Two Iranian actresses arrested as authorities ramp up crackdown on anti-regime protesters

By Sana Noor Haq, Mostafa Salem, Jomana Karadsheh and Niamh Kennedy, CNNUpdated: Mon, 21 Nov 2022 16:38:44 GMTSource: CNNTwo well-known Iranian actresses have been arrested by security forces after th

By Sana Noor Haq, Mostafa Salem, Jomana Karadsheh and Niamh Kennedy, CNN

Updated: Mon, 21 Nov 2022 16:38:44 GMT

Source: CNN

Two well-known Iranian actresses have been arrested by security forces after they showed support for the protest movement gripping the country, as authorities intensify their crackdown on dissidents.

Hengameh Ghaziani and Katayoun Riahi were arrested on separate occasions for publicly backing the nationwide protests, according to the semi-official Tasnim News Agency.

Since September, the country has seen widespread demonstrations, triggered by the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini while in the custody of Iran's morality police. Amini, a Kurdish Iranian woman, died after being detained for allegedly for not wearing her hijab properly.

Riahi was arrested by Iranian security forces on Sunday, Tasnim News Agency reported. The actress, who is known for her roles in television series "Joseph the Prophet" and "the Tenth Night," as well as films such as "The Last Supper," had posted a video of herself without a headscarf to her Instagram account on September 18 -- two days after Amini's death.

In a separate incident, Ghaziani, who is known in Iran for her appearances in films such as "As Simple as That" and "Days of Life," posted a video on her Instagram account Saturday which showed the Iranian actress in public without a headscarf, tying up her loose hair in a ponytail.

"This might be my last post. From this moment on, if anything happens to me, know that I will always be with the people of Iran until my last breath," she said in the caption.

Ghaziani was arrested by security forces in possession of a court order just one day after the video was posted, according to Tasnim News Agency.

She was then brought to the prosecutor's office and charged with acting against Iranian security and engaging in propaganda activities directed against the Iranian regime, according to the state affiliated Fars News Agency.

Sixth death sentence

On Sunday, Iran's judiciary said it had sentenced to death a sixth person accused of taking part in recent protests, according to Tasnim News Agency.

Citing the Iranian judiciary, the agency said a demonstrator who blocked traffic during a recent protest on Tehran's Sattar Khan Street and clashed with members of the Basij militia was given the death penalty.

All death sentences issued are "preliminary and can be appealed" in Iran's Court of Appeal, Tasnim added.

At least 378 people have been killed by Iranian security forces in total, including 47 children killed in the country since September, according to Iran Human Rights on Saturday

CNN cannot independently verify the death toll -- a precise figure is impossible for anyone outside the Iranian government to confirm -- and different estimates have been given by opposition groups, international rights organizations and local journalists.

Iranian Kurdish communities under fire

Four of Iran's Kurdish cities have seen particularly intense clashes in recent days, with 13 people killed over the past 24-hours, activist Azhin Shekhi from the Norway-based Hengaw Organization for Human Rights told CNN on Monday.

Casualties were recorded in Kermanshah Province, West Azerbaijan Province and Kurdistan Province -- where the majority of Iran's Kurdish population reside -- according to Hengaw.

The death toll since Tuesday last week has risen to 41 people killed in Kurdish cities, Shekhi added.

An Iranian MP representing Mahabad, which was the capital of a short-lived Kurdish breakaway republic in northwest Iran in 1946, said that at least 11 people had been killed in the city alone.

Jalal Mahmoodzadeh was quoted in a reformist media outlet, saying it's unclear if the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) -- Iran's elite military wing -- were part of security forces cracking down in Mahabad, but has written a letter to top military officials asking them to de-escalate the situation.

The IRGC released a statement Sunday saying they were "strengthening forces" at a base in the northwest of Iran to deal with "terrorists and separatists," a statement published by state-aligned news outlets said.

The reported death toll followed comments from Hengaw to CNN at the weekend that regime forces' "brutality" had "significantly increased" against protesters in the last few days.