July 4, 2011
WASHINGTON–The United States voiced concern Friday at Iran’s arrests of women activists including filmmaker Mahnaz Mohammadi and urged the clerical regime to respect its people’s right to free expression.
“We are deeply concerned by the recent string of arrests of human rights activists, journalists and artists by Iranian authorities and condemn this continuing crackdown on peaceful dissent,” State Department spokesman Mark Toner told reporters.
“We call on the Iranian government to live up to its obligations, including its international ones, and respect the universal rights of the Iranian people, including the right to due process and freedom of expression,” he said.
Mohammadi, whose work has focused on female rights including the role of women in the disputed 2009 election, was arrested at her home Sunday, according to the opposition website Kaleme.com.
Authorities earlier seized her passport, preventing her from going in May to Cannes for Reza Serkanian’s “Marriage Ephemeral,” in which she was the lead actress, according to cinema industry sources.
Toner also voiced concern about the safety of other Iranian women he said were recently detained including rights activists Maryam Madj and Maryam Bahrman and journalist Zahra Yazdani.
Iran imposed restrictions on women including rules for conservative dress after the 1979 Islamic revolution, but the country still has a vibrant community of female activists — notably Nobel Peace Prize-winning lawyer Shirin Ebadi, who now lives in exile.
The United States has been increasingly vocal about Iran’s human rights record. President Barack Obama took office offering to hold talks with Iran to repair relations, but the administration says Iran has shown it is not interested.