TEHRAN — Nazanin Boniadi, the Iranian-British-American actress, perhaps best known for her role as Fara Sherazi on the television series “Homeland,” uses her celebrity status to advocate for the rights of others and to spread awareness about human rights issues — particularly in her native country of Iran.
Nazanin Boniadi was born in Iran in 1980 at the height of the Iranian Revolution, in which the people of Iran overthrew the long-standing monarchy and created the Islamic Republic of Iran in its place.
Boniadi’s family moved to London, U.K. shortly after her birth, and she was then raised in England where she became involved in theater. Boniadi later studied theater after completing her undergraduate degree in biological sciences at the University of California, Irvine. Although Boniadi has lived most of her life outside of Iran, her commitment to the rights of the Iranian people has been consistently strong.
Fighting for Iranian People’s Rights
Boniadi worked as a spokesperson for Amnesty International from 2009 to 2015, campaigning for human rights across the world and even maintaining a blog on the Amnesty International USA website. One of her main focuses has been campaigning for the freedom of political prisoners in Iran. Iran wrongfully imprisons people regularly and denies these prisoners fair trials and humane treatment.
Human Rights Watch reports that Iranian courts use torture to obtain false confessions, do not immediately allow defendants to obtain representation by a lawyer, and when defendants are finally allowed access to legal counsel, counsel must be chosen from pre-approved lawyers. Additionally, it has been reported by Human Rights Watch that Iran denies necessary medical treatment to its political prisoners.
A Personal Case: Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe
One such prisoner whom Nazanin Boniadi fights for is Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, an Iranian-British woman who was held in Iran for 530 days on supposed charges of spying. The Iranian government detained Zaghari-Ratcliffe and her two-year old daughter in April 2016 as they were traveling back to the U.K. from Iran.
The charges against Zaghari-Ratcliffe were unspecified but related to national security; as a result, the Iranian government wrongfully sentenced Zaghari-Ratcliffe to five-years in prison, a fact that Boniadi found unacceptable.
Boniadi teamed up with Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s husband recently to highlight his wife’s story. Boniadi continues to fight for Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s release. Part of Boniadi’s strategy refocuses attention from the nuclear deal between the U.S. and Iran, to Iran’s human rights violations. Boniadi believes the nuclear deal distracts people from Iran’s human rights violations, leading to little pressure on Iran to resolve its human rights issues and continued unacceptable conditions for Iranians — such as in the case of Zaghari-Ratcliffe.
Nazanin Boniadi is a powerful ally for those suffering in Iran. In an interview with Politico, Boniadi made it clear that her freedom as an Iranian woman living outside of Iran and her status as a famous actress make her more responsible for those in Iran who do not have her privilege. She powerfully stated: “If I have a platform, I want to give them a voice.”
– Mary Kate Luft