An increasing number of Iranian filmmakers, performing artists, and musicians have been boycotting an annual state sponsored festival as Iran is overwhelmed by a new wave of protests during the past days.
Meanwhile several presenters and actors have left the state TV in protest to the downing of a civilian passenger aircraft that claimed 176 lives and the state-controlled media's disinformation to divert attention from the revolutionary guards (IRGC) as the culprit behind the crash.
A few weeks before Fajr Festival, while officials are planning the final schedules for the event, dozens of stage artists pulled out their plays from the film and theater festival. The festival showcases the best of Iranian movies, plays, music and other forms of art every year in February to mark the anniversary of the victory of Islamic revolution.
A list of 16 plays whose directors and performers decided to leave the festival "because of the recent attack on honesty" have been going around on social media.
Performers, actors and directors have a revered celebrity status in Iranian society and their political statements carry weight among the populace.
Many stage artists including Ghotbeddin Sadeghi and Mehdi Koushki have also suspended their performances and said they won't take part in the Theater Festival this February.
Meanwhile, Fatemeh Motamed Arya, a prominent film and stage actress announced on Monday January 13 that she is not going to take part in the festival. Film actress Pegah Ahangarani also made a similar statement.
Motamed Arya said she was not taking part "out of respect for men and women and children who have lost their lives," and Ahangarani wrote on her Instagram: "I will join my friends and colleagues and will not take part in the Fajr Festival due to all the sad events." Another actress, Sara Bahrami also made a similar statement, boycotting the film festival.
Prominent filmmaker Massoud Kimiai (Kimyaee) announced in a video that went viral during the weekend that he does not want his film to be screened at the Fajr Film Festival as he is "mourning for passengers" on the Ukrainian fight that was downed by an IRGC missile.
Filmmaker Abdolreza Kahani has also asked his colleagues to follow the example of veteran filmmaker Kimiai and not take part in the festival.
Earlier, after it was announced that some 1,500 Iranian protesters were shot dead during widespread protests in November, another prominent filmmaker Dariush Mehrjui also said that he would not take part in this year's festival.
In one of the latest developments about the Film Festival, nearly all of the members of the jury of the event's competition section resigned. The jury included award winning actor Navid Mohammad Zadeh and film director Hooman Seyedi who said they cannot be present at the festival as they do not wish to interrupt the production of their latest movie.
Meanwhile, several Iranian musicians including the Taar maestro Keyan Saket, pop singers Alireza Assar and Reza Sadeqi and traditional singer Alireza Ghorbani have cancelled their concerts.
The Tehran Choir has also announced they will not take part in the Music festival as they lost one of their members in the crash of the Ukrainian aircraft.
A group of Iranian cartoonists have also issued a statement saying, "We protest against recent events that claimed hundreds of Iranian lives and announce that we will not be present at the Fajr Festival."
In the meantime, two Iranian State TV presenters including Gelareh Jabbari, and Zahra Khatami Rad quit their job in protest.