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Director Asghar Farhadi (center) was mobbed by fans on his arrival at Tehran's airport in early March, two weeks after his Oscar victory.
Iranian film director Asghar Farhadi is reportedly planning screenings of his Oscar-winning film, "A Separation," to express solidarity with Afghan refugees in Iran.

A number of other prominent Iranian filmmakers are also planning expressions of support amid reports of new restrictions targeting the country's Afghan population.

Earlier this month, Iranian media quoted officials as saying that Afghans will be banned from the province of Mazandaran, a popular tourist destination. The reports also said Afghans living in the province had been given a June 20 deadline to vacate. Recent limitations imposed on Afghans have been reported in other cities as well, including Isfahan, where on April 1 -- Nature Day in Iran -- Afghans were barred from entering a park to celebrate.

“Such inappropriate behavior toward immigrants in Iran -- a country that has one of the highest number of refugees in the world -- is bitter,” Farhadi was quoted as saying on April 29 by “Shargh” daily.

The paper reported that Farhadi is planning to return to Iran from Paris, where he is making preparations for his latest project, to hold screenings of his film, which won this year's Academy Award as Best Foreign Language Film and a Golden Globe.

The screenings, which are due to take place on May 11 and 12, will be followed by a discussion between Afghans and Iranian citizens.

Several other prominent filmmakers are also planning to show their solidarity with Afghans by traveling to Mazandaran to meet with them. No date has been set for the visit.

Film director Mani Haghighi, who is among the artists to have expressed solidarity with Afghans, has said that in order for Iran to prosper, Afghans should be given the right to study, live, work, access housing, and buy medical insurance in the country.

The new restrictions against Afghans have led to online protests among a number of Iranians, who expressed their disapproval on Facebook and blogs.

There are reportedly more than 1 million Afghan refugees and thousands of illegal Afghan migrants in the Islamic republic.

Many of them moved to Iran following the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan and the civil war that followed the Soviet withdrawal. Others sought refuge in Iran after the Taliban took power in Kabul. Many have taken on menial work that is of little appeal to Iranians, yet they are often blamed for stealing jobs and for the spread of crime.

In recent years, reports of mistreatment of Afghans -- particularly against those who enter Iran illegally -- have increased.

Farhadi has said that those who place the blame for insecurity and unemployment in Iran on Afghans are shirking responsibility.

Afghans have also been denied basic services, including access to primary education.

Iranian officials, meanwhile, maintain said that the Islamic republic has been a generous host for more than 2 million Afghan refugees for two decades, with little help from the international community.

Sattar Saeedi, an Afghan reporter with the Persian Service of the BBC, recently wrote that the new measures against his countrymen in Iran remind many of the Apartheid regime in South Africa.

Saeedi grew up in the Iranian city of Mashhad, where he says some parts of the city were off-limits to Afghans.

“When an area was banned for Afghans, schools would not admit Afghan children and real-estate agencies didn’t have the right to rent houses in those areas to Afghan refugees,” he wrote on the BBC's website.

“I’ve now learned that it is not a shame to be an Afghanm and I’ve realized that one can live in another country and enjoy the same rights as that country’s citizens,” he said.

Despite the difficulties, many Afghans choose to remain in Iran and many reportedly return illegally to the Islamic republic after being deported to look for jobs.

-- Golnaz Esfandiari
Amir Ali Hajizadeh, the head of the Iranian Aerospace Force
Amir Ali Hajizadeh, the commander of the Aerospace Force of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps, says Turkey should expect "deformed children and incurable diseases" as the result of NATO’s planned missile shield.

Tehran has previously made clear its displeasure at Turkey's agreement to deploy an early warning system for missiles, part of the NATO shield structure, on its soil.

Iranian officials have said the plan will be used as an "eye" for Israel by giving it greater surveillance over countries in the region.

The shield is intended primarily to counter perceived threats from Iran and North Korea, although Turkish officials have said the system is not aimed at any specific country.

The claim by the Hajizadeh, which he did not back with any scientific data, is the latest in a series of warnings Tehran has issued against the plan.

Hajizadeh warned last year that his country could target the relevant installations in Turkey if faced with a military attack.

"We have prepared ourselves if any threat is staged against Iran," he was quoted as saying last November. "We will target NATO's missile shield in Turkey and will then attack other targets."

Iran’s Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi, however, dismissed the threats and reassured Turkey that they are not Iran's official policy, according to reports by Turkish media.

Iran and Turkey have also been at odds over Tehran’s main regional ally, Syria.

Ankara has been vocal in the international condemnation of the government crackdown in Syria, while Iran appears to be determined to continue supporting the Bashar al-Assad government.

Earlier this month Iranian officials sharply criticized Turkey for hosting a conference on the Syrian crisis.

Despite the recent tensions, Turkey has also played an important role as a facilitator for nuclear talks between Iran and major world powers.

-- Golnaz Esfandiari

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About This Blog

Persian Letters is a blog that offers a window into Iranian politics and society. Written primarily by Golnaz Esfandiari, Persian Letters brings you under-reported stories, insight and analysis, as well as guest Iranian bloggers -- from clerics, anarchists, feminists, Basij members, to bus drivers.

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