Open Letter to Filmmaker Mohsen Makhmalbaf: Please Be a Messenger of Freedom for Iranian and Palestinian People

MohsenWe, the undersigned, are a group of Iranian scholars, artists, journalists and activists who are deeply concerned by the recent decision of Iranian filmmaker Mohsen Makhmalbaf to take part in the Jerusalem International Film Festival from July 4-13, 2013. His participation directly violates the International call for Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) of the State of Israel issued by Palestinian civil society in 2005, as well as the specific call for Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel issued in July 2004.

As human beings of conscience, we are appalled by the brutality Palestinians undergo at the hand of Israeli occupation and we are supportive of the non-violent global BDS movement which seeks to pressure Israel to implement an equitable, just solution to the ethnic cleansing of 1948, the occupation of Palestinian lands since 1967, and the current implementation of an apartheid system. We are deeply dismayed at Mr. Makhmalbaf”s disregard for the global movement for Palestinian human rights and the implicit support for Israel”s apartheid policies that his decision to attend a film festival directly sponsored by the Israeli government represents, particularly given that he is being prominently honored by the festival with a special tribute.

Mohsen Makhmalbaf is a prominent Iranian filmmaker who for years has depicted the harsh realities of the most marginalized sectors of Iranian society in vivid detail. His 1989 Marriage of the Blessed, for example, staged the reality of Iran-Iraq war and showed us the ethical and political struggles of ordinary subjects within violent contexts. He showed us how to bear witness to the reality of violence. His continued persistence on truth and justice has forced him into exile from his homeland. How can we forget what he himself taught us when the plight of the Palestinians today demands such a reckoning?

We are deeply concerned that an artist so attuned to the brutalities of state violence in his homeland would have absolute disregard for the nonviolent global BDS movement and its work to peacefully pressure the Israeli state to respect Palestinian human rights. As Iranians who condemn the daily realities of oppression and state violence in Iran, we find it unconscionable that Mr. Makhmalbaf has accepted to take part in the Jerusalem International Film Festival.

We would like to use this opportunity to remind Mr Makhmalbaf of the fact that Palestinian civil society has appealed to international artists not to take part in cultural events taking place in Israel while Israel continues to ignore United Nations resolutions, to flout international law, and to deprive the Palestinian people of their most elementary human rights. In the past three years many prominent artists have responded to the appeal by refusing to appear in Israel, and others who had initially accepted this invitation have cancelled their performances, preferring to show their support for the struggle of the Palestinian people against Israeli oppression.

Performing in Israel today is a political statement. Israel openly admits to using cultural events as a propaganda tool, and we have no question that it will use Mr Makhmalbaf’s image for its global campaign to camouflage its systematic violation of the most basic human rights of the Palestinian people. Mr Makhmalbaf’s presence will be instrumentalized as a token for Israeli “tolerance” while Israel continues to implement the most intolerant of colonial policies against Palestinian people, and advocates the most unprecedented and crippling sanctions against Iranian people. Mr Makhmalbaf’s films will be screened before a segregated audience. Only a few of his Palestinian fans in Gaza or in the West Bank- to say nothing of the 4.5 million Palestinian refugees elsewhere who are similarly denied free movement in their homeland- will be allowed to come and watch this film.

The Jerusalem International Film Festival is being held at Jerusalem Cinematheque, located in between three Palestinian villages that were ethnically cleansed by the State of Israel in 1948. The ruins of these villages today overlook the Cinematheque. We cannot forget, as the Israeli government wants us to, the history and the memory of Dayr Aban (1948 population: 2,436), Jarash (1948 population: 220), and Bayt Nattif (1948 population: 2,494), as well as the struggle of their refugee descendents who today number more than 30,000. We ask Mr. Makhmalbaf, whose movies are reminders of life in ruins and displacement to remember and bear witness to the continued displacement of Palestinians by the Israeli government by joining the BDS movement.

As Iranians ourselves, we know the realities of state-sponsored oppression, violence and brutality against innocent civilians. This is especially true with regards to the Baha”i community, the subject of Makhmalbaf”s latest film. We recognize the repression that led to Mr. Makhmalbaf”s own exile, and we sympathize with his suffering as a filmmaker who has been persecuted by the Iranian regime. At the same time we insist again on the political and ethical responsibilities that we as human beings have to resist oppression and tyranny wherever they may be.

