Prominent Iranian celebrities, vocalists Dariush and Googoosh (top), and visual artist Shirin Neshat (bottom).

Singers Googoosh and Dariush, visual artist Shirin Neshat and filmmaker Jafar Panahi are among the many performers, artists, actors, and film directors who have publicly expressed support for the demonstrators who, since December 28, have taken to the streets of Iran in their tens of thousands.

Prominent members of the Iranian artistic community have voiced solidarity with the economic hardships endured by Iranians of all ages, demanded respect for civil liberties and human rights, and questioned the Islamic republic as a political system.

Filmmaker Jafar Panahi

Tweeting from inside Iran, filmmaker Jafar Panahi – who has been banned for 20 years from directing or scripting movies, and is not allowed to leave the country – called for a national referendum in which people could vote ‘yes’ or ‘no’ to an Islamic Republic.

“On the way from Enqelab to Ferdowsi Square, I saw thousands of motorcycle Basijis, security forces and anti-riot police in full gear stationed at Valiy-e Asr intersection,” he tweeted. “They looked more like a foreign occupation army than a security force. What do they fear so much? A popular political system would not be so apprehensive. This overwhelming show of force betrays the fact that the establishment has lost public support. If they are confident in their support among the people, then they should allow a nationwide referendum.”

Panahi condemned Iran’s security forces for their brutal treatment of protesters. So did fellow film director Tahmineh Milani, who also lives in Iran.

She tweeted: “I’m against violence and destruction. But I do believe that the protests were not instigated or encouraged by foreign enemies. These are ordinary people of all ages who are venting their anger. They are pensioners, unemployed youths, single women and men who are the sole breadwinners of their families, all overwhelmed by the high cost of living. They are fed up with gender inequality. They demand respect, civil liberty and their inalienable human rights. Their voices are never heard. They are crying out against injustices, corruption, domestic and foreign policies . . .”

Iranian-born artists living outside the country reacted abundantly on social media.

“This generation will not be silenced. Only freedom,” wrote pop superstar Googoosh in a social media post.

Another star vocalist, Dariush (Eqbali) offered his backing by posting a line from his song “Rise Up”: “Sing to us the song of tomorrow, for tomorrow will come with our flags.”

Singer Ebi, meanwhile, wrote: “Glory of our nation is the wish of every Iranian. We dream of a day when poverty, unemployment, high cost of living and child labor are eradicated . . . when heads of households can proudly support their families . . . when the country’s youths are welcomed around the world . . . when women symbolize a liberated Iran . . . when pensioners can live with dignity . . . We hope for freedom.”

In New York, visual artist Shirin Neshat – who openly backed the Green movement in 2009, protesting the re-election of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad – voiced her views on Twitter:

The following extracts are reactions from other Iranian performers, artists, directors and actors:

Faramarz Aslani (musician, songwriter, singer), on Twitter: “Walk hand in hand and without violence. Refrain from setting fire to public sites. Peacefully voice your concern over the violation of your civil rights. The state will use civil disobedience and violent unrest as an excuse to brutalize the public. It may even plant agitators among the protesters. The world is watching. Nothing can escape the camera’s lens. This regime must relinquish power since it has failed to promote free speech, improve living conditions and institute economic reform. This is intolerable.”

Hamid Farokh-Nejad (actor), on Twitter: “We have the right to protest. We must stand up to those who commit injustice and violate our rights. Damaging public property, however, derails your legitimate cause.” Quoting the Prophet Mohammad, Farokh-Nejad: “The state can survive disbelief, but it would not last through oppression.”

Taraneh Alidousti (actress), on Twitter: “I implore you to stop brutalizing the protesters. Please try to understand and calm their anger. Please ensure the safety and well-being of the protesters and those arrested. We expect them to remain safe and protected under the law.”

Iranian actress Mahnaz Afshar, on Twitter: “This is the voice of people. Their cries should not be answered with batons and tear gas.”

Film and TV actor, Mohsen Tanabandeh, on Twitter: “Mr. Rouhani, the country’s national budget should be spent on people, not on tax-exempt institutions. Unfortunately, an exorbitant amount of money is spent on the so-called cultural and religious institutions rather than on fighting poverty, improving people’s lives and protecting the environment. It is abundantly clear that the ruling class is oblivious to the economic difficulties that the poor and the middle class are facing.”

Hamid Reza Azarang (actor), on Twitter: “The ruling elite were voted into office by the people. The authorities are morally and ethically responsible for fulfilling the legitimate demands of people. What about justice and fairness? The protests are not instigated and fueled by foreign enemies. These are ordinary people who demand to be heard. They are poor, hungry and desperate people calling for justice. They are angry at those who have built their financial wealth through corruption, greed and misappropriation of public funds. It is not too late. Ensuring the safety, security and welfare of these people is the least the authorities could do. Don’t sever your ties to the people.”

Reza Sadeqi (singer), on Twitter: “People are under tremendous financial, emotional and psychological pressure. They are tired of hearing about corruption, greed, embezzlement and political disputes. They are battling the high cost of living and a shortage of basic necessities. They can’t make ends meet. Using physical force and tear gas against them is not the answer. I’m completely against violence – by any side. Violence begets violence.”

Singer-songwriter Alireza Assar, speaking at a concert: “Many of us condemn violence, for instance breaking windows . . . but people are right . . . authorities should heed public sentiments. These people deserve a better life, especially in a wealthy country such as ours.”

Film and TV actor Farhad Aslani, on Instagram: “People are upset. They are overwhelmed by the high cost of living. They are outraged by the rampant corruption, greed and bribery. They worry about the future of their children. They deserve better. They shouldn’t be without jobs and live in poverty. I beg the authorities and the Majlis [Iranian Parliament] to help the people before it is too late. Police and batons are not the proper response to people’s legitimate grievances. There must be a better answer.”

Filmmaker Mehdi Karampour on Twitter: “We must listen to the people . . . be honest with the public. They are exhausted . . . They demand their rights. Be patient with them.”

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