Iran forces cancellation of Afghan film that portrays abuse of Afghan refugees by Iranians

Based on a true story, ‘Madrassa’ depicts the struggle of an Afghan refugee as he tries to enroll his daughter in Iranian schools, which repeatedly shut their doors to her. The film shows Iranians treating the father with contempt because he is Afghan, and eventually imprisoning and torturing him.

(Gee, I thought the Taliban were running Afghanistan, apparently Iran is)

RAWA  A controversial film depicting the plight of Afghan refugees in Iran was pulled at the eleventh hour in Kabul, sparking angry allegations that the authorities had caved into pressure from Tehran

The allegations of Iranian interference, made by filmmakers and a member of parliament, reflect widespread suspicions about the behind-the-scenes role Tehran plays in Afghan politics. Shukria Barakzai, a member of parliament for Kabul, believes the film was cancelled because of Iranian diplomatic pressure, and accused the Afghan government of surrendering to this kind of interference.

The incident angered local film-makers, including Asad Sekandar, the head of the company which made “Madrassa”, who said cancelling it was a breach of freedom of expression. Jawansher Haidari, head of the Afghanistan Cinema Association, called the decision unlawful and undemocratic. The proper procedure was to raise a complaint with Afghanistan’s media watchdog, not to censor films in advance, he said.

“Madrassa” is not the only film to spark controversy recently. Several movies at a human rights film festival last month in the northern Balkh province prompted rowdy protests.

Although the protesters were ostensibly unhappy about content they claimed was un-Islamic, the festival’s organiser Malek Shafii said he suspected this was not the real target. He claimed pro-Iranian networks in Balkh orchestrated the protests to stop other films being shown. “Some students at Balkh university’s faculty of Shariah law and religion were hired for this purpose, and disrupted the festival by staging protests against one or two films which had nothing wrong with them,” he said.