Marzieh Vafamehr, an Iranian actress who appeared in the film “My Tehran for Sale” originally shown in 2009 at the Adelaide film festival, has charges against her dropped earlier this week after an Iranian court overturned her sentence of 90 lashings and one year in prison for, in part, appearing with her head uncovered in a number of scenes.
Vafamehr was arrested in July and held at Iran’s Qarchak prison until an investigation was completed; she was released later in July after posting bail. A court sentenced to one year in prison plus 90 lashings earlier this month. The film’s producers, Kate Croser and Julie Ryan, said they were “deeply shocked and appalled” by the reports.
The film tells the story of an actress whose stage work is banned by authorities. The character leads a secret life to express herself artistically eventually meeting someone who helps her escape to Australia from Iran. The film is also controversial in Iran in part because it depicts footage of Iranians at western-style rave parties. The film was not approved for screening in Iran, yet was being illegally distributed in the country.
Several other members of Iran’s film industry have been arrested during recent years, including a popular actor, Pegah Ahangarani, who was released in July; Jafar Phanhi, a director, who last year received a six-year prison term plus a 20-year ban from film making and Ramin Parchami, an actor that voiced support for the opposition remains in jail.
Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa deputy director Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui said, “While the release of Marzieh Vafamehr is a welcome development, it is deeply worrying that three film-makers are still being held in Tehran’s Evin prison. Their continued detention illustrates the Iranian authorities’ desperate efforts to stifle any form of dissent”.