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Afghan Filmmakers Reject Criticism Of Refugee Film

KABUL -- The Afghan filmmaking community has hit back at critics of a movie screened in Kabul this week that is critical of Iran's treatment of Afghan refugees, RFE/RL's Radio Free Afghanistan reports.

"Neighbor" tells the story of Afghan refugees in the Safed Sang (White Stone) camp in Iran in the 1990s and their treatment at the hands of officials and guards.

In the film's account, Iranian guards helped to massacre hundreds of the refugees after they protested against their mistreatment.

It was shown at the first Autumn Human Rights Film Festival that ended on October 7 in Kabul.

Groups inside Afghanistan closely affiliated with Iran have branded the film "un-Islamic" and have called for its screening to be barred in other cities.

Some dozen protesters disrupted the screening of the film in Kabul on October 5. The protest was short-lived and the screening was completed after an interval of 30 minutes.

Afghan television stations are reported to have declined to broadcast the movie.

Malek Shafii, chief executive of the Afghanistan Cinema Club and one of the organizers of the festival, said the film was included in light of the festival's theme of human rights and free speech.

"The film committee which chose the films did so for a reason and we cannot omit any films," he says. "Countries don't want critical films shown about them in their own countries so we are giving filmmakers the chance to show them here in Afghanistan."

Siddique Barmak, an Afghan filmmaker and director of the Academy Award-winning movie "Osama," accused the Iranian government of suppressing the development of cinema in Afghanistan.

"Instead of supporting cultural events in Afghanistan, Iran is using this film as an excuse to damage the development of our cinema," he told RFE/RL.

"They are seeking to disturb the festival in the pretense that this festival is not in the interests of Afghanistan."

The weeklong festival comes as Afghanistan marks the 10th anniversary of the U.S.-led invasion.

"Neighbor" is due to be screened in other cities in Afghanistan in the coming weeks.