ever, to be called to account.
Unsurprisingly, the central demands of female Iranian filmmakers are: "Work in a safe and peaceful environment, free from oppression and depravity". The signatories are calling on an independent commission to be set up to investigate such incidents. They insist that, if this intolerable situation is to change, conditions must be created for women to protect themselves against sexual harassment, violence and assault. Five of the signatories have already been selected to form such a commission.
They include famous actresses such as Taraneh Alidoosti. The 38-year-old starred in Asghar Farhadi's Oscar-winning film "The Salesman". Her own first film "I am Taraneh, 15 years old" won Best Film at the Locarno, Thessaloniki and Brisbane International Film Festivals. Alidoosti describes herself as a feminist. She has twice stood trial on charges of "spreading lies and propaganda against the Islamic order". In the end, the charges were dropped, but she was still sentenced to five months' suspended imprisonment for "insulting the forces of law and order while on duty". On Twitter, she repeatedly comes to the defence of women who oppose compulsory veiling. Alidoosti also translates literary works, such as "The History of Love" by Nicole Krauss and "My Mother's Dream" by Nobel Prize winner Alice Munro.
Zu den weiteren Unterzeichnerinnen gehört auch Niki Karimi. Die 50-Jährige ist ein Superstar im
Another signatory is Niki Karimi. The 50-year-old is a superstar in the Islamic Republic, an iconic director and producer of Iranian cinema. She also works as a literary translator: two volumes of poetry by women are among her publications. Alidoosti and Karimi were both on Buzznet's "30 Most Beautiful Women in the World" list in 2017 and 2018.
A few days before the declaration was released, assistant director Somaye Mirshamsi spoke out about an incident during a shoot. She said that a well-known actor had sexually harassed and propositioned her. When he was unsuccessful, he urinated in the middle of the room in front of her. The next morning, she reported the incident to the director, also the producer of the film, and asked him to rectify the matter. All he said was, "Don't make a fuss!" Somaye Mirshamsi, however, was prepared to go public about the incident. Both the actors' union and the assistant directors' union came to her defence. She is now a co-signatory of the "Declaration of Women in the Film Industry" and one of its elected spokespersons.
Renowned actor Babak Karimi encouraged Mirshamsi saying, "What dishonours and degrades cinema is our silence and inaction. When a producer or director is aware of improper behaviour, but takes no notice of it, preferring to carry on as if nothing has happened, instead of standing up for his team, that's disrespectful. That makes him an accomplice or co-harasser."
Death of Zohreh Fakoor-Saboor
The Iranian Young Reporters Club news portal recently reported the death of an actress. Zohreh Fakoor-Saboor, 43, was a competent and sought-after actress who starred in TV series and movies. She was a modest woman, loved by her colleagues and viewers, who excelled in character roles. Her lifeless body was found in the bedroom of her flat on 1 March 2022. Next to her were empty boxes of tranquilliser pills. Police called her death suspicious, although no signs of an altercation or violence were found on her body. The body was autopsied.