The premiere of a movie, which is alleged to contain un-Islamic scenes and dialogue, has provoked controversy in Tehran.
Opponents and proponents of "I Am a Mother", directed by Fereidun Jeirani, held gatherings in front of the Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance on Saturday morning. The opponents, which are led by Ansar Hezbollah, also organized a demonstration on Friday.
"Let the cinema live"
"I Am a Mother" tells the story of a young woman who is raped by a man who is a close friend of her parents. She kills the man in revenge for the offense, then her mother claims she was the murderer in order to save her daughter from qisas, the Islamic law of equal retaliation in punishment. However, the rapist's wife wants the young woman to be executed.
The film's opponents condemned the Culture Ministry for granting a screening license for the movie that allegedly challenges the law of qisas and promotes immorality.
Chanting slogans such as "The dastardly official must be replaced" and "This corrupt cinema must be banned", opponents demanded that the Culture Ministry stop screening the film.
"Islamic cinema isn't a place for drinking"
They also held banners bearing statements such as "Families of martyrs, we are ashamed." A leader of the group even asked Iranian officials to start a "cultural revolution" in the Culture Ministry.
In response, the film's supporters, a group of cineastes, chanted the slogans "We support cinema", "We support the zealous minister" and "Let the cinema survive".
The two groups held noon prayers separately, after which the group of cineastes issued a statement and left.
In the statement, they asked cultural officials to resist challenges against the Culture Ministry's "correct stances".
Among this group were directors Saeid Soheili and Mohammad-Hossein Farahbakhsh, whose films "Guidance Patrol" and "Private Life" were banned in the early spring following protests by Ansar Hezbollah.
The opponents had announced that their gathering would continue until the Culture Ministry agrees to stop screening the film. However, they dispersed an hour later.
The gatherings received no response from any officials as Culture Minister Mohammad Hosseini was attending a meeting in Rasht on Saturday.
Asked about certain groups' protests against some films, he said, "We welcome criticism, but it should be done in a reasonable atmosphere in which the producer and filmmaker are able to respond and the Culture Ministry is able to exercise its supervisory function."
"In order to show how some un-Islamic lifestyles lead to a dead end, the filmmaker must depict their behavior and improper relationships... So the society should show a little tolerance," he added.
However, the Culture Ministry revised its position an hour before the gatherings and agreed to modify the film.
"In order to prevent any misunderstanding about the vital law of qisas, the necessary changes in the ending of the film have been determined and (the filmmakers) were informed," the acting director of the Culture Ministry Supervision and Evaluation Office, Mehdi Azimi, said in a press release.
However, the opponents were not satisfied with this retreat and have filed a lawsuit against Iran Cinema Organization Director Javad Shamaqdari, producer Gholamreza Musavi, and Jeirani.
Shamaqdari, Musavi, and Jeirani appeared in a Tehran court on Sunday to answer questions at an inquiry.