A Holiday Season Filled With Art for the Soul: Defending an Iranian Actor's Freedom to Speak Her Mind

On October 29th an Iranian actress, Pegah Ahangarani, was sentenced to 18 months in prison in Iran for criticizing the government of President Hassan Rouhani in Tehran. Ms. Ahangarani, who has appeared in over 20 films, was charged with acts against national security and links to foreign media. Ms. Ahangarani voiced her concerns by asking the Minister of Culture to allow freedom of thought and expression in Iranian art. Instead, the actress was charged by the government for voicing the views that millions of people in Iran share.

Increasing levels of educational attainment and the information revolution have contributed to creating a generation determined to gain more control over their lives through education and the arts. Today, the Rouhani regime continues to systematically target The art's movement, whose leading campaigners are being silenced, imprisoned and exiled in increasing numbers. The empowerment of artists in Iran is a threat to Islamic conservatives, who view controlling the arts and freedom of expression as critical to the survival of the clerical regime.

As a nation who leads the world in embracing the freedoms of speech and creativity, actresses and cultural icons like Ms. Ahangarani, must be supported in their quest to be the conscience of a nation. Silencing her means depriving the Iranian people of a powerful voice for change. The United States cannot ignore the voice of the artists and the need to support for democracy and the arts in Iran. By advocating for artists such as Pegah Ahangarani, we can help make a difference. Artists represent a powerful force for change. While their work in the arts strikes fear in the hearts of Iran's mullahs, their voices must be heard.