Actress Sentenced To 90 Lashes For Starring In Film Critical Of Iran

In 2008, Marzieh Vafamehr filmed My Tehran For Sale, an Australian film about an actress whose work is banned in Iran. Now Iranian officials have shown just how accurate the film's criticisms are by banning the movie, arresting Vafamehr, and sentencing her to a year in jail and 90 lashes for participating in the project.

The government hasn't released any information about the charges against Vafamehr, who was arrested in July. However, the Iranian opposition website kalameh.com is reporting that the sentence was handed down over the weekend, and one of the film's Australian producers has confirmed the information to the Sydney Morning Herald. The film was shown around the world, and despite the ban in Iran it's been circulating in the country illegally. According to the paper,

The film focuses on ''Marzieh'' ... an actress struggling under her country's controls over artistic expression. The government has banned Marzieh's work, and her romance with an Iranian-Australian expat (Amir Chegini) leads her to consider life outside Iran.

The film also deals with the secret lives of Iran's youth and, in one poignant scene, young people arrested at an underground dance party await their punishment as the sound of a cracking whip is heard in the background.

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Vafamehr's lawyer is said to be appealing the sentence, and many are hoping she'll be spared, since many lashing sentences aren't carried out. Australian Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd issued a statement saying, "The Australian government urges Iran to protect the rights of all Iranians and foreign citizens." The Iranian government is also being condemned by officials from several international organizations, including Amnesty Internationl. Last year My Tehran For Sale was screened by the Human Rights Film Festival, and director Matt Benetti says the work, ''Just hits home much more,'' following Vafamehr's arrest. ''Iran in particular seems to censor a lot of the artworks of a political nature and I just think it's really important it gets out.''

Actor In Australian Film Sentenced To 90 Lashes [Sydney Morning Herald]
Rudd 'Deeply Concerned' Over Reports Iranian Actress Will Be Lashed And Jailed For Role In SA film [The Australian]

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DISCUSSION

During studying abroad i lived with students from Iran in one student resident for a while. They lived like all of us do and where going to parties, having boyfriends, and having sex (even though the turned the music loud so nobody would notice). But if you would dare to mention that they have a boyfriend they would get really defensive and say over and over again that they would never do that. They also were totally shocked when at a soccer tournament, part of the price where free condoms (it was just in a gift bag with all sorts of promotional material of a health insurance.)

I really think that this double life is very true. It is hard to imagine when you experience people which seem perfectly like us that they are living in a country which treats women like this. It also made me scared what will happen to all of this really nice women once they return. I fear that this years abroad are pretty much the only piece of freedom they will ever get.