Pacific Media Watch

18 April 2016

NZ: Amnesty International criticises denial of visa to Iranian filmmaker

Human rights filmmaker Rokhsareh Ghaemmaghami ... denied visa for New Zealand festival. Image: Amnesty International

AUCKLAND (Asia Pacific Report/Amnesty International/Pacific Media Watch): Amnesty International has criticised the denial of a visa for Iranian film director Rokhsareh Ghaemmaghami who is due to visit New Zealand during the Documentary Edge Film Festival next month.

This award-winning documentary, Sonita, addresses the issue of forced marriage in Iran.

Through the journey of a young Afghan refugee turned rapper living in Tehran, the film tells the story of how Sonita Alizada narrowly escapes forced marriage at 16 by writing the song “Brides for Sale”.

A human rights activist, Ghaemmaghami was due to speak at screenings of the documentary and also to feature as a guest masterclass speaker at an international industry event.

Amnesty International, sponsor of the documentary, said in a statement today that the Screen Edge Forum was giving New Zealand audiences the opportunity to explore these important issues.

“Film directors are often the target of crackdowns by governments in their own countries, but it is deeply concerning to see our own country rejecting this visa application”, said Margaret Taylor, activism manager at Amnesty International.

“Rokhsareh plans to visit several other countries such as Australia, Turkey and the United States on her worldwide tour to promote this documentary, so it’s surprising that New Zealand has rejected her application on the grounds that she may be a flight risk.”

Amnesty International said it would like to hear more from Immigration New Zealand on how officials came to this decision and the organisation would welcome a reassessment of this case.

Sonita will screen at The Roxy in Miramar, Wellington, on May 13-15 and at Q Theatre, Auckland, on May 19-29.

The festival has set up a petition calling for Immigration NZ to reverse its decision on Rokhsareh Ghaemmaghami’s visa.

You can add your name here.

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