Parviz Parastui, an Iranian actor whose US visit sparked a controversy. FILE

Parviz Parastui, an Iranian actor whose US visit sparked a controversy

Iranian Actor's US Tour Sparks Political Controversy

5/1/2022

An Iranian film screening in Los Angeles became the scene of confrontation between some diaspora activists and actors accused of being regime-sponsored artists.

Some Iranian activists bombarded Parviz Parastui, the lead actor of the film, with questions about his political stances during the Q and A that followed the screening of One Thousand and One Day at 'Red Carpet with Parviz Parastouei' at Lumiere Cinema in Los Angeles on Wednesday.

Activists said Parastui who has appeared in more than fifty Iranian films never speaks about "human rights violations in Iran" and "regime atrocities" such as the killing of hundreds of protesters in nationwide protests in November 2019.

They also criticized him for his praise of the Revolutionary Guards (IRGC) Qods Force Commander Ghasem (Qasem) Soleimani who was killed in a targeted US drone strike as he arrived at Baghdad airport on January 3, 2020.

Parastui who has on some occasions criticized the clerics in power for corruption refrained from directly answering the questions on his relationship with Soleimani but implied that he could not speak freely and said he always feels as if he is walking a tightrope "to keep everyone happy."

Before the event, Sam Rajabi, a former judoka champion who now lives in the US, insisted that Parastouei explain about his relationship with Soleimani, while filming him on his mobile. Parastui refused to respond, and the encounter ended in Parastui knocking the mobile out of Rajabi's hand. The video taken by Rajabi has gone viral on social media with hundreds commenting in support or against Parastouei.

There was also a heated argument between a group of activists and Gohar Kheirandish, an Iranian actress who spoke in Parastui's support outside the venue of the event.

"Mr Rajabi has democratically and in an acceptable tone asked a question … and faced physical violence," one of the actor's critics said in a tweet while accusing the veteran actor of being a "government-sponsored" artist.

It is the duty of an artist who has found fame and money because of people's support to speak up and take people's side when they are oppressed, another critic argued on Twitter.

Some others have defended the actor saying being an outspoken critic is not easy for those living under an oppressive regime. "Sam Rajabi definitely knows that Parviz Parastui and Gohar Kheirandish are neither pro-regime revolutionaries nor super-religious," one of Parastouei's supporters tweetedwhile arguing that activists' demands for candid expression of artists' political views puts them in danger.

Yet others have questioned the US government about granting visa to a "Soleimani supporter".

Hardline Iranian media, such as the IRGC-linked Fars news agency, have alleged that the opposition Mujahedin-e Khalq Organization was behind the confrontations with Parastui and Kheirandish. But regime opponents of different persuasions have criticized the event as a publicity stunt in support of the Islamic Republic

Directed by Habib Ahmadzadeh, One Thousand and One Day -- also known as the Legend of Bonasan: The Genie in the Lamp -- is the story of a genie that must compose a melody with help from four humans to create a human miracle or he would be expelled from the Solar System for eternity and according to its director, is a film in praise of peace.

The Iranian Cinema US Tour organized by Code Pink included screenings and discussions in Washington DC, New York, San Francisco and Los Angeles in April.

Code Pink introduces itself as a women-led grassroots organization "working to end US wars and militarism" and supporter of peace and human rights initiatives. Code Pink condemns US sanctions on Iran.

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