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  • Writer's pictureThe San Juan Daily Star

Actress detained for supporting Iranian protests is released

The Iranian actress Taraneh Alidoosti, center, was welcomed by friends after being released Wednesday from prison on bail

By Vivian Yee

Iran released a well-known actress earlier this week, state media reported, after she spent 2 1/2 weeks in detention for condemning the government’s harsh response to the mass protests that have upended the country since September.

The actress, Taraneh Alidoosti, 38, was arrested Dec. 18 after urging Iranians to support the anti-government protests, becoming one of the most high-profile targets in Iran’s campaign against sports stars, rappers, filmmakers, actors and other celebrities who have expressed solidarity with the demonstrators.

On Wednesday, Iran’s semiofficial ISNA news agency said Alidoosti, star of the Academy Award-winning 2016 film “The Salesman,” directed by Asghar Farhadi, was released on bail, citing her lawyer, Zahra Minouie.

Photos later circulated on social media that appeared to show Alidoosti standing outside Evin Prison, the infamous facility in Tehran where Iran routinely locks up political opponents, academics, writers and other prominent dissidents. Her hair was loosely covered with a scarf, and she held a bunch of flowers.

The protests first swept across Iran in mid-September after the death in custody of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini, who had been arrested by Iran’s morality police, accused of violating the law mandating headscarves and modest dress for women. Although the protests at first focused on dismantling the hijab law, they quickly broadened to demand an end to Iran’s entire ruling establishment.

As authorities cracked down with bullets and beatings, resulting in hundreds of deaths and thousands of arrests, Alidoosti became one of the most famous voices cheering on the protests and denouncing the brutal response.

“Your silence means supporting oppression and oppressors,” Alidoosti wrote on her social media accounts in December after authorities announced the execution by hanging of Mohsen Shekari, 23, one of two protesters Iran has executed so far.

In reporting her arrest, state news agencies described her posts as “unsubstantiated comments about recent events” and “the publication of provocative material.” The judiciary said in a statement that it had summoned several celebrities, including Alidoosti, for posting claims it said were unproven about what the government calls the “riots” but that because she had not offered any evidence, she was arrested.

Alidoosti, who was also prosecuted in June 2020 for Twitter posts criticizing police for assaulting an Iranian woman who had taken off her headscarf, had previously posted a photo of herself with her hair uncovered, holding a sign signaling her support for the protesters.

When she was arrested, however, her Twitter and Instagram accounts were taken down. Those accounts remained unavailable Wednesday evening.

Iran’s government blames the protests on a conspiracy by foreign countries, and it has remained defiant in the face of international condemnation. The country’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, said in a meeting with hundreds of Iranian women Wednesday that Westerners were “hypocritical” for criticizing the place of women in Islam while oppressing women in their own countries.

“The modernized West and its decadent culture are really guilty in this regard and have committed a crime against women’s honor and dignity,” he said, according to ISNA, while defending Islam’s “advanced” and “just” view on women.

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