Iran has arrested two prominent actresses who removed their headscarves in public, showing support for the ongoing protest movement calling for freedom for woman that was sparked by the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini in custody last September.
According to multiple reports citing state media, Hengameh Ghaziani and Katayoun Riahi were detained after being summoned by prosecutors and are accused of collusion and acting against Iran’s authorities.
Ghaziani, an award-winner for 2008’s As Simple as That and 2012’s Days of Life who has been a vocal critic of the crackdown on protesters, wrote in an Instagram message this weekend, “Maybe this will be my last post. From this moment on, whatever happens to me, know that as always, I am with Iranian people until my last breath.”
The accompanying video shows Ghaziani turning her back on camera and wrapping her uncovered hair into a ponytail, a gesture which has come to be symbolic of women preparing to protest.
The post remained up on Instagram following reports of her arrest. The Iranian authorities often force political detainees to remove content from their accounts.
Riahi, who won the Best Actress prize at the Cairo Film Festival for 2002’s The Last Supper, was one of the first major actresses to publicly show support for the protests. She posted a photo several weeks ago of herself without a head covering and wrote, “Mourning for the women of Iran.”
AFP, citing the judiciary’s Mizan Online news website, said Ghaziani was among eight people who were summoned by prosecutors over “provocative” material posted on social media. Also summoned, per the report, were other prominent actors including Mitra Hajjar and Baran Kosari.
Ghaziani and Riahi are among a growing number of prominent Iranian actresses publicly removing their veils and voicing support for the protests.
They have also included Taraneh Alidoosti, who was at the Cannes Film Festival this year with Competition Title Leila’s Brothers, and veteran Katayoun Amir Ebrahimi, who was one of Iran’s best-known actresses prior to the founding of the Islamic Republic in 1979.
The Iranian authorities have made it clear from the start of the protests that they would crack down on dissent from prominent figures in the country’s cultural, media and sporting spheres.
Mohsen Mansouri, governor of the province of Tehran, said the authorities would deal with such figures when the time was right.
Amini died in police custody on September 16 after being arrested for not wearing her hijab properly in accordance with the country’s strict religious laws and allowing some locks of hair to escape.
Police say she died of a heart attack, but eyewitnesses and people who were detained with the young woman said she was severely beaten.
The public protests sparked by her death show no signs of abating as they enter their 10th week. There were protests in several cities across Iran this weekend in spite of a harsh crackdown by security forces.
According to the non-profit organisation Iran Human Rights, at least 378 demonstrators have been killed by government forces to date, 58 of them under the age of 18 years old.