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

Note: The following is an open letter from Iranian scholars, activists, and artists to Iranian filmmaker Mohsen Makhmalbaf asking him to boycott the Jerusalem International Film Festival and reject an award from the festival. According to organizers, the letter is the first ever grassroots Iranian BDS statement. The Persian and Arabic versions of the open letter are available in the origianl document. To have yoru name added to the letter, please email Alex Shams at You can also view and post comments on the related facebook page.

Mohsen Makhmalbaf

We, 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


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


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


Alma BahmanPour


Amin Hosuri


Amir Rashidi

Human Rights Activist

Amir Saffarian

Social and Political Activist

Arash Abazari

PhD Candidate of Phisophy, John Hopkins University

Arash Bahmani


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 Universite Jean Moulin Lyon, Journalist

Bagher Ahmadi

Doctorate of International Law

Beeta Baghoolizadeh

University of Pennsylvania

Behdad Bordbar


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


Ehteram Shadfar

Women's Rights Activist

Elham Mireshghi

Anthropology Graduate, UCI

Farahmand Alipour


Farhad Rouhi

Political and Civic Activist

Farshid Faryabi


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


Gelare Khoshgozaran


Ghazal Dehghani

Master's Student of Mechanical Engineering, University of Arizona

Gholamreza Kashi

Sociology Graduate

Ghoncheh Ghavami

Law Graduate, SOAS

Goudarz Eghtedari


Hamed Sarafpour

Human Rights Activist

Hamid Houshangi

ex-Journalist, Former News Deputy of Irna

Hamid Parnian


Hanif Rahbari

Doctoral Student of Electrical and Computer Engineering, University of Arizona

Hesam Salamat

Social Activist

Hossein Gilaki


Hossein Moghaddam

Human Rights Advocate

Kowsar Gohari

Attorney at Law

Kamran Akhshi

Political Activist

Kamyar Jarrah


Kaveh Kermanshahi

Human rights Defender

Kaveh Rezaei Shiraz

Social Activist

Khosrow Sadeghi Boroujeni


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


Mehdi Moghaddam doust


Messi Shirvani

Journalist, Political Activist

Mina Ghorbani


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


Pouneh Navabi


Pourya Taghavi

Media Director

Pouyan Fakhraei

Journalist, Political Activist

Raha Bahreini


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


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


Shadi Jafari

University of California, Irvine

Shahin Kia


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


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


Zeynab Peyghambarzadeh

Feminist Activist

Zhaleh Shand

Political activist


... Payvand News - 07/14/13 ... --

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