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Iranian Artists Vow Not To Forget Victims Of Government Violence, Downing Of Airliner

Homayoun Ghanizadeh speaking during a film award ceremony in Tehran, January 30, 2020

Iranian filmmakers and film industry stars attending at an award ceremony in Tehran have expressed their sympathy with the family members of those killed by security forces during the November protests and the victims of the Ukrainian airliner downed by IRGC missiles on January 8.

Taking part in the annual Iranian Film Critics Award ceremony on January 30, Iranian filmmaker Homayoun Ghanizadeh defied the Islamic republic authorities and called on Iranian artists not to remain silent in the face of what he described as "the massacres of 2019 and 2020."

"Silence in the face of a catastrophe such as what happened in November looks ugly. Artists should not leave the people alone" when they are facing ordeals, said the filmmaker.

He dedicated his award to Pouya Bakhtiari, a young engineer who was killed by security forces during the protests. He said Bakhtiari was "killed for his homeland." He warned the artists: "These hard times will pass, and we will remain face to face with the people."

Ghanizadeh won the award for "creativity and talent" at the 13th Iranian Film Critics Award ceremony Thursday evening. The ceremony which was initially planned for November was postponed to January 30 to show respect for those who lost their lives in November.

Hoping for a better future for all Iranians, Mahnaz Afshar, an Iranian actress who left Iran for Europe last year due to government pressure, assured Ghanizadeh in a tweet that "We share our fellow compatriots' pain and sorrow."

Other award-winning artists including prominent actors Hamed Behdad and Navid Mohammadzadeh also spoke at the ceremony voicing their protest against the unfair treatment of citizens during recent events.

Hamed Behdad read out a text message from his mother who had called on him not to celebrate his birthday, reminding him that "many young men and women took to the streets risking their lives to protest against rising prices and economic hardships."

Navid Mohammadzadeh said that "the nation has been through so many ordeals during recent months that we don't know how to describe these sad events."

Videos of the artists talking about those who died as a result of the violent crackdown on protests or as a result of the downing of a passenger airplane were widely circulated on social media.

Up to 1,500 Iranians were killed by security forces during the November protests and as many as 8,600 were arrested, and 176 lost their lives when IRGC “mistakenly” two anti-aircraft missiles on a civilian airliner as it took off from Tehran’s international airport.

The Islamic Republic has still not declared the precise number of those killed during the violent crackdown. Nor has it apologized for killing innocent passengers or named those responsible for the attack the government simply calls "human error," although it acknowledged three days after the attack that an IRGC unit was responsible, but never explained why a civilian aircraft was allowed to fly while a missile attack against American military bases was going on and air defense units anticipated retaliatory attacks by the United States' forces.

During the past week, as the date for Fajr Festival, a major government-organized artistic event marking the anniversary of the 1979 Islamic revolution, approaches members of the public as well as some artists have been reminding filmmakers, stage performers and musicians to boycott the event.

The Fajr Film Festival is the highlight of the Fajr Festivals which showcases the best of Iranian cinema every year at this time. Dozens of film, theater and music artists have said they won't present their works at the festival, but the government has been exerting pressure on individual artists to deny boycott announcements.