Iranian actresses arrested after removing headscarves

As many as 15,000 people have been detained in national protests, the UN says

Iranian anti-riot police forces keep watch as protesters gather in front of the German embassy in Tehran on November 1. EPA
Beta V.1.0 - Powered by automated translation

Two actresses in Iran have been arrested after removing their headscarves in public, according to state-run media.

Both were expressing support for more women’s rights after a national protest movement that began on September 16 following the death of a 22-year-old Iranian-Kurdish woman in police custody.

Mahsa Amini died in hospital after being detained by morality police, allegedly for violating the country’s strict dress code.

Hengameh Ghaziani and Katayoun Riahi were arrested after being summoned by prosecutors in an investigation into their “provocative” social media posts and media activity, the state-run Irna news agency said.

Screen actress Ghaziani, 52, was arrested for inciting and supporting the “riots” and for communicating with opposition media, Irna said.

She has been a vocal critic of the crackdown on protesters which has led to as many as 400 deaths, according to human rights groups. The UN said about 15,000 people have been arrested in Iran since September.

After starting in the Iranian-Kurdish region, protests spread to several cities, touching on points of discontent among Iranians including high inflation and shortages of basic goods.

Iran claims that the protests have been stirred up by western agitators, and the government has arrested a number of foreigners since demonstrations began, accusing them of working for spy agencies.

Seven French people were detained in Iran on charges of anti-government activity. Two were arrested in May and are still being held.

Street protest

Ghaziani had indicated she had been summoned by the judiciary, and then published a video on Instagram as she removed her hijab.

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

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.

Riahi was arrested later in the same investigation, Irna said.

The actress, 60, who has appeared in a string of award-winning films and is also known for her charitable work, had in September given an interview to London-based Iran International TV without wearing a headscarf.

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 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 this year.

With reporting from agencies

Updated: November 21, 2022, 8:06 AM