"In an outcome that could have been lifted from the pages of the movie’s script"–"My Tehran for Sale"–the film’s lead actress, Marzieh Vafamehr, "was arrested in July and received her sentence at the weekend, according to reports quoting Iranian opposition website kalameh.com," the Sydney Morning Herald reported.
"Vafamehr often appears with a shaved head and no headscarf in the film, which also explores cultural oppression in Iran and taboos such as drug use," the paper said.
Granaz Moussavi, the Melbourne-based Iranian-Australian director of the film, declined to comment to the paper out of respect for the actress’ family’s wishes. Her portions of the film were "shot on the sly in Iran with a local crew in 2008," the paper said.
Iran’s justice system has provoked past controversies over rulings that single out offenders of the country’s strict moral codes for draconian punishment.
Last year, for example, Iranian courts approved a death-by-stoning sentence for Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani, a woman accused of adultery and murder charges. Ashtiani’s sentence was stayed, but only after a global outcry from international human-rights groups.
Since its disputed 2009 presidential elections, Iran has intensified a harsh crackdown against those perceived to violate its strict Islamic code, but often sentences are cruel and arbitrary. A moratorium had been declared on stoning in 2002, but the nation’s Islamic courts have continued to hand down stoning sentences in accordance with the strict wording of the law. Reliable numbers are hard to come by, but human-rights groups estimate that scores of women were stoned to death in Iran during the 1980s and 1990s. One documented case of such a stoning was captured on a horrifying video in 1994. In 2009, two men were stoned to death in Iran on charges of adultery and murder.
Two gay teenagers, identified only by their initials, were stoned to death in Iran in 2005, and two gay men received a death-by-stoning sentence last year after filming themselves having sex.
Various parliamentary reforms have been mounted to reduce the penal system’s harsher sentences, but they are not binding on the country’s independent judiciary.