Iran transvestite film draws militant fire
TEHRAN, Dec 14 (Reuters) - A film about an Iranian who resorts to cross-dressing in an effort to emigrate to the United States has come under fire from Islamic militants opposed to the government's liberal policies permitting the screening.
Residents and newspapers said groups of militants over the past week attacked cinemas showing the Iranian film ``Snowman'' in several cities, including Isfahan, Shiraz and Rasht.
The daily newspaper Salam said a group of militants from the Ansar-e Hizbollah (Supporters of God's Party) attacked viewers leaving a cinema in Isfahan, including a disabled veteran from the 1980-88 Iran-Iraq war.
The violence was the latest in a series of recent incidents across the Islamic republic in which militants attacked cinemas showing the film.
The actions target attempts by the new moderate President Mohammad Khatami to ease censorship and fly in the face of his stated policies to reinforce the rule of law in Iran.
The black comedy, directed by Davoud Mirbaqeri and called ``Adam Barfi'' in Persian, shows a man disguising himself as a woman with heavy make-up in the hope of marrying an American and emigrating to the country of his dreams.
It has been attacked as immoral by the militants, despite its politically correct ending in which the man falls in love with an Iranian woman and both return to their homeland.
The daily Salam said militants in Isfahan tore down posters at the cinema and stopped the screening of ``Snowman.''
``Although the film is authorised and is being shown in 22 cities throughout Iran, the attackers threatened to set the cinema on fire so we were forced to stop showing it,'' the manager of Qods cinema in Isfahan told Salam.
The film is being shown in 18 cinemas in Tehran alone, where tickets have been sold out for several days in advance.
Iran's Culture and Islamic Guidance Minister Ataollah Mohajerani authorised the showing of ``Snowman,'' which his predecessor had banned.
Asked about the incident in Isfahan, Mohajerani said police later detained the troublemakers, who had acted illegally, and the cinema had reopened. He said such incidents were good publicity for the film, Iran's top box office hit this year.
But Salam on Saturday quoted Ayatollah Jalaleddin Taheri, a moderate senior cleric who leads Friday prayers in Isfahan, as criticising police, intelligence ministry and provincial officials for not putting a stop to instances of militants taking the law into their own hands.
In related incidents, the Salam paper said Ansar-e Hizbollah members stormed the Guidance Ministry headquarters in Isfahan on Tuesday, threatening female staff. The office's director-general had filed a lawsuit against the intruders, it said.
The group also attacked the Sadr theology school in Isfahan the following day, beating up two clerics and damaging the school, the paper said.
``We have identified the members of the group and informed the police,'' a security official told Salam.
Ansar-e Hizbollah members have also recently attacked the offices of Salam and Navid magazine in Isfahan, a library at Isfahan university, and the houses of a clergyman and a university lecturer, the daily said.