Saturday, February 25, 2017

Here's Another Iranian Who Won't be Attending the Oscars

Zeinab Sekaanvand

Asghar Farhadi, the Iranian director of "The Salesman" - nominated for an Oscar in the best foreign-language film category - won't be attending the Oscar ceremony. He decided not to come to the United States in order to protest President Donald Trump's executive order on travel. And along with the five other director nominees, he decried the growing "climate of fanaticism" in the United States. For this, he has won more international plaudits, adding to his fame and mystique as perhaps Iran's best known film director.

Here's another Iranian who won't be attending the Oscars:

Her name is Zeinab Sekaanvand and she is scheduled to be hanged.

A child bride, she was convicted of stabbing her husband to death.

She claimed he beat and abused her, that her complaints to the police were ignored, that her husband rejected her requests for divorce and that she was subsequently disowned by her conservative family.

After being arrested she was tortured by police officers. She confessed to the killing without benefit of a lawyer.

Later, she retracted her confession and claimed that her husband's brother had committed the crime, asking her to take the blame for it and promising to pardon her for it if she did - a practice permissible under Iranian law.

While on death row, Sekaanvand married a fellow prisoner and became pregnant. After her cellmate was taken away for execution, her baby was stillborn, apparently having died from shock.

Zeinab Sekaanvand's case has become somewhat of a cause celebre in the international human rights community. That might save her, although judging from recent history, it probably won't.

Iran now leads the world in executions per capita. One thousand people were executed last year. Since the 1979 Revolution tens of thousands have been executed, many thousands of them political opponents, religious minorities or people running afoul of sharia law penalties for adultery, homosexuality, blasphemy and so on.

It is estimated that 70 women have been stoned to death. They won't be attending the Oscars.

4,000 homosexuals have been killed, in many cases publicly hanged. They won't be attending the Oscars.

5,000 political prisoners - mainly leftists and communists - were executed in a five month period during 1988, a ferocious and massive purge which the government still denies ever existed. They won't be attending the Oscars.

200 Bahais have been killed. They won't be attending.

Many jews, scientists and government officials have been convicted of "espionage" and executed after dubious trials. They won't be attending either.

But I want to return to Asghar Farhadi. Here he is posing with the Oscar for best Foreign Film in 2012.

Farhadi is a sort of "hip" director. You can read long intellectual analyses of his work in cinema journals. Some of his films have been interpreted as veiled criticisms of Iranian government or society, but he also appears to have enough support within government circles to have furthered and protected his career and person.

He has become wealthy and famous, and he travels abroad regularly, hobnobbing with the likes of Penelope Cruz and Javier Bardem.

Other Iranian directors have been jailed or been banned from filmmaking due to alleged dissident activities.

But Asghar Farhadi has always kept his nose clean. As far as I know, he has never explicitly condemned his country's human rights record nor lobbied for those imprisoned or on death row.

The name Zeinab Sekaanvand has never publicly passed his well-coiffed lips.

When Sekaanvand is hanged, what suit will he be wearing?

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