IRAN

And the prize for Best Actress?! We’re not entirely sure…

Iran's International was hosted in Tehran last week for the 26th time. But pictures from this year's edition of the popular festival offered an unusual view of the showbiz affair. The FARS news agency blurred out the faces of female guests, making them almost unrecognisable. Our Observer for Iran, feminist Farnaz Seifi, explains why. UPDATE (17.30, 15 Feb. 08): Thanks to comments on this post, we have found photos posted by the Fars agency where actresses' faces are not blurred. The photos are part of a different set found at a seperate link. This would suggest that the agency has no consistent policy on whether or not their photographers can show the faces of female actresses. Photos from the FARS news agency posted on .

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Iran's International Fajr Film Festival was hosted in Tehran last week for the 26th time. But pictures from this year's edition of the popular festival offered an unusual view of the showbiz affair. The FARS news agency blurred out the faces of female guests, making them almost unrecognisable. Our Observer for Iran, feminist Farnaz Seifi, explains why.

UPDATE (17.30 15 Feb. 08): Thanks to comments on this post, we have found photos posted by the Fars agency where actresses' faces are not blurred. The photos are part of a different set found at a seperate link. This would suggest that the agency has no consistent policy on whether or not their photographers can show the faces of female actresses.

“Women: go home and stay there”

Commentary from our Iranian Observer, feminist Farnaz Seifi, who recently left the country to move to Europe:

This is a new concept brought in by the current government. We've never seen such a thing before! But the agency who's published these photos is very conservative and very close to the government. Their message to women is to go home and stay there. Do the cooking and look after the children. They don't want women to be active in society- they don't believe there is the need. Actresses wear a lot of make-up and colourful clothes. They're also usually quite beautiful, and the government doesn't want people to see this. If films are put on the TV, which is state-owned, they censor everything. You don't even know what some films are about they're so heavily censored. It's ridiculous.

This policy comes at a time when women are facing punishment for not wearing a headscarf in the street [video: Fashion crackdown intensifies: arrests captured on film]. For first-time offenses they receive a letter, but after that it's a fiscal fine. The government is also using other strategies to minimise women. For example, they're trying to cut the current rate of 63% of women in universities to 50%. They say admissions must be limited. These changes...the current government is simply against women in every way. With the old president, Mohammad Khatami, we had some hope. But now, things are getting worse everyday for women in Iran."

Actresses Ladan Mostofi, Masomeh Mir Hoseini and Nazanin Mofkham

Photos from the FARS news agency posted on Arash Kamangir's blog.