(NEW YORK) – PEN America today condemned a court’s sentence against Iranian actress Afsaneh Bayegan for her refusal to wear a headscarf, following by a day a similar sentence imposed on another actress, Leila Bolukat, who was also banned from acting.

Bayegan was sentenced to two years in prison, which was suspended, and a two-year travel ban. On July 12th, Bayegan had announced on Instagram her decision to withdraw from acting after receiving charges for appearing with a hat and not the mandatory hijab in public. She has appeared in dozens of films in Iran. 

On Tuesday, Tehran’s Second Criminal Court imposed a two year acting ban and five-year ban on social media on Bolukat.

Julie Trebault, director, Artists at Risk Connection at PEN America, said: “The cruel sentencing and bans inflicted upon Leila Bolukat and Afsaneh Bayegan exemplify the Iranian authorities’ calculated assault on artistic freedom and women cultural rights defenders. By ruthlessly restricting Bolukat and Bayegan’s mobility, stifling their livelihood, and suppressing their expression, the Iranian authorities aim to instill fear and breed uncertainty within the creative community. Such oppressive actions pave the way for insidious self-censorship, gravely encroaching upon the freedom of visual artists, actors, and filmmakers alike. We demand the immediate and unconditional dropping of all charges against Bolukat and Bayegan.”

Bayegan has appeared in dozens of films and in television shows; her artistic career started with the short film Boogh or The Horn by Ali Alinejad. Bolukat’s most recent works include Agha Yousef (2009), Zamani Baraye Asheghi (2012), and As O Pas (2016)

In PEN America’s latest Freedom to Write Index—an annual count of writers in prison worldwide— Iran is the largest jailer of women writers globally. The government of Iran has intensified its violent crackdown on dissidents, many of them artists, since the September protests ignited by the death in custody of Iranian woman Mahsa Amini for “incorrectly” wearing a headscarf. PEN America and Artists at Risk Connection stand in solidarity with the many artists such as political rapper Toomaj Salehi, actress Taraneh Alidoosti, and other prisoners of conscience who endure persecution and detention at the hands of the Iranian authorities. More about PEN America’s work on Iran can be found here.

About the Artists at Risk Connection

The Artists at Risk Connection (ARC) is a project of PEN America dedicated to assisting imperiled artists and fortifying the networks and organizations that support them. If you or someone you know is an artist at risk, please contact ARC.

About PEN America

PEN America stands at the intersection of literature and human rights to protect open expression in the United States and worldwide. We champion the freedom to write, recognizing the power of the word to transform the world. Our mission is to unite writers and their allies to celebrate creative expression and defend the liberties that make it possible. Learn more at pen.org.

Contact: Suzanne Trimel, [email protected], 201-247-5057