Iranian Celebrities Join Protesters in Challenging Regime


In addition to some Iranian journalists quitting their jobs in anger because the regime lied about shooting down Ukrainian International Airlines Flight PS752, Iranian celebrities are speaking out against their tyrannical rulers, while the common people persist in acts of defiance such as refusing to tread on American flags and holding banned funeral services for airplane victims.

The Financial Times reported a few acts of celebrity defiance on Friday, including top actor Navid Mohammadzadeh, who cleverly expressed his dissent by posting a scene from one of his performances in which his character talks about standing up and fighting for his rights. The Iranian people did not need the allegory explained to them, as the clip quickly racked up three million views.

Some other acts of celebrity defiance are courageously explicit in a country that has no qualms about using deadly force to keep its leaders in power:

Gelare Jabbari, a television presenter, said in an Instagram post that she later removed: “Forgive me for 13 years of lying to you in Iran television.” The Iranian Alliance of Motion Picture Guilds called on its members to reject invitations to appear on state television. Renowned singers cancelled their concerts in Tehran and other cities. Others have withdrawn from theatre, cinema, music and visual arts Fajr festivals in February, held annually to mark the anniversary of the 1979 revolution.

The day after Iran acknowledged the cause of the crash, the national volleyball team secured a place at the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo. But Saeid Marouf, team captain, said “there is no energy to celebrate a victory we dreamt of for years”. “I wish this was the last episode of a show of deception, hypocrisy and lack of wisdom of these inefficient [officials]. But it is not,” he wrote on Instagram. “I invite all people . . . in these darkest nights . . . to be kind to each other. We have no other refuge and shelter than each other.”

Some athletes, annoyed that Iranian authorities want them to wear hijabs and not compete against Israel, have voiced their discontent by quitting Iran. Kimia Alizadeh, a 21-year-old Iranian taekwondo athlete and an Olympic medallist, announced — following Iran’s statement on the aircraft — that she had left for Holland. “I am one of millions of suppressed women . . . We are all instruments . . . for their political machinations,” she said in her statement. “Dear Iranian mourners! I did not want to go up a ladder built on corruption and lies . . . I decided to take the pain of living away from home . . . which was more difficult than winning the Olympic medal.”

Dissident Iranians who spoke to the Financial Times anticipated the recent surge of attempts to emigrate would continue and intensify, despite appeals like the message sent by Mohammadzadeh’s film clip to stand and fight. The death of so many Iranians and dual citizens aboard Flight PS752 reportedly struck a fatalistic chord with people, especially younger people, who no longer believe their government can be reformed.

Others spoke of having renewed courage because the regime has not been able to crush the new protest movement yet. Demonstrators are still taking to the streets despite a heavy police presence and Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei using a rare Friday sermon speech to essentially accused protesters of treason.

Radio Farda reported anti-regime demonstrations broke out at funeral ceremonies for the airplane victims in the cities of Isfahan and Sanandaj on Thursday, including chants of “Down with the dictator,” meaning Ayatollah Khamenei. Agents of the regime attempted to drown out the chants by blasting passages from the Quran over loudspeakers. There were reports of regime thugs physically attacking protesters after the ceremonies were over. In the Kurdish city of Sanandaj, the families of several victims refused to let their caskets be draped with the Islamic Republic flag and rejected efforts to “honor” them as “martyrs.”

According to Radio Farda, funeral ceremonies in other cities were kept under control by heavy deployments of security forces and paramilitary troops, who forced attendees to chant pro-regime slogans and sign petitions supporting the IRGC.

On Wednesday, Amnesty International accused the Iranian regime of using unlawful force to suppress the protests that broke out after Flight PS752 was shot down, including beatings, pellet guns, arbitrary arrests, and sexual violence.

“It is appalling that Iran’s security forces have violently crushed peaceful vigils and protests by people demanding justice for the 176 passengers killed on the plane and expressing their anger at the Iranian authorities’ initial cover-up,” said Amnesty International researcher Philip Luther.

Speaking anonymously because he feared arrest, torture, or death, an Iranian protester told i24 News on Thursday that the Iranian people are “sick and tired of the Islamic Republic regime” and will not back down in the face of escalating regime violence.

The interviewee said most Iranians view Qasem Soleimani, the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) general eliminated by a U.S. airstrike in Iraq, as a “terrorist and criminal” who “plundered the Iranian people’s wealth” and used brutal tactics to suppress previous demonstrations.

Forbes reported on Friday that social media platform Twitter has suspended “dozens of accounts from government officials in Iran, as well as in Syria and Venezuela” at the request of the White House. The Iranian people have been taking to social media in growing numbers as anger about the airplane killings spreads, and have become fairly adept at evading firewalls and other forms of regime censorship.