Louis Proyect: The Unrepentant Marxist

October 7, 2020


Filed under: Film,Iran — louisproyect @ 8:47 pm

Currently available as Virtual Cinema from the Boston GlobeDocs Film Festival until October 12th, “Nasrin” is a wake-up call to the left and to human rights activists that Iran is still a hell-hole seven years after Ahmadinejad’s ouster. (Just click Select a Showing and rent both “Nasrin” and another documentary for $10 ) Nasrin Sotoudeh, a female lawyer and woman’s rights activist, was sentenced to 38 years, plus 148 lashes, in March 2019. That sentence was meted out because she was a leader of the movement to end the forced wearing of the hijab as well as her willingness to defend people the clerical dictatorship deemed “against Islam”.

Among the people she defended was Shirin Ebadi, a female lawyer and woman’s rights activist as well, who received the Nobel Peace Prize in 2003. For defending Ebadi and other dissidents, Nasrin was herself charged with nebulous crimes like spreading propaganda and conspiring to harm state security in 2010. Found guilty, she was sentenced to 11 years in prison. Ebadi pays tribute to her lawyer in article aptly titled “The Riskiest Job in Iran”.

You can get a feel for what goes on in an Iranian courtroom from footage in the film, when Ebadi’s prosecutor denounces Nasrin. After she demands that his accusation that Ebadi had received $150,000 from the USA be entered in the court records, he spits out, “Why are you today, sitting again, at the American’s feet, and defending true bandits, who are homosexuals, Baha’is, prostitutes, terrorists, and street and wilderness thugs?” I doubt that anything heard during the Moscow Trials could be more outrageous.

Among the people who have relied on Nasrin’s legal advice is director Jafar Panahi, who stops by her home to discuss legal challenges to Iran’s ban on his travelling abroad. If you’ve seen Panahi’s “Taxi”, you’ll see him in the starring role of a cabdriver. The entire film consists of him picking up various fares, including Nasrin who is only identified as “The Flower Lady” since she is…carrying flowers. That’s her below.

Not only has the clerical dictatorship victimized her, her husband Reza received a six-year prison sentence in 2019. The charges? Conspiring against national security and one year for propaganda against the system. Nasrin’s martyrdom condemns this rotten system that no longer has the veneer of “anti-imperialism” except from the dregs of the left that hail its intervention in Syria. Anybody who still insists that barrel-bombing was necessary to forestall Sharia law must see “Nasrin” to get a good idea what Islamic fundamentalism looks like. To reduce it to Sunni extremism is an exercise in self-deception.

Since director Jeff Kaufman had previously made a short documentary for Time Magazine titled “40 Million: The Struggle For Women’s Rights In Iran”, he was persona non grata. After getting Nasrin and Reza’s agreement to make this documentary, he relied on a clandestine Iranian crew to produce the film. The film notes state:

Because of Jeff’s past work on Iran, we weren’t able to travel to that country. We are deeply grateful to the brave Iranian women and men who repeatedly risked arrest while filming. They take us with Nasrin and Reza to political demonstrations, into Revolutionary Court, inside Tehran’s notorious Evin Prison, and in meetings with clients who face years in prison for peaceful political protests. Everyone featured in the film, including acclaimed filmmaker Jafar Panahi, participated (and signed a release) knowing that this could place them in jeopardy. It’s humbling and motivating to work with people who are willing to put themselves on the line for freedom and justice. Nasrin is a universal role model for human rights, and so is everyone in Iran who contributed to this film.

I urge you to rent this film, which entitles to you to see another for the same price. Consult the festival guide to see what’s on tap.

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