Iran Arrests One of Its Most Famous Actresses

Taraneh Alidoosti was detained after criticizing the government’s execution of a protester

Actress Taraneh Alidoosti
Taraneh Alidoosti, one of Iran's most famous actresses, voiced support for anti-government protests on Instagram. Tristan Fewings / Getty Images

Iranian officials have arrested Taraneh Alidoosti, an actress best known for her leading role in the Academy Award-winning picture The Salesman (2016), for publicly criticizing the government’s decision to execute a protester. 

This month, Alidoosti took to Instagram following the state’s hanging of Mohsen Shekari, a 23-year-old protester who was reportedly convicted of stabbing a member of the Basij paramilitary force at a protest in Tehran.

“Your silence means supporting tyranny and tyrants,” wrote Alidoosti, according to CNN’s Heather Chen, Lindsay Isaac and Jennifer Hauser, adding that “every international organization who is watching this bloodshed and not taking action, is a disgrace to humanity.”

That wasn’t the first time Alidoosti, one of Iran’s most famous actresses, spoke out in support of protesters. Last month, she uploaded a photo of herself to Instagram with no hijab. Hair exposed, she held a handwritten sign with the words that have become the Iranian protests’ rallying cry: “Women, Life, Freedom.”

The Islamic Republic News Agency, a state-operated news service, announced Alidoosti’s arrest in a post to Telegram, the encrypted messaging service. The post said that she was arrested for “unsubstantiated comments about recent events” and “the publication of provocative material in support of previous street riots.” It also said that other celebrities have been arrested, though it did not name anyone besides Alidoosti.

Alidoosti’s Instagram and Twitter accounts appear to have been suspended, and her previous posts are no longer visible.

Iran’s women-led protests began in September following the death of Mahsa Amini, a 22-year-old who was in the custody of Iran’s “morality police” after allegedly wearing her hijab incorrectly. The Iranian government has responded to the protests with brutal force. At least 469 people have been killed, according to the nonprofit Iran Human Rights, and at least 39 are currently at risk of execution or death penalty sentences.

Shekari’s execution earlier this month was the first known use of the death penalty in relation to Iranian protests. The young man was found guilty of “waging war against God” when he allegedly blocked a street and wounded a member of the Basij militia, according to the Guardian’s Patrick Wintour and Maryam Foumani.

Alidoosti’s arrest is “one of the highest-profile detentions the Iranian authorities have made” since September, writes the New York Times’ Matt Stevens.

Asghar Farhadi’s 2016 thriller The Salesman brought Alidoosti, who is also known for starring in television romance “Shahrzad,” international acclaim. In 2017, the film won the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film. Alidoosti, however, was not in attendance; she skipped the awards ceremony in protest of former President Donald Trump’s travel bans on people from predominantly Muslim countries. The actress has also been a prominent voice in Iran’s ongoing #MeToo movement.