We cannot in good conscience stand by Mr. Makhmalbaf and his decision which will inevitably validate the Israeli occupation, apartheid and ethnic cleansing. We ask not only that Mr. Makhmalbaf stand with the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions Movement, but that he be a messenger of liberation for everyone, including both Palestinians and Iranians.


Institutional affiliations are provided for identification purposes only. Views expressed represent only individuals, not organizations.

Ali Mirsepassi, Professor of Middle Eastern Studies and Sociology, New York University

Arang Keshavarzian, Associate Professor of Middle Eastern and Islamic Studies, New York University

Asef Bayat, Catherine and Bruce Bastian Professor of Global and Transnational Studies and Professor of Sociology and Middle Eastern Studies, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Azadeh Shahshahani, National Lawyers Guild

Banafsheh Madaninejad, Faculty, Southwestern University

Elaheh Amani, Scholar, Women and Human Rights Activist

Elaheh Rostami-Povey, Lecturer, School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London

Ervand Abrahamian, Distinguished Professor of Iranian and Middle Eastern History and Politics, Baruch College

Fatemeh Keshavarz, Professor of Persian, University of Maryland

Golbarg Bashi, Faculty, Iranian and Middle Eastern Studies, Rutgers University

Hamid Dabashi, Hagop Kevorkian Professor of Iranian Studies and Comparative Literature, Columbia University

Hanan Hammad, Assistant Professor of History, Texas Christian University

Kamran Rastegar, Assistant Professor of Arabic Program, Tufts University

Laleh Khalili, Associate Professor in Middle East Politics, SOAS

Leyla Shirazi, Havaar

Mahmood Karimi-Hakak, Professor of Creative Arts (Theater), Siena College

Mohammad Borghei, Professor, Strayer University

Mohammad Sahimi, Professor of Chemical Engineering and Materials Science, University of Southern California

Sholeh Shahrokhi, Professor of Anthropology, Butler University

Ziba Mir-Hosseini, Professorial Research Associate, Centre for Islamic and Middle Eastern Law, School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London

Ahmad Salaj, Social Activist

Aida Ghajar, Journalist

Alex Shams, Political Activist

Ali Abdi, PhD Candidate, Yale University

Ali Hajji Ketabi, Member of the Scientific Committee of Academic Center, Jahad-e Daneshgahi

Ali Taghipour, Student

Alma BahmanPour, Student

Amin Hosuri, Journalist

Amir Rashidi, Human Rights Activist

Amir Saffarian, Social and Political Activist

Arash Abazari, PhD Candidate of Phisophy, John Hopkins University

Arash Bahmani, Journalist

Arash Bineshpajouh, Film Maker, Human Rights/LGBT Activist

Arash Rahmati, Philosophy Student, Berlin

Aydin Ekhvan, Political Activist, Journalist

Azadeh Assadi, Social Activist

Azadeh Sobout, Social Activist

Babak Mina, Philosophy Graduate Université Jean Moulin Lyon, Journalist

Bagher Ahmadi, Doctorate of International Law

Beeta Baghoolizadeh, University of Pennsylvania

Behdad Bordbar, Journalist

Behnam Amini, Student of Political and Social Thought at York University, Canada

Behnam Darayizadeh, Lawyer and Journalist

Bitta Mostofi, Lawyer and Activist

Borhan Azemi, Political Activist

Daro Behroozi, Musician, Composer, and Member of Havaar: The Iranian Initiative against War, Sanctions and State Repression

Ehsan Mansouri, Student

Ehteram Shadfar, Women’s Rights Activist

Elham Mireshghi, Anthropology Graduate, UCI

Farahmand Alipour, Journalist

Farhad Rouhi, Political and Civic Activist

Farshid Faryabi, Journalist

Fatemeh Masjedi, Research Fellow, Berlin

Fereshteh Naji Habibzadeh, Journalist, Human Rights Activist

Fereydoon Taheri, Doctorate student at Universite Libre de Bruxelles

Firouzeh Mohajer, Women’s Rights Activist

Foad Shams, Journalist

Gelare Khoshgozaran, Artist

Ghazal Dehghani, Master’s Student of Mechanical Engineering, University of Arizona

