Celebrities demand release of Iranian actress Taraneh Alidoosti in open letter

Emma Thompson, Mark Rylance and Mark Ruffalo are among the signatories from around the world

Taraneh Alidoosti was arrested after making a string of social media posts supporting the Iranian protests. AP
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Stars including Emma Thompson, Mark Rylance and Mark Ruffalo have joined a number of playwrights, novelists and directors from around the world to demand the release of actress Taraneh Alidoosti, who was arrested by Iranian authorities on Saturday.

The celebrities are among a number of high-profile signatories in an open letter, which called for Alidoosti's immediate release from the infamous Evin Prison in Tehran, according to The Guardian.

“The Iranian authorities have strategically chosen to arrest Taraneh before Christmas to ensure her international peers would be distracted,” they write.

“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”.

British director and screenwriter Ken Loach, film and theatre director Mike Leigh and film director Steve McQueen also signed the letter.

The letter comes a day after the Cannes Film Festival condemned Alidoosti's arrest and demanded her immediate release.“ In solidarity with the peaceful struggle she is carrying out for freedom and women's rights, the @Festival_Cannes extends their full support to her," the festival posted on Twitter on Monday along with the hashtag #FreeTaranehAlidoosti.

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

The unrest was sparked by the September 16 death in custody of Mahsa Amini, 22, whom the morality police accused of violating the Islamic Republic's strict dress code for women.

Alidoosti's arrest came a week after she posted on Instagram, expressing solidarity with the first man recently executed for crimes allegedly committed during the nationwide protests, the Irna news agency said.

In her post, the actress said: “His name was Mohsen Shekari. Every international organisation that is watching this bloodshed and not taking action is a disgrace to humanity.” Her account was suspended on Sunday.

Alidoosti was arrested because she did not provide ’’any documents in line with her claims″, according to the report published on the state media’s official Telegram channel.

Shekari was executed on December 9 after being charged by an Iranian court with blocking a street in Tehran and attacking a member of the country’s security forces with a machete.

Alidoosti, who starred in the Oscar-winning film The Salesman, was in Cannes in May to promote Leila's Brothers.

A representative of the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights said it was “seriously concerned” by the detention of Alidoosti “for simply expressing her views on the current protests and particularly the execution of Mohsen Shekari, the first protester to be executed in the context of demonstrations.”

British pop group Pet Shop Boys also tweeted about the case, saying: “Iran's fascist government has executed protesters recently which Taraneh has condemned.”

Updated: December 20, 2022, 3:29 PM