Iranian Kurdish Filmmakers flee from Iran

Detained for making a documentary on Kurds in northern Iran, filmmakers flee to Kurdistan Region where they fear they are still not safe.

In May 2010, Shaho Nemati, 25, a cameraman, and Saber Kaka Hasan, 31, a social researcher, headed to northern Iran to finish their documentary film about Kurds who have lived in the area for about 200 years. As they arrived in Mazandaran, they were arrested by police and their equipment was seized. After they were questioned for several hours by police, they were released. Five days later, police called them and told them to come get their equipment and promise never to make an unlicensed film.

“In Iran, there is something called underground cinema, which means making films without government permission,” said Nemati, who is from Sina, a Kurdish city in western Iran. “If you work for the government or if the film is for the government, then the government grants you a licence; if not, the government does not give licenses. Iranian filmmakers are under a lot of pressure.”

Nemati and Hasan decided that only one of them should go to Mazandaran to get back the equipment. “Everything about the Islamic Republic is suspicious,” said Hasan, who is from Mahabad, a Kurdish city in western Iran. They thought it better one of them to be outside in case something happens. Hasan decided to go and told Nemati that if he called him and spoke in the Kurdish Mahabdi dialect, it means things are not OK and he has been arrested. Indeed, as Hasan arrived at the Mazandaran police station, he called Nemati and talked to him in Mahabadi. Hasan was arrested by the police and immediately transferred to Iranian security headquarters in Talsh, a city close to Mazandaran. “At first, the security forces accused me of being Western countries’ agent, but when I told them that my film is about Kurds, they accused me of being Kurdish parties’ agent.”

He noted: “The documentary was not against the Iranian government – it was just a historical film.” The film was about Kurdish people from western Iran who immigrated to northern Iran 200 years ago during Raza Shah. There are about one million Kurds living in the north; however, their children now do not know the Kurdish language and they have very little information about Kurds.

Besides Hasan, security forces arrested three people for helping him to make the film; their names area Ali Raza Yaqubi, Siawashi Beqani and Muhsini Ali Muradi. He said he deeply felt sad for them: “They just helped me find elderly Kurdish women and men so that I could interview them.” Hasan was detained for seven months with Yaqubi, Beqani and Muradi in Talsh. “They [security cadres] tortured me physically and psychologically,” he said. After seven months, Hasan was released on bail because he was very sick and security told him that at the end of February they would face trial and must attend.

Regarding Nemati, he was hiding in Tehran, the capital city of Iran, under a false name; meanwhile, Nemati wrote on his blog that he left Iran and went to Iraqi Kurdistan so that security would stop looking for him.

At the end of January, Nemati and Hasan arrived in Iraqi Kurdistan illegally via roads used by smugglers. Later, Hasan brought his wife and child to Iraqi Kurdistan. “We will not go back to Iran as long as this regime is in power,” Hasan told “The Kurdish Globe” while sitting with Nemati beneath Erbil citadel in Erbil city. “We think we will be sentenced for 10 to 15 years,” he added.

What hurts Nemati and Hasan most is that the three people who helped them, Yaqubi, Beqani and Muradi, are still in prison. Iranian security told their families that they will not be released until Nemati and Hasan are arrested. Moreover, the parents of Nemati and Hasan are under a lot of pressure; several times security raided their parents” homes, demanding they disclose their sons” whereabouts.

Nemati and Hasan say they don’t feel very safe in Iraqi Kurdistan as the presence of Iranian security agents is strong in Kurdistan Region.

The Kurdish Globe

20 February 2011

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