BBC Persian documentary offers rare glimpse of Iran’s Supreme Leader

November 7, 2011

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(AP/Hasan Sarbