American filmmaker Michael Moore has asked for permission to travel to Iran to attend Cinema Verite, an Iranian international festival for documentary films, according to Mehr News, the mouthpiece news agency of Iran’s Islamic regime.
In a big-headlined story in the Iranian media, Mr. Moore is quoted as saying he wants to visit Iran to do research about the country. In addition, he is an opponent of U.S. government policies, and he wants to show his objection by traveling to Iran.
Mr. Moore, who has directed several well-known documentaries, has always claimed to take the side of ordinary people and has portrayed himself as someone who stands up for the rights of the abused.
It is this reputation that makes Mr. Moore’s proposed visit to Iran a betrayal of the very principles he claims to stand for.
Since the 1979 revolution, the Islamic regime of Iran has executed tens of thousands of Iranian youths without giving them the right to a defense. During the summer of 1988 alone, about 30,000 young people were executed and buried in mass graves because they were accused of being “mohareb” - enemies of Allah - all because they objected to the harsh rule of the clerics.
Mr. Moore should know - he should understand - that Iranian citizens have no rights. Women are subjected to flogging for failing to wear the Islamic hijab; men are beaten for drinking, even in the privacy of their home. People suffer amputation for stealing; they are stoned for adultery; and rape, torture and hanging are common for speaking out against the clerics. Thousands of Iranian girls, boys, poets, writers, activists, teachers, artists and others from every walk of life remain in Iranian prisons without the right to defend themselves. Iranian officials are routinely sanctioned for violating human rights in Iran.
The very cinema festival that Mr. Moore wants to endorse is subjected to extreme censorship by the Guidance Ministry, which decides which films will be shown and which will be banned. Many movies don’t make it to the screen because they promote free thinking or give a hint of what freedom really means. Many directors and actors end up in prison because they try to defend the rights of the people.
More recently, one of the most influential Iranian filmmakers, Jafar Panahi, was imprisoned - because he supported the aspirations of the Iranian people for freedom and had sympathized with the youths who had protested the fraudulent 2009 presidential elections. The secret police arrested him in March of 2010 along with his wife, children and friends. He was sentenced to prison and barred from making movies for 20 years.
Mr. Panahi stated in an open letter on the occasion of the 2011 Berlin International Film Festival, Berlinale (which he was barred from attending) “The reality is that they have deprived me of thinking and writing for twenty years; however, I cannot avoid dreaming that in twenty years the inquisition and intimidation will be abolished. … They have condemned me to 20 years of silence. However, in my dreams, I scream for a time when we can tolerate each other, respect each other’s opinions, and live for each other.”
Many before Mr. Moore have traveled to Iran to show their opposition to the policies of America, the very country that has provided them the opportunity of free thinking and free will.
Mr. Moore fails to understand what endorsing evil does. He fails to understand that any affirmation, any recognition of the radicals ruling Iran is a direct insult to all the Iranians who have paid dearly with their blood to have what Mr. Moore takes for granted.
Instead of traveling to Iran, where the Islamic government will use him as a means for its propaganda, as it has done with others, Mr. Moore should make a documentary about the aspirations of the Iranian people for freedom and democracy - a documentary about the injustices done to young people, middle-aged people, old people who want nothing more than their rights as human beings.
By Reza Kahlili, a pseudonym for an ex-CIA spy who is a fellow with EMPact America and the author of A Time to Betray, about his double life in Iran’s Revolutionary Guards.