Why the Iranian director for best foreign language film boycotted the Oscars

HOLLYWOOD — Director Asghar Farhadi won his second Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film Sunday at the 89th Academy Awards.

Director Asghar Farhadi attends the closing ceremony of the 69th annual Cannes Film Festival at the Palais des Festivals on May 22, 2016, in Cannes, France. (Tristan Fewings/Getty Images)

Director Asghar Farhadi attends the closing ceremony of the 69th annual Cannes Film Festival at the Palais des Festivals on May 22, 2016, in Cannes, France. (Tristan Fewings/Getty Images)

But Farhadi was not in attendance to claim the Oscar for his film, “The Salesman.” He boycotted the awards show in protest of President Donald Trump’s executive order that temporarily barred travelers from seven majority-Muslim countries, including Iran, from entering the United States. A federal judge has since put the travel ban on hold.

In a prepared speech delivered by Iranian-American engineer Anousheh Ansari, Farhadi explained his decision.

“My absence is out of respect for the people of my country,” Farhadi said in the statement, calling the ban “inhumane.”

“Dividing the world into the us and our enemies categories creates fear,” the statement continued.

In response, Iran’s Foreign Minister Javad Zarif tweeted: “Proud of cast & crew of ‘The Salesman’ for Oscar & stance against #MuslimBan. Iranians have represented culture & civilization for millennia.”

This isn’t the first time Farhadi has made a political statement at the Oscars. In 2012, when he won an Oscar for “A Separation,” he dedicated his award to Iranians.

“I proudly offer this award to the people of my country, the people who respect all cultures and civilizations, and despise hostility and resentment,” Farhadi said.

Though there was speculation as to whether Farhadi would even be able to make it into the United States for the ceremony, after travel ban was blocked in the courts, he still decided not to attend.

Here’s the full text of Farhadi’s letter:

It’s a great honor to be receiving this valuable award for the second time. I would like to thank the members of the Academy, my crew in Iran, my producer Alexandre Mallet-Guy, Cohen Media, Amazon and my fellow nominees in the foreign film category. 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. 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. 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 which we need today more than ever.