Woman filmmaker in Iran sentenced to 18 months in prison

Tehran: In a contrasting Iranian political climate of acceptance and censure 29-year-old democracy green movement supporter and media personality Ms. Pegah Ahangarani, who is also an actress, documentary filmmaker and film director, has been sentenced by Iran’s conservative judiciary to 18 months in prison.
Although the filmmaker has been detained twice since the 2009 pro-democracy protests in Iran, Ahangarani has never received a sentence for a prison term.
In spite of the public’s desire to know the exact account of affairs that spurred the court to act on the  recent court sentence, Iran’s state news agency IRNA has outlined that the sentence was issued due to Ahangarani’s expressing her personal views before foreign media as well as releasing personal political comments against the state.
Recently invited by the Chicago International Film Festival to be present at the October 19, 2013 showing of  the feature film “Darband” (Trapped) where Ahangarani stars in a supporting role, the actress was sanctioned from attending the event. The film highlights the life of two very different women, one who is falsely accused of a crime she did not commit.
This is not the first time the celebrity has not been able to leave Iran. Pegah has not been allowed to leave or travel outside of Iran for the past 2 years.
“We hope the new climate in the country leads to the reduction of her restrictions and her sentence would be reviewed,” said Ahangarani’s mother in a letter sent to the ISNA – Iranian Student News Agency on Monday October 28.
Court arraignment and sentencing for Ahangarani did not come without warning. Pegah has been arrested before. Activists say her recent arrest shows a continuing tightening in freedom of expression inside Iran that has especially affected filmmakers in the region.
“On September 19, after the BBC Persian service aired a documentary critical of Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the Iranian governmentarrested six of the country’s documentary filmmakers, accusing them of participating in a conspiracy to air the film,” said Sampsonia Way, an online magazine covering human rights, literature, free speech and social justice.
In public politics the actress and filmmaker has supported the new Iranian President Hassan Rouhani during his electoral campaign earlier this year, but she also strongly supported former Iranian political candidate Mir Hossein Mousavi who became a leading icon for the “green democracy movement” protests that followed the disputed 2009 presidential election.
Mousavi, who is now in his 70s, has been kept under house arrest since 2011. He and his wife are currently unable to leave their home as they are living under security guards. Currently suffering under poor health, the candidate was sanctioned by Iran’s court in 2011 after he spoke out to support pro-democracy rallies in Tehran, the capital city where hundreds of thousands of people poured onto the streets to protest for national reform.
The crackdown that followed resulted in the sniper shooting death of Neda Agha Soltan, a college music student who was standing near her professor on the edge of the protests when she died. A video of the attempt to save her life became viral as it circulated worldwide after Neda’s death. Neda’s death quickly became a global symbol of Iran’s fading fight toward democracy dreams.

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