DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — Iranian authorities arrested two filmmakers over an appeal they posted on social media, accusing them of links with opposition groups based outside the country and plotting to undermine the nation’s state security, Iran’s state-run news agency reported Friday.
According to IRNA, award-wining filmmaker Mohamad Rasoulof and colleague Mostafa Al-Ahmad were taken into custody for posting a statement on social media urging members of the Iranian security forces to lay down their weapons.
The hashtag #put_your_gun_down is a reference to the violent crackdown during the unrest following a building collapse in the southwestern city of Abadan that killed at least 41 people earlier this year.
The report did not elaborate when the two were arrested. At least 70 Iranian filmmakers and movie industry workers had signed the appeal.
The May 23 collapse at the Metropol Building in Abadan, some 660 kilometers (410 miles) southwest of the capital, Tehran, dredged up painful memories of past national disasters and shined a spotlight on shoddy construction practices, government corruption and negligence in Iran. Protests erupted in Abadan over the collapse and the demonstrations have seen police club protesters and fire tear gas.
Rasoulof, who has been detained in the past and has had his passport confiscated, won the Berlin Film Festival’s top prize in 2020 for his film “There Is No Evil.” It tells four stories loosely connected to the themes of the death penalty in Iran and personal freedoms under tyranny.
Shortly after receiving the award he was sentenced to a year in prison for three films he made that authorities found to be “propaganda against the system.” His lawyer appealed the sentence. He was also banned from making films and traveling abroad.
In 2011, Rasoulof and fellow director Jafar Panahi were arrested for filming without a permit. The pair received six years in prison and were banned from filmmaking for 20 years on charges that included “making propaganda” against the ruling system, but Rasoulof’s sentence was later reduced to a year on appeal.
That year Rasoulof’s film “Goodbye” won a prize at Cannes but he was not allowed to travel to France to accept it.
Iran’s conservative authorities, many with religious sensibilities, control all the levers of power in the country. They have long viewed many cultural activities as part of a “soft war” by the West against the Islamic Republic. They say Westernization is an attempt to tarnish the country’s Islamic beliefs.