Iranian women denounce violence in film industry News

Women say violence and harassment at work have become endemic, calling for reform and accountability.

Tehran, Iran Hundreds of women working in Iranian cinema have been criticized for “systematic” violence against women in the film industry and have called for mechanisms to hold perpetrators accountable.

In a strong statement Friday, more than 200 women – including some of the most famous Iranian actors locally and internationally – condemned the sexual violence and harassment that they say has become endemic to Iranian cinema.

“Not only is there no mechanism to prevent powerful individuals from committing violence, there is also an unwritten agreement that violence against women in the workplace has been normalized, with no serious consequences threatening the attacker,” they wrote.

Among the signatories are Taraneh Alidoosti – who starred in Asghar Farhadi’s Oscar-winning The Salesman in 2016 – Hedieh Tehrani, Niki Karimi and Pouran Derakhshandeh, all well-known names in Iranian cinema.

Iranians look at the window of a store in Tehran
More than 200 women – including some of Iran’s most famous actors locally and internationally – have cited their experiences of sexual violence and harassment [File: Majid Asgaripour/WANA via Reuters]

The women also denounced economic inequality and inequality in decision-making power with male peers and demanded “this most basic human right, that is, to work in a safe place away from bullying, violence and sexual blackmail”.

They urged industry leaders to mobilize through entities such as the Iranian Film Guild Alliance to form a female-majority committee trained in dealing with sexual violence to receive and safely and privately review aggression allegations.

They also suggested adding mechanisms to film contracts to shield women and hold attackers accountable through financial sanctions and suspension from future work in the industry.

Industry, court response

In response, the union said in a statement on Sunday that it already has a committee, consisting of a council, industry experts, a representative from the Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance, and a legal adviser, ready to review any complaints.

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He also said that “we must not allow a small number of possible unwanted behaviors to be generalized by some people in the cinema to the majority of talent working in Iran’s proud cinema”, a sentiment echoed by veteran actor Reza Kianian in a statement posted on Instagram.

The women’s statement came just days after several women used Twitter and other social media to openly and anonymously share their experiences of sexual violence on film.

After a woman who worked as a second assistant director openly blamed a famous actress for verbal and physical violence and also said that the director knowingly ignored the issue and blamed her, the Tehran Association of Assistant Directors (TAFAD) issued a statement in support.

The association confirmed the knowledge of such widespread cases of abuse – even against men – and said that in the past it had sought responsibility through various means, without giving further details.

He promised support to his members and urged them to report any cases “without” worrying and allowing the abuse of position and power by your silence “.

Kazem Garibabadi, who heads the country’s Supreme Council for Human Rights, which operates under the judiciary, said on Sunday that women in cinema should be protected. He called on the Ministry of Culture and trade unions to find mechanisms to support women, and said the judiciary was also ready to reconsider.

Legal protection

In addition, Gharibabadi expressed the hope that a long-term bill aimed at protecting women from violence would soon be ratified by parliament.

The legislation, called Protection, Dignity and Security of Women against Violence, has been under development for more than a decade and was approved by the government in January 2021, when former President Hassan Rohani was in power and current President Ebrahim Rice was in charge. justice.

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However, it was put on the shelf by the Conservative parliament and has not been on the agenda since then, despite promising to announce some positive changes to the rules that protect women.

Iranian cinema is known around the world, as it has produced many actors and behind-the-scenes talents who have presented their work at international film festivals and won awards.

But this is the first major public expression of sexual harassment in the industry. Iran’s first significant #MeToo moment came in September 2020, when many Iranians, including celebrities, visited social media to share their experiences of sexual abuse.

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