London, 1 Jun – The funeral of legendary actor Naser Malek Motiee in Tehran, on May 27, attracted thousands of Iranians, who once again called for regime change out of respect for the banned actor and out of hope that Iran will be free at last.
Malek Motiee, who passed away from kidney failure on Friday, May 25, was a beloved veteran of Iran’s golden age of cinema, but when the mullahs stole power in 1979, they banned him and others that were identified with the era of the Shah’s rule and did not conform to Islamic revolutionary values.
The actor and director have described the hardship of being forced into seclusion for years as “indescribable” and “heartbreaking”, during a rare newspaper interview.
Despite this censorship and being forced to work in retail, Malek Motiee still remained a popular figure in Iran, with people able to enjoy his work on contraband videos and illegal satellite dishes. The Iranian people believed that the government’s treatment of Malek Motiee was anti-art and anti-Iranian.
The people who attended his funeral chanted anti-government slogans that blasted censorship (“Our broadcaster, our shame”), the suppressive security forces (“Our law enforcement, our shame” and State Security Force is our shame”), the ruling system as a whole (“Shameless, shameless”) and the Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei (“Death to the dictator, Hail to Naser”). They even referenced one of Malek Motiee’s most famous films, with the chant “Qeysar, help! They are killing the people”.
Malek Motiee’s son, Amir Ali, addressed the crowds gathered, pointing out the hypocrisy of state-run media to ban the actor from being featured during his life and then feature him during his death, when they could profit off it.
The government cracked down on this peaceful protest with tear gas, bullets, and abject violence, sending plainclothes riot police in on motorcycles to disperse the mourners. The funeral service had, as with many gatherings across Iran nowadays, quickly taken on an anti-government feeling.
The people there were mourning an icon who, like them, was destroyed by the corrupt mullahs. Thus, how could this not have become part of Iran’s anti-state uprising movement?
The Iranian people’s uprising began in December 2017, with protests against a draft budget that stole from the poor and gave to the military. This protest quickly encompassed the other huge issues that the Iranian people have with the ruling system (i.e. human rights, military interventionism in the Middle East) and it grew ever bigger.
This uprising never went away, but simmered along until it came to a boil in March (during Iranian New Year), when President of the Resistance Maryam Rajavi promised a year of protests. She hasn’t been wrong yet.