Iranian actress sentenced to 90 lashes for film role

It’s a depressing case of life imitating art.

An Iranian actress has been sentenced to 90 lashes and a year in prison for starring in a film that shows artistic repression in the country, according to the Sydney Morning Herald.

Marzieh Vafamehr was arrested in July and received her sentence at the weekend.

In the 2009 film, ‘My Tehran for Sale’, Vafamehr plays an actress whose work is banned by authorities and is forced to lead a secret life to express herself artistically.

Vafamehr often appears with a shaved head and no headscarf, and there are scenes of drug use in the film, according to Iranian opposition website kalameh.com.

Her lawyer has appealed the sentence, according to reports.

Iranian news agency Fars said the movie, directed by Iranian-Australian Granaz Moussavi, had not been approved for screening in Iran and was being distributed in the country illegally.

However, Adelaide-based production company Cyan Films said the low-budget, independent movie was never meant to be distributed in Iran.

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The movie’s producers Kate Croser and Julie Ryan were stunned by the news. They said in a statement: “We would like to express our deep shock and sadness at the sentence.

"We continue to offer our support to Marzieh and her family by respecting their wishes to let the case and the appeal follow the proper legal channels."

They said that Vafamehr’s role was limited to acting and that she had no input behind the scenes.

Australia’s foreign minister Kevin Rudd also expressed “deep concern” at the reports.

"The Australian government condemns the use of cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment and is deeply concerned by reports that Ms Marzieh Vafamehr has been sentenced to one year in jail and 90 lashes for her role in an Australian-produced film," a spokesman for Rudd told AFP.