Gholamreza Kashi, Sociology Graduate

Ghoncheh Ghavami, Law Graduate, SOAS

Goudarz Eghtedari, Journalist

Hamed Sarafpour, Human Rights Activist

Hamid Houshangi, ex-Journalist, Former News Deputy of Irna

Hamid Parnian, Translator

Hanif Rahbari, Doctoral Student of Electrical and Computer Engineering, University of Arizona

Hesam Salamat, Social Activist

Holly Dagres, Scholar

Hossein Gilaki, Journalist

Hossein Moghaddam, Human Rights Advocate

Kowsar Gohari, Attorney at Law

Kamran Akhshi, Political Activist

Kamyar Jarrah, Academic

Kaveh Kermanshahi, Human rights Defender

Kaveh Rezaei Shiraz, Social Activist

Khosrow Sadeghi Boroujeni, Researcher

Kouhyar Goudarzi, Journalist, Human Rights Activist

Leila Asadi, Women’s Rights Activist

Leila Pourtavaf, PhD Student of History, University of Toronto

Leila Zand, Middle East Program at Fellowship of Reconciliation

Leyli Behbahani, PhD Candidate, SOAS

Mahta Ahmadnia, Master of Architecture Student, Active in the Iranian Community

Malahat Salahshour, Student Activist

Maliheh Mohammadi, Political Activist, Journalist

Manijeh Nasrabadi, Raha Iranian Feminist Collective

Maryam Ameri, Social Activist

Maryam Amiri, Journalist

Mehdi Moghaddam doust, Writer

Messi Shirvani, Journalist, Political Activist

Mina Ghorbani, Scholar

Mina Khanlarzadeh, Student, Columbia University

Mirardavan Asadi, Student of Project Management, Britain

Mohaddeseh Vazehi, Student Activist

Mohamad Solaimani, Community Activist

Mohammad Ghaznavian, Journalist and Social Activist

Mohammad Habibi, Political Activist

Mohammad Sajjad Naghavi, Engineering Student, Malaya, Malaysia

MohammadHafez Hakami, Political Activist

Naeimeh Doustdar, Journalist, Women’s Rights Activist

Nahid Mirhaj, Women’s Rights Activst

Nasim Khosravi Moghaddam, Film Maker, Women’s Rights Activist

Niaz Salimi, Community Activist

Nikzad Zangeneh, Women’s Rights Activist

Nina Farnia, National Lawyers Guild

Nina Iradji, Human Against Apartheid

Nojan Komeili

Oveys Akhavan, Social and Political Activist

Parisa Karimi, Women’s Rights Activist

Pedram Moallemian, Community Activist

Peyman Mostofi, Filmmaker

Pouneh Navabi, Student

Pourya Taghavi, Media Director

Pouyan Fakhraei, Journalist, Political Activist

Raha Bahreini, Lawyer

Reza Raeesi, Student of law

Sadra Shahab, Civil Rights Activist, Teacher, City Planner

Saeed Pahlevan Sharif, PhD Candidate, Lecturer/Tutor at Taylor’s University

Saeed Soltanpour, Journalist

Saieed Habibi, Political Activist

Sanaz Raji, Book Editor, Graduate Journal of Social Sciences

Sara Khaki, Film Maker

Setareh Hashemi, Women’s Rights Activist

Seyyed Hanif Sajedi, Human Rights Activist

Seyyed Mojtaba Vahedi, Journalist

Shadi Jafari, University of California, Irvine

Shahin Kia, Architect

Shahryar Vakili, Medical Student

Shirin Barghi, New Village Press

Shivan Karimi, Student of Political Sociology

Siamak Aram, Doctoral Student at Polytechnic University of Turin, Italy

Soheil Assefi, Journalist

Taymaz Azimi Sajjadi, Student of Philosophy and Theology, University of Edinburgh

Tina Gharavi, Film Maker, Newcastle University, UK

Tirdad Bonakdar, Political Activist

Yaser Mirdamadi, University of Edinburgh, Doctorate Student of Islamic Studies

Yashar Salek, Clinical Researcher

Youssef Sohrabian, Political Activist

Zeynab Izadyar, Artist

Zeynab Peyghambarzadeh, Feminist Activist

Zhaleh Shand, Political Activist

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