Semi-official Iran Student’s News Agency (ISNA) has confirmed that Iranian actress Pegah Ahangarani was jailed last week for attempting to leave the country to blog about the Women’s World Cup for a German radio station, after she was warned by the Iranian government not to travel to the event.
On Monday, Deutsche Welle, Germany’s international broadcasting service, reported that close friends of the actress have confirmed that the actress was allowed to call her mother briefly to let her know that she is being detained by the Revolutionary Guard in Tehran’s Evin Prison, Iran’s most notorious jail. Her family now has no contact with her.
Although Iran claims that Evin holds no “political prisoners,” because such a category is not recognized legally in Iran, Evin has long since been known for its uses of solitary confinement, harsh interrogation tactics, even torture, sometimes leading to death, of government dissidents. For women, it is not uncommon for rape to be used by interrogators, a tactic that goes back to Evin’s pre-revolutionary days.
Ahangarani in the 2001 film The Girl in the Sneakers
Ahangarani, 27, is a former award-winning child actress and daughter of filmmakers Manijeh Hekmat and Jamshid Ahangarani. At 15, she became most well-known for her role in The Girl in the Sneakers, an Iranian film that touches on the taboo of dating in Iran. In adulthood, she has been active in making documentaries and running an internationally-acclaimed blog on life in Iran. In 2009, she was detained briefly for her outspoken support for reformist presidential candidate Mir Hossein Mousavi, whose loss to harld-liner President Mahmoud Ahmedinjad in the disputed and likely rigged elections spurred riots and protests nationwide. She briefly went into hiding after being warned by Iran’s Information Ministry not to attend the World Cup, but then decided to go as a guest blogger for Deutshe Welle. One day before she was set to leave, Iran’s Intelligence Agency contacted her and threatened her not to leave, and she subsequently cancelled her travel plans. Security officials arrested her at her home on July 10. She is now in the custody of the Intelligence and Security Organization of Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps.
“Obviously with arrest of Pegah Ahangarani,” Deutsche Welle stated, “Tehran wants not only to prevent reporting of women’s football, but first and foremost, cooperation with Germany’s international service.”
The arrest happened on the heels of Iran’s ongoing conflict with FIFA, which banned Iran’s women’s team from playing a qualifying match for the 2012 Olympics because their headscarves supposedly broke FIFA dress codes. Iran fired back by banning the team from playing in any international soccer tournaments.
Ahangarani is also one of many well-known Iranian women who have been detained this past month for unclear charges, including sports journalist Maryam Majd, documentary filmmaker Mahnaz Mohammadi, journalist Zahra Yazdani, and campaigners Maryam Bahrman and Mansoureh Behkish. Last year, authorities arrested and issued a six-year jail sentence to film director Jafar Panahi, famous for his film Offside, about a group of Iranian women who cross-dress as men so that they can attend an Olympic-qualifying soccer match. Actor Ramin Parchami was arrested last February for his solidarity with the Arab Spring.
“It appears to be part of an ongoing crackdown on journalists, film-makers, activists and lawyer,” Amnesty International said in a recent statement. “Anyone whom the authorities fear may challenge their narrow view of what the Islamic Republic of Iran should be.”
According to ISNA, the investigation into Ahangarani case is still continuing.