Daughter of Ahmadinejad advisor seeks asylum in Germany

By | October 14, 2009

From Deutsche Welle: Iranian filmmaker Narges Kalhor has applied for asylum in Germany after her visit to a film festival. The move is likely to ruffle feathers in Tehran, as her father is the media advisor to President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

Narges Kalhor decided at the last minute that she would not return to Tehran after showing her film at a human rights film festival in Nuremberg.

“I had definitely planned to go back,” Kalhor told the Financial Times Deutschland (FTD) on Wednesday. But shortly before she was due at the airport, a phone call from Iran let her know she would probably be arrested upon her arrival in Tehran. She therefore decided to apply for asylum in the southern German city.

Kalhor’s father Mehdi is said to be one of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s closest confidants. The former documentary film producer has advised the Iranian president on cultural issues since August 2005.

Iran’s Kafkaesque penal system

Kalhor attended the Nuremberg festival with her short film “The Rake.” It is based on Franz Kafka’s short story “In the Penal Colony” but the story is transported to Iran.

In “The Rake” people’s crimes are etched into their skin

In the film, a machine called “the rake” stands in a deserted cellar vault. It punishes convicted prisoners by carving the commandment they had disobeyed into their bodies. The only possible escape from this procedure is death – there is no chance of defense.

“This film reflects our emotional situation in Iran,” Kalhor told the FTD. “I hope viewers will recognize the parallels.” Kalhor both wrote the script and directed the film.

Nuremberg’s “Perspective” is the first German festival to be dedicated to the subject of human rights. This year, the program included a special series on films from Iran.

News spread quickly

Kalhor told news agency AFP that she came to the event to establish contacts.

“This is important for me as a filmmaker,” Kalhor said. She hadn’t expected her participation in “Perspective” to spread so quickly. After all, this was “a small festival in a small town,” she said.

After her arrival in Germany, her mother told her that news about the film festival was available through the Internet in Iran. After the first screening of the 10-minute film, her sister had called her to tell her: “They’re asking where you are. It’s better if you stay in Germany,” Kalhor said.

Mehdi Kalhor confirmed to the Iranian Mehr news agency that his daughter had applied for asylum, but said he did not know what her reasons were. He said he had not seen his daughter since he divorced his wife a year ago. His daughter had been exploited by “enemies of the country” for propaganda purposes, he said.

“I have had political problems with my father for some time,” Kalhor told AFP.

Kalhor took part in the mass protests in Iran this summer following the controversial presidential elections. Though none of her friends died, some were arrested and treated poorly, she said.

“From the moment of arrest until their release, they were treated violently,” she told the FTD.

The 25-year-old is currently in a refugee center near Nuremberg, festival spokesman Matthias Rued said.

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