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Iranian Oscar nominee Asghar Farhadi on why he wouldn't attend this year’s ceremony even if he could

The Salesman director issued a statement warning of “hardliners” creating an “us and them mentality.”

Closing Ceremony - The 69th Annual Cannes Film Festival
Farhadi (center) with the stars of his Oscar-nominated film, the Salesman
Photo by Pascal Le Segretain/Getty Images

A week ago, Iranian director Asghar Farhadi was preparing to come to the United States to attend the Academy Awards ceremony on February 26, where his film The Salesman is nominated for Best Foreign Language Film.

Then President Trump signed his executive order to broadly crack down on Middle Eastern immigrants and refugees, including a 90-day visa ban for anyone from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, or Yemen. Now Farhadi — whose landmark film A Separation won the 2011 Foreign Language Oscar — will not be able to go.

What’s more, he told the New York Times yesterday, he wouldn’t take an exemption to the order even if he could.

In his statement, Farhadi explained that boycotting the Oscars wasn’t something he had been interested in before, but that the “unjust conditions” of Trump’s order have made it so that “the possibility of this presence is being accompanied by ifs and buts which are in no way acceptable to me.”

He continued:

Hardliners, despite their nationalities, political arguments and wars, regard and understand the world in very much the same way. In order to understand the world, they have no choice but to regard it via an “us and them” mentality, which they use to create a fearful image of “them” and inflict fear in the people of their own countries.

This is not just limited to the United States; in my country hardliners are the same. For years on both sides of the ocean, groups of hardliners have tried to present to their people unrealistic and fearful images of various nations and cultures in order to turn their differences into disagreements, their disagreements into enmities and their enmities into fears. Instilling fear in the people is an important tool used to justify extremist and fanatic behavior by narrow-minded individuals.

Farhadi then wove into his statement the hope that “the similarities among the human beings on this earth and its various lands, and among its cultures and its faiths, far outweigh their differences.” But he also included a warning to look to our history, both recent and far, for the roots of today’s division.

“To humiliate one nation with the pretext of guarding the security of another,” he wrote, “is not a new phenomenon in history and has always laid the groundwork for the creation of future divide and enmity. I hereby express my condemnation of the unjust conditions forced upon some of my compatriots and the citizens of the other six countries trying to legally enter the United States of America and hope that the current situation will not give rise to further divide between nations.”

Farhadi’s Salesman star Taraneh Alidoosti has also stated that she will not be attending the Oscars in protest; it remains to be seen who else may do the same come February 26.

You can read Farhadi’s statement in full at the New York Times.

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