Tehran has cheered Iranian filmmaker Asghar Farhadi’s second Oscar for best foreign film as an opportunity for more verbal attacks on the Trump administration, which responded with a muted defense of U.S. policy and deletion of a tweet about the movie.
A day after Farhadi’s The Salesman received the honor at Sunday’s Academy Awards in Los Angeles, three senior Iranian officials sent him congratulatory messages that also contained criticisms of President Donald Trump, whom Tehran blames for increased tensions between the two nations since he took office last month.
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif tweeted that he was proud of The Salesman’s cast and crew for taking a stance against what he described as the Trump administration’s ”Muslim ban.” He was making a reference to a January 27 executive order signed by Trump to temporarily deny U.S. entry to citizens of Iran and six other Muslim-majority nations seen as insufficiently acting to prevent terrorists from travel.
Farhadi declined to fly to the U.S. and attend the award ceremony in protest at the travel ban, which a federal court suspended on February 3 in response to legal challenges from U.S. critics who call it unconstitutional.
Accepting the Oscar on his behalf were two prominent Iranian Americans whom he asked to represent him. One of them, astronaut Anousheh Ansari, read a statement from Farhadi, who called Trump’s immigration order “inhumane” and said “dividing the world into ‘us’ and ‘our enemies’ categories creates fear – a deceitful justification for aggression and war.”
In similar remarks reported by Iranian state media, Iranian Vice President Eshaq Jahangiri praised Farhadi for “defending his country against the inhuman measure taken by … Trump,” while Iranian Culture and Islamic Guidance Minister Reza Salehi-Amiri said The Salesman’s Oscar win “shows that the U.S. president’s behavior is against peace and friendship.”
The U.S. State Department offered no reaction to the Iranian officials’ remarks in response to a question from VOA Persian. It said Washington has no comment on Farhadi’s statement, but added: “We support free speech and artistic expression.”
The State Department’s Farsi-language Twitter account had tweeted its congratulations to Farhadi within hours of him receiving the Oscar, but later deleted the message.
One Iranian artist expressed his thoughts about Farhadi’s Oscar victory by echoing his government’s characterization of it as a rebuke to Trump. Cartoonist Bozorgmehr Hosseinpour posted a cartoon on his Instagram account showing Farhadi sitting at a chess board and holding an Oscar statuette, about to knock out an unseen opponent’s final chess piece in the likeness of Trump. Hosseinpour captioned it, “Checkmate!”
But, Iranian foreign minister Javad Zarif drew some criticism on social media for using his country’s award to make a political point against the Trump administration. One Twitter user posted this response to Javad Zarif’s tweet expressing pride in the filmmakers:
Iran has jailed several filmmakers in recent years on charges of acting against the government.
Some Twitter users also criticized The Salesman director Farhadi for not using the platform of the Oscars to highlight the Iranian government’s perceived rights abuses against political prisoners and religious minorities. But other users tweeted messages in his defense, saying he should be celebrated for winning Iran’s only two Oscars. He won his and his nation’s first Oscar for best foreign film in 2012 for A Separation.
VOA Persian Service journalists Sara Dehghan, Tomaj Javidtash and White House correspondent Steve Herman contributed to this report.