Iranian authorities launch 'Celebrity Task Force' to crack down on stars supporting protests

Iranian authorities launch 'Celebrity Task Force' to crack down on stars supporting protests
Iranian authorities launched a 'Celebrity Task Force' after the anti-government protests erupted last year to crack down on famous people supporting the demonstrations.
2 min read
25 April, 2023
Actress Taraneh Alidoosti was placed on the Task Force's 141-long list of potential targets [source: Getty]

Iranian authorities established a special force to crack down on celebrities who spoke out in support of the widespread anti-government protests last year, reported BBC Persian on Tuesday. 

In September 2022, a so-called "Celebrity Task Force" was launched in Iran and ordered to investigate the tax history of famous individuals known to be supportive of the protest movement, internal documents obtained by the BBC revealed.

At least 141 well-known figures in Iran were listed as potential targets of the new task force, including football star Ali Daei, actress Taraneh Alidoosti, and Oscar-award-winning director Asghar Farhadi. 

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"BBC Persian obtained three documents through a Middle Eastern intelligence source that reveal how the government took swift and coordinated action in an attempt to deter celebrities from not following the official line," reported the BBC

The first letter, dated 22 September, identified the committee's chairman as the Minister of Culture and Islamic Guidance, Mohammad Mehdi Esmaili, who has been sanctioned by the European Union. 

Another document, from 26 September, renamed the task force as "Celebrities Committee" and made its operations permanent.

At the time, the committee's responsibilities were split between the culture and intelligence ministries dealing with "artists, singers and media personalities" and the sports ministry and Revolutionary Guards handling athletes. 

The third document, from 1 November, discussed what to do with the footballers who were allegedly supportive of the protests at the Qatar World Cup, suggesting that a well-known player and coach should have their assets frozen. 

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Protests rocked Iran after the death in custody of Mahsa Amini, a 22-year-old Kurdish-Iranian woman who was allegedly beaten by the "so-called" morality police for wearing her hijab incorrectly . 

Mahsa's death encouraged thousands to take to the streets to protest against the mandatory hijab laws and the heavy-handed tactics used to squash dissent.

Iranian authorities responded with brute force, with nearly 20,000 people arrested, 110 on charges that could lead to the death sentence, reported the US-based Human Rights Activists News Agency. 

In the latest crackdown, Iran's cyber police have announced the arrest of 40 Instagramers for allegedly posting "half-naked or immodest pictures of women".