Iranian actors take center stage against US sanctions

Iranian artists, particularly those in the film industry, have launched two separate campaigns against the US sanctions, saying the measures will hit the vulnerable and sick.

al-monitor The logo of the #SanctionsTargetMe movement. Photo by Twitter.
Rohollah Faghihi

Rohollah Faghihi


Topics covered

Iran Deal


Nov 16, 2018

Iranian artists have raised their voices against the reinstatement of US sanctions, claiming that the punitive measures would hurt vulnerable groups such as women, children and the sick.

One of the social media campaigns launched by artists, writers and intellectuals goes by the hashtag #SanctionsTargetMe. Iranian artists and celebrities posted a video on social media showing a mother explaining the ordeal her baby had gone through, and how her child had been hospitalized for three months because of a shortage of medicine due to the US sanctions.

"Placing sanctions on Iranian banks is not just an act or a story for news agencies. Sanctioning Iran means the death of young children with cancer," said the one-paragraph declaration, which has been reposted by acclaimed artists and celebrities on their Instagram pages, including by actors Parviz Parastui, Reza Kianian and Sahar Dolatshahi.

"[US President Donald] Trump claims that medicine is not included in his list of sanctions against Iran. This is a big lie. Placing sanctions on Iranian banks means that no one can make any transactions to buy anything — not medicine for sick women and children, not any clothing … #SanctionsTargetMe," wrote Kianian on Instagram Nov. 8.

Other prominent artists and civil activists have launched a campaign at under the name "Voices against Sanctions." Two-time Academy Awards winner film director Asghar Farhadi, film director Rakhshan Banietemad and musician Kayhan Kalhor were one of the first to support the campaign.

"Once again, the United States has imposed sanctions against Iran. Such measures have never brought to the people of Iran what [US] politicians proclaim they would: human rights, freedom and a better life. Every Iranian will personally pay the price for these sanctions,” the petition stated. "When we join voices around the world to draw attention to the devastating effects of these sanctions on the people of Iran, we can stop the divisive decisions and policies of politicians."

So far, more than 25,400 people have joined the online petition against the US sanctions.

Shams Langroudi, an acclaimed poet and author who has also signed the petition, believes the campaign wants to give a voice to “the Iranian people who have been seriously hurt by the sanctions" and "draw the attention of the international community to the oppression against ordinary people in Iran."

On Nov. 10, he wrote in Iran newspaper, "The politicians deal with people's mind and artists deal with people's hearts. Those who impose sanctions generally say they want to overthrow the government with these sanctions. But do you know any governments that have been overthrown by the sanctions? American politicians are also aware that sanctions are one of the signs of desperation."

Langroudi also explained the concrete effects of sanctions on the people with limited means, saying, "When the price of a vital drug for cancer becomes 10 times as much, it is not a matter of life and death for a rich man. However, [real] pressure will be imposed upon the people.”

While Iranian film stars and civil activists are condemning the United States for causing a shortage of medicine, Brian Hook, head of the Iran Action Group, announced that Washington has not placed any sanctions on medicine and food. But The Guardian quoted Nov. 2 an unnamed European diplomat as saying, "First [US officials] say it is too early, and the Iranians have to suffer. … They have to feel the full brunt of sanctions and we’ll see,” indicating that the United States wanted to force Iran into concessions through economic isolation.

Ahmad Sheybani, head of the Pharmaceutical Industries Syndicate, said at a conference Sept. 24, "They are lying that medicines aren't on the [list of] sanctions. During the past days and months, some foreign companies that have 40 years of trading cooperation with Iran have explicitly announced that they will not give 1 gram of raw material to Iran's pharmaceutical companies."

Meanwhile, the regime change activists have attacked the Iranian artists for voicing their opposition to the US sanctions. US-based regime change supporter Saeed Ghasseminejad, a senior adviser on Iran at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, described the artists as "thugs" who must be sent to the "garbage of history.”

Amir Etemadi, another US-based regime change supporter and the chair of Iranian Liberal Students and Graduates, criticized the artists for their declarations against sanctions, labeling them as "cheap" and "tied to the government.”

Asked about whether the criticisms against the artists for backing the campaigns are right or wrong, Arame Etemadi, who writes for Iran's Film magazine, told Al-Monitor, "The recent [statements] of the artists are completely based on their emotions. What the artists have done by signing a letter against the sanctions is just like supporting a patient who has no access to medicine. It does not stem from their political stance, but it is rather based on their emotions."

She added, "It is crystal clear that a concerned Iranian would not be happy and comfortable with the US sanctions, and the artists in Iran are also sad to witness the fluctuations in the market that are diminishing the quality of people's lives.”

In response to the attacks, Kianian, argued on his Instagram page that the sanctions have targeted ordinary citizens.

"The economic sanctions have made the rich richer and the poor poorer, and the majority of the middle class is also joining the camp of the poor,” he said. "The sanctions will destroy the poor people [by forcing them into] starvation, [with no access to] medicine and shelter. It will pave the way for thieves and embezzlers."

Kianian stressed that "in Iraq, Libya, Syria, Yemen and so on … people were destroyed and are being destroyed — not the powerful people. War and sanctions will [only] empower those in power."