Exiled actress Farahani decries 'massacre' in Iran


Iranian actress and singer Golshifteh Farahani attends the 18th edition of the Marrakech International Film Festival on December 2nd in Marrakech. [Fadel Senna/AFP]

Iranian actress and singer Golshifteh Farahani attends the 18th edition of the Marrakech International Film Festival on December 2nd in Marrakech. [Fadel Senna/AFP]

Exiled Iranian actress Golshifteh Farahani has condemned what she called a "massacre" in her homeland, which has been rocked by a wave of deadly protests.

Farahani is Iran's first actress to star in a Hollywood film since the 1979 revolution.

The US said Thursday (December 5th) that Iranian authorities may have killed more than 1,000 people in a crackdown on demonstrations that began November 15th, after the government abruptly hiked fuel prices.

According to Amnesty International, at least 208 people died in the protests.

"It is a massacre, with hundreds of people dead," Farahani said on the sidelines of the Marrakesh International Film Festival.

"I have learned not to dream when it comes to Iran. We cannot guess what will happen tomorrow," she said.

"I did not expect the price of petrol to triple overnight. At the same time, I know that the people are suffering economically, politically and democratically. And when people suffer, it can explode quickly," she said.

Farahani -- daughter of the acclaimed director Behzad Farahani -- upset the Iranian authorities when she appeared in Ridley Scott's spy thriller "Body of Lies" in 2008 alongside Leonardo DiCaprio.

She went into exile, first in the US and then in France where she now lives.

"Being in exile is like being in an ocean. Your only choice is to swim or you will die," she said, adding that she cannot return to Iran.

"Because of my films, because I am a woman, for not wearing the veil," she said. "Everything I did when I left Iran became like a political act, when it was not the case."

"I was not a politician or an activist. I was just an actress. A female actress. If I were a man, I would have taken a different path," she added.

'Severe violence' against protestors

The UN said Friday that at least 7,000 people have "reportedly" been arrested in Iran since mass demonstrations erupted last month, and called for the immediate release of those arbitrarily detained.

In a statement, the UN human rights office also said it had obtained "verified video footage" showing security forces firing on protestors, apparently with intent to kill.

The rights office added that it had "information suggesting that at least 208 people were killed" during the unrest, supporting the previous Amnesty toll.

"There are also reports, which the UN Human Rights Office has so far been unable to verify, suggesting more than twice that number killed," the statement added.

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet said video obtained by her office shows "severe violence was used against protestors".

"We have also received footage which appears to show security forces shooting unarmed demonstrators from behind while they were running away, and shooting others directly in the face and vital organs -- in other words shooting to kill," Bachelet said.

Additional video material shows "armed members of security forces shooting from the roof of a justice department building" in Javanrud in Kermanshah province, as well as gunfire from helicopters in Sadra, Fars province.

Iran has yet to give overall figures for the number of people killed or arrested when security forces moved in to quell the unrest.

Bachelet charged that "many of the arrested protestors have not had access to a lawyer", while raising alarm over "reports of severe overcrowding and harsh conditions in detention centres".

"I urge the authorities to immediately release from detention all protestors who have been arbitrarily deprived of their liberty," she said.

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