The women say violence and harassment in the workplace have become endemic, demanding reforms and accountability.
Tehran, Iran – Hundreds of women working in Iranian cinema have criticized “systematic” violence against women in the film industry and called for mechanisms that will hold perpetrators and actors accountable.
In a highly worded statement on Friday, more than 200 women – including some of the most famous Iranian actresses locally and internationally – condemned sexual violence and harassment, which they said has become endemic in Iranian films.
“Not only is there no mechanism to prevent powerful people from committing violence, there is also an unwritten agreement that the infliction of violence against women in the workplace has been normalized, with no serious consequences threatening the aggressor,” they wrote. .
Among the signatories are Taraneh Alidoosti – who starred in Asghar Farhadi’s Oscar-winning The Salesman in 2016 – Hedieh Tehrani, Niki Karimi and Pouran Derakhshandeh, all well-known names in Iranian cinema.
The women also condemned economic inequality and inequality in decision-making powers with male peers and demanded “this most basic human right, which means working in a safe space away from bullying and violence and sexual blackmail”.
They urged industry figures to mobilize through entities such as the Iranian Alliance of Motion Picture Guilds to form a female majority committee of people trained in dealing with sexual violence who would safely and privately receive and review allegations of aggression.
They also proposed adding mechanisms in film contracts to protect women and make aggressors accountable through financial sanctions and suspension from future work in the industry.
Industry, the reaction of the judiciary
In response, the guild alliance said in a statement Sunday that it already has a committee in place, consisting of a board, industry insiders, a representative from the Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance and a legal adviser ready to review any complaints.
It also said, “we must not allow a small number of potential unwanted behaviors from some cinema people to be generalized to the majority of talents working in Iran’s proud cinema,” a sentiment repeated by veteran actor Reza Kianian in a statement on his Instagram account.
The women’s statement came days after several women used Twitter and other social media to both openly and anonymously share their experiences of sexual violence on filming.
After a woman who worked as a second assistant director openly accused a well-known male actor of verbal and physical violence and also said that the film director deliberately ignored the problem and blamed her, the Tehran Association of Film Assistant Directors (TAFAD) issued a statement, who supported her.
The association confirmed knowledge of widespread similar cases of abuse – even against men – and said it had previously pursued responsibility in various ways without elaborating.
It promised support to its members and encouraged them to report all cases without “feeling concerned and allowing abuse of position and power with your silence”.
Kazem Gharibabadi, who heads the country’s High Court of Human Rights, which operates under the judiciary, said on Sunday that women in films should be protected. He called on the Ministry of Culture and the guild associations to come up with mechanisms that would support women, and said the judiciary is also ready to review claims.
In addition, Gharibabadi expressed hope that a lengthy bill aimed at protecting women from violence would soon be ratified by parliament.
The legislation, called the protection, dignity and security of women against violence, has been in the works for over a decade and was approved by the government in January 2021, when former President Hassan Rouhani was in office and incumbent President Ebrahim Raisi was chief. Justice.
However, it was shelved by the Conservative parliament and has not been put on the agenda since, despite its promise to announce some positive changes in rules protecting women.
Iranian cinema is well known all over the world and has produced many actors and talents behind the camera who have showcased their work at international film festivals and won awards.
But this is the first major public expression of sexual harassment in the industry. Iran’s first big #MeToo moment came in September 2020, when many Iranians, including celebrities, took to social media to tell about their experiences of sexual abuse.