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SYDNEY ( MAYORS & CITIES ) — An Iranian actress has been sentenced to one year in prison and 90 lashes for her role in an Australian film, media reports said on Tuesday, days after a student activist was lashed 74 times for insulting the country’s president.
Marzieh Vafamehr was sentenced for appearing in “My Tehran For Sale” which criticizes Iran’s hard-line policies. It tells the story of a young actress whose stage work is banned by authorities, the Sydney Morning Herald reported.
Vafamehr, who has been in jail since July, often appears with a shaved head and no headscarf in the film, which also explores cultural oppression in Iran. Films producers Julie Ryan and Kate Croser said in a statement that they are not aware of the specifics of the charges but believe they relate to scenes in which Vafamehr appears without wearing a hijab, which covers the head.
The filmmakers and investors behind the film said they were “deeply shocked and appalled” by her sentence. “The producers would like to emphasize that Marzieh’s involvement in the film was limited to her role as an actress and she was not in any other way involved in the behind-the-scenes filmmaking,” they said, as quoted by the newspaper.
The Australian government condemned the lashing sentence and urged Iran to protect the rights of all people. Foreign Affairs Minister Kevin Rudd’s office said the Australian government condemned the use of cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment and was “deeply concerned” by the reports.
The South Australian Film Corporation (SAFC) and the Adelaide Film Festival provided financial assistance for the production of the film. “It is something that state politicians don’t normally get involved in,” said South Australian upper house MP Dennis Hood. “But it was state taxes that paid for this film, which involved this unfortunate young lady, so we are going to bring it to our Foreign Minister’s attention to see what can be done.”
On Sunday, an Iranian student activist named Peyman Aref was lashed 74 times for insulting President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad before being released from Tehran’s Evin prison. Aref had written Ahmadinejad during his 2009 election campaign and refused to begin his letter with the formal greeting “Salam” as a sign of protest.
The lashing incident came only a few weeks after Somayeh Tohidlou, a female Iranian blogger and campaigner for former presidential candidate Mir Hossein Mousavi, was sentenced to a “symbolic” lashing for the same crime.