Tehran has cheered Iranian filmmaker Asghar Farhadi's second Oscar for best
foreign film as an opportunity for more verbal attacks on the Trump
administration, which responded with a muted defense of U.S. policy and
deletion of a tweet about the movie.
Asghar Farhadi's second Oscar win
artwork by Jalal Hajizadeh, Ghanoon daily
A day after Farhadi's The Salesman received the honor at Sunday's Academy Awards in Los Angeles, three senior Iranian officials sent him congratulatory messages that also contained criticisms of President Donald Trump, whom Tehran blames for increased tensions between the two nations since he took office last month.
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif tweeted that he was proud of The
Salesman's cast and crew for taking a stance against what he described as the
Trump administration's "Muslim ban." He was making a reference to a January 27
executive order signed by Trump to temporarily deny U.S. entry to citizens of
Iran and six other Muslim-majority nations seen as insufficiently acting to
prevent terrorists from travel.
Proud of cast & crew of "The Salesman" for Oscar & stance against #MuslimBan. Iranians have represented culture & civilization for millennia— Javad Zarif (@JZarif) February 27, 2017
Farhadi declined to fly to the U.S. and attend the award ceremony in protest at the travel ban, which a federal court suspended on February 3 in response to legal challenges from U.S. critics who call it unconstitutional.
Accepting the Oscar on his behalf were two prominent Iranian Americans whom he asked to represent him. One of them, astronaut Anousheh Ansari, read a statement from Farhadi, who called Trump's immigration order "inhumane" and said "dividing the world into 'us' and 'our enemies' categories creates fear - a deceitful justification for aggression and war."
In similar remarks reported by Iranian state media, Iranian Vice President Eshaq Jahangiri praised Farhadi for "defending his country against the inhuman measure taken by ... Trump," while Iranian Culture and Islamic Guidance Minister Reza Salehi-Amiri said The Salesman's Oscar win "shows that the U.S. president's behavior is against peace and friendship."
The U.S. State Department offered no reaction to the Iranian officials' remarks in response to a question from VOA Persian. It said Washington has no comment on Farhadi's statement, but added: "We support free speech and artistic expression."
The State Department's Farsi-language Twitter account had tweeted its
congratulations to Farhadi within hours of him receiving the Oscar, but later
deleted the message.
One Iranian artist expressed his thoughts about Farhadi's Oscar victory by echoing his government's characterization of it as a rebuke to Trump. Cartoonist Bozorgmehr Hosseinpour posted a cartoon on his Instagram account showing Farhadi sitting at a chess board and holding an Oscar statuette, about to knock out an unseen opponent's final chess piece in the likeness of Trump. Hosseinpour captioned it, "Checkmate!"
cartoon by Bozorgmehr Hosseinpur
But, Iranian foreign minister Javad Zarif drew some criticism on social media
for using his country's award to make a political point against the Trump
administration. One Twitter user posted this response to Javad Zarif's tweet
expressing pride in the filmmakers:
Iran has jailed several filmmakers in recent years on charges of acting against the government.
Some Twitter users also criticized The Salesman director Farhadi for not using
the platform of the Oscars to highlight the Iranian government's perceived
rights abuses against political prisoners and religious minorities. But other
users tweeted messages in his defense, saying he should be celebrated for
winning Iran's only two Oscars. He won his and his nation's first Oscar for
best foreign film in 2012 for A Separation.
VOA Persian Service journalists Sara Dehghan, Tomaj Javidtash and White House correspondent Steve Herman contributed to this report.
About the author:
Michael covers international news for VOA on the web, radio and TV, specializing in the Middle East and East Asia Pacific. Follow him on Twitter @Michael_Lipin
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