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Aydin Aghdashloo. Photo: Wikipedia.
Aydin Aghdashloo. Photo: Wikipedia.

#MeToo Controversy Grows Around Iranian Artist Aydin Aghdashloo

Following an October article in the New York Times in which thirteen women, including journalists and former students, accused famed Iranian painter Aydin Aghdashloo of sexual misconduct, the artist is faced with the possible withdrawal of his work from an esteemed auction, and that of the executive producer from a documentary about his life. Additionally, the world’s largest Iranian art and culture festival, Tirgan, in which Aghdashloo typically participates, has been petitioned to disinvite him from future events, the Times reported today.

Following the initial public report of the allegations, all of which the artist denies, a representative of Tehran Auction, which regularly and prominently offers Aghdashloo’s work, said that the organization was considering removing his works from a planned December 11 sale. “We do care about these allegations,” said Homa Taraji, Tehran Auction’ s head of international relations. “Including him in the auction is going to create a negative perception about Tehran Auction and affect our work internationally.”

The allegations against Aghdashloo, which include forcible touching and the elevation or destruction of a woman’s career based on her response to his advances, belong to an extraordinary surge of women going public with sexual assault allegations in Iran, where women can face retribution from the authorities for simply reporting sexual assault.

Mahyad Tousi, who is the executive producer of a documentary about the eighty-year-old Aghdashloo’s life that was written and directed by the artist’s daughter, Tara, has said that the accusations, which surfaced after the film was completed, must be addressed in the film or he will remove his name from it. “I believe women. Period,” said Tousi. 

The petition calling for the Tirgan Festival to publicly announce that it will no longer invite Aghdashloo to participate has gained more than 850 signatures since it was started in August. The festival’s chief executive, Mehrdad Ariannejad, who co-owns a popular Toronto gallery with Fay Athari, an ex-wife of Aghdashloo, was emphatic regarding the treatment of women in general, saying, “I personally, definitely, condemn any violence against women. I’ve always supported women’s rights.” He told the Times he felt that the allegations against Aghdashloo should be properly investigated by an independent judicial body. “You can’t go out and condemn this person.”

Aghdashloo, who holds dual Canadian and Iranian citizenship and is one of Iran’s most well-known artists, has said that the allegations against him, some of which date as many as thirty years back, are untrue. He has taken legal action against at least one accuser and through his lawyers has demanded the Times retract its story, which the paper has said it is standing by.