ROME: Iran has been branded a “brutal police state” by one of the world’s biggest cultural festivals for its crackdown on protests and freedom of expression.
Organizers of the Venice Biennale said that the Iranian regime was crushing “the most elementary human and civil rights” in its reaction to demonstrations over the death of Mahsa Amini, 22, at the hands of the country’s “morality police.”
In a statement, festival organizers said: “The Iranian people have taken to the streets to march in legitimate protest against a brutal police state.”
It condemned the “violent reaction to the spontaneous and growing protests in the streets of Iran, with the concurrent shutdown of the internet and the social networks.”
The Biennale, which has run for 127 years, also denounced the regime’s suppression of artists as “unacceptable,” adding that it deprived “the artists and citizens of Iran, to whom we extend our greatest solidarity, of every possibility of communication and expression.”
“La Biennale di Venezia and the Venice International Film Festival, together with other festivals and cultural institutions, must become the voice of those who are violently and brutally oppressed to the point of murder.”
A flash mob protest was organized on the red carpet at last month’s 79th Venice film festival in support of imprisoned filmmakers.
“Our engagement is reinforced today by our full support to the women and men who are bravely protesting at the risk of their own lives to achieve recognition of their right to freedom and the civil rights that are being denied to them by force,” the organizers said.
Amini died last month, days after being arrested in Tehran for allegedly breaking the country’s strict dress code. Photographs released of her in hospital showed injuries and swelling on her body. Her family have said she was tortured. Authorities say she suffered a heart attack.
Protests have been held against the Iranian government in several Italian cities. The largest took place in Rome on Monday, when around 1,000 people marched in a show of solidarity.