Iranian actor denied work over resemblance to Ahmadinejad

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Iranian actor Mahmoud Basiri, who resembles former President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, says that he was banned from acting during the former president’s two terms in office.

In an interview with the Iranian Students’ News Agency, the theater, television and cinema comedy actor said that when he was first told about his banning, immediately after Ahmadinejad’s first elections in 2005, he did not believe it and laughed it off.

“Eight years ago, when the elections related to Mahmoud Ahmadinejad ended, lawyers would continuously get in touch with me and would ask me if I had news about my ban,” Basiri said, using the terms mamnou al-tasvir and mamnou al-kar for individuals who are forbidden to work or whose images are forbidden to be shown on television or movies.

“During that time,” Basiri continued, “I would just laugh at these comments and would not believe them until slowly, these rumors became closer to reality.”

Basiri said that he had signed contracts to play parts in television shows and had even recorded numerous scenes. But when the television shows aired, the scenes that featured him were not included. He also said of his previously released work, “Trailers of [my] work in films and television serials were also taken out.” However, once Ahmadinejad left office, those scenes were re-inserted and appeared when the programs were re-broadcast.

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He claims that he is not upset with the Culture Ministry during Ahmadinejad’s presidency or Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting (IRIB), headed by Ezatollah Zarghami since 2004, for his lack of work over the last eight years. But he did express sorrow in the interview that friends in the industry had backed away from him. He said that the only people to seek him out during his ban were Davoud Rashidi, Mahmoud Ostad Mohammad and Marzieh Bourmand.

Basiri did not directly blame anyone for his ban and said that despite being told that he could formally complain, he will not do so. He only regrets two roles that he was denied, one of which he had even signed a contract to play.

Basiri says that he has since been offered roles to play Ahmadinejad or characters that resemble Ahmadinejad and has even been asked to wear the famous tan jacket that became the former president’s trademark in a film about a movie director’s assistant, but he has so far refused, saying that he would only play the former president with Ahmadinejad’s permission.

The head of the IRIB serves five-year terms and is a highly sensitive post in Iran. According to the Iranian constitution, its director is chosen directly by the supreme leader. In 2012, Zarghami was put on the sanctions list by the European Union for airing forced confessions obtained from arrestees in the contested 2009 elections. Zarghami’s five-year term ends in November 2014.