Nearly a year after President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's disputed election victory led to wide-scale protests and a fierce government crackdown, members of Iran's thriving and internationally acclaimed cultural scene have emerged as a driving force for the opposition.
Filmmakers, singers and rappers are, in their own way, pushing for social and political changes, and many are paying the price of speaking out against a government that brooks little dissent. In response to films, songs and paintings inspired by the largest grass-roots opposition movement the country has seen since the 1979 Islamic revolution, the government has arrested artists and markedly increased censorship.
Although some artists have left the country to escape restrictions, others remain in Iran and have turned their work into tools of activism. But the protest message has to be subtle or indirect, and even then the work is often produced secretly, using legal loopholes or underground distribution networks to evade the notice of authorities.
When world-renowned director Jafar Panahi decided to make a film about a family caught in the turmoil after last June's election, he did not ask for permission from the Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance. Instead, the filmmaker turned his apartment into a film studio, with his wife cooking for the crew and friends playing the leading characters.
In March, security forces raided the home and arrested Panahi, the cast and his family.
"According to the law, nobody needs permits to film in their own house," he said in an interview. "But the government does not obey its own rules." Panahi was held for nearly three months; top directors such as Steven Spielberg, Francis Ford Coppola and Iranian filmmaker Abbas Kiarostami called for his release. State media reported that he had been making an "illegal movie."
On Tuesday, Panahi was released on $200,000 bail, pending the start of his trial.
"They arrest individuals to set an example to others," Panahi said Wednesday as his apartment slowly filled with guests, including actors and writers who gave him a hero's welcome. "My interrogators accused me of working for foreign intelligence agencies and said I was trying to make a movie highlighting problems in Iran. But I believe the rights and demands of millions who demonstrated have been ignored. I want to give them a voice."
He isn't the only one. The latest song by popular underground rapper Hich Kas, "Nobody," has become an instant hit, often blasting from cars on Tehran's busy streets. Hich Kas sings:
Good days will come when we do not kill each other
Do not look badly upon each other
A day we are friends and hug each other like in our school days
Read rest of article....