Iran released a leading actress in an Oscar-winning film on Wednesday, nearly three weeks after she was jailed for criticizing a crackdown on anti-government protests, according to local reports.
Taraneh Alidoosti, the 38-year-old star of Asghar Farhadi’s 2016 Oscar-winning film “The Salesman,” has been released on bail, according to Tehran’s semi-official ISNA news agency.
In a post on Instagram, her mother, Nadere Hakimelahi, had earlier said she would be released.
After leaving Tehran’s notorious Evin prison, Alidoosti posed with bouquets of flowers, surrounded by friends. No further details about her case have been released.
Alidoosti was one of several Iranian celebrities who expressed support for protests across the country and criticized the authorities’ violent crackdown on dissent.
She had posted at least three messages in support of the protests on Instagram before her account was deactivated.
One message expressed solidarity with the first man to be executed on charges related to the protests, which were sparked by the death of Mahsa Amini in police custody and have turned into widespread calls for the ouster of Iran’s ruling clerics.
Alidoosti: Those who remain silent are ‘a disgrace to humanity’
The protests mark one of the biggest challenges for the Islamic Republic since it was established after the 1979 revolution. Security forces have used live ammunition, pellets, tear gas and batons to disperse protesters, according to human rights groups.
Mohsen Shekari was executed on 9 December after being accused by a local court of blocking a street in Tehran and attacking a member of the country’s security forces with a machete.
A week later, the Tehran regime executed a second prisoner, Majidreza Rahnavard, by public hanging. He had been accused of stabbing two members of the paramilitary Basij militia, which is leading the crackdown.
Activists say at least a dozen people have been sentenced to death in closed-door hearings on protest-related charges.
“His name was Mohsen Shekari,” Alidoosti wrote on an account with some 8 million followers before his arrest. “Any international organization that is watching this bloodshed and not taking action is a shame on humanity.”
Iranian reports on Alidoosti’s release do not say if she has been charged with anything or if she will stand trial. It was also unclear if she faces any travel restrictions as part of the terms of her release.
At least 516 protesters have been killed and more than 19,000 people have been arrested, according to Human Rights Activists in Iran, a group that has closely followed the unrest. The Iranian authorities have not provided an official count of those killed or detained.
Hengameh Ghaziani and Katayoun Riahi, two other famous Iranian actresses, were arrested in November for expressing solidarity with protesters on social media.
Voria Ghafouri, an Iranian soccer star, was also arrested that month for “insulting the national soccer team and making anti-government propaganda.” All three have been released.
Women at the forefront of the protests
The protests began in mid-September when Amini, 22, died after being arrested by Iran’s morality police for allegedly violating the Islamic Republic’s strict dress code.
Women have played a prominent role in the protests, with many publicly removing their mandatory Islamic headscarves, or hijabs.
Protesters say they are fed up after decades of political and social repression. One of the main slogans has been “Death to the dictator,” referring to Iran’s supreme leader, 83-year-old Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who has held the country’s highest office for more than three decades.
Iranian officials blame the protests on the United States and other foreign powers. State-linked media have highlighted attacks on security forces, while authorities have placed heavy restrictions on coverage of the demonstrations, including periodically cutting off internet access.
Khamenei, who has said little about the protests, spoke about Islamic dress on Wednesday at a meeting with women, saying the hijab is necessary but those who do not “fully observe” the practice “should not be accused of not being religious or against the revolution”.
Even before the protests, many Iranian women wore the loose veil, and authorities sometimes relaxed enforcing it, particularly during the presidency of Hassan Rouhani, a moderate who ruled from 2013 to 2021.
His successor, the hardline Ebrahim Raisi, had moved to tighten the restrictions.
Alidoosti had previously criticized the Iranian government and its police force ahead of this year’s protests.
In June 2020, he received a five-month suspended prison sentence after he criticized police on Twitter in 2018 for assaulting a woman who had removed her veil.
In “The Salesman,” she played a woman whose relationship with her husband breaks down after she is sexually assaulted in their apartment.
The story takes place in the context of a local production of Arthur Miller’s classic play, “Death of a Salesman”, in which the woman and her husband are the main characters.
Other well-known movies that Alidoosti has starred in include “The Beautiful City” and “About Elly.”