Iranian Director Who Skipped Oscars Bashes Trump's 'Inhumane' Travel Ban in Acceptance Speech Statement

"It now seems that the possibility of this presence is being accompanied by ifs and buts," the director said in a statement shortly after the ban was announced

President Donald Trump‘s executive order banning citizens from seven Middle Eastern countries from entering the U.S. may be lifted, but an Iranian director previously affected by the controversial directive made good on his promise to sit out the awards show for political reasons.

On Sunday night, Asghar Farhadi was not present to accept his Best Foreign Film Oscar for The Salesman.

Instead, he sent Iranian American engineer Anousheh Ansari, known as the first female space tourist, to accept the award on his behalf and read a statement from the filmmaker.

“I’m sorry I’m not with you tonight. My absence is out of respect for the people of my country and those of other six nations whom have been disrespected by the inhumane law that bans entry of immigrants to the U.S.,” she read on his behalf. “Dividing the world into the us and our enemies categories creates fear: A deceitful justification for aggression and war. These wars prevent democracy and human rights in countries which have themselves been victims of aggression.

Kevin Winter/Getty;Steve Granitz/WireImage
Kevin Winter/Getty;Steve Granitz/WireImage

“Filmmakers can turn their cameras to capture shared human qualities and break stereotypes of various nationalities and religions. They create empathy between us and others. An empathy we need today more than ever. And break stereotypes and religions. They create empathy between us and others. An empathy we need today more than ever,” she also said on his behalf.

After accepting the award for Farhadi, Ansari spoke to reporters in the Oscars press room and explained why the director did not accept his award in person: “I think he wanted to stand in solidarity with the rest of the people who have been subject to the travel ban and are not able to go see their friends and family members and share important moments in their lives. To not be here receiving this award, which means a lot to him, and that’s a big message he’s sending.

“It was very difficult. As you know, this would be his second Oscar. It was a big deal for him. I think not coming, he felt it was important to make the statement he made, which I read on the stage,” she added.

On Sunday, just hours before the Oscars telecast, Farhadi addressed about 10,000 protesters in London who gathered for a screening of The Salesman in a show of unity and strength against Trump’s travel ban, per The Guardian.

“This solidarity is off to a great start. I hope this movement will continue and spread for it has within itself the power to stand up to fascism, be victorious in the face of extremism and say no to oppressive political powers everywhere,” he said via videolink from Tehran to a crowd that included London mayor Sadiq Khan and and Palme d’Or winner Mike Leigh.

Steve Granitz/WireImage
Steve Granitz/WireImage

Farhadi at the Oscars in 2012

Farhadi released a statement to The New York Times last month detailing his decision to forgo the Academy Awards, where his movie is nominated for Best Foreign Film, shortly after reports that he might be barred from the prestigious event made worldwide headlines. The Oscar-winning director took home the trophy in the same category in 2012 for A Separation.

“I regret to announce via this statement that I have decided to not attend the Academy Awards Ceremony alongside my fellow members of the cinematic community,” he said, adding that he originally planned to attend the event. “It now seems that the possibility of this presence is being accompanied by ifs and buts which are in no way acceptable to me even if exceptions were to be made for my trip.”

“Hard-liners, despite their nationalities, political arguments and wars, regard and understand the world in very much the same way,” Farhadi continued. “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. 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,” he added.

Trump’s controversial executive order suspended entry of all refugees to the U.S. for 120 days, barred Syrian refugees indefinitely, and for 90 days blocked entry into the U.S. for nationals from seven predominantly Muslim countries: Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, Yemen and Farhadi’s native country of Iran.

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But Farhadi wasn’t the only potential Oscar attendee affected by the order, which was later put on hold by the courts.

Khaled Khateeb, a Syrian cinematographer who worked on the Academy Award-nominated documentary The White Helmets, was barred by the Department of Homeland Security from entering the country, citing “derogatory information” about the filmmaker.

Khateeb, also a member of the volunteer search-and-rescue organization known as the White Helmets, was initially banned from attending the ceremony, but was later granted a visa to attend. The film is nominated in the Best Documentary Short category.

According to the Associated Press, Khateeb was detained by Turkish authorities and told he needed a waiver from the U.S. to make it into the country, something he had never received.

  • with reporting by Gabrielle Olya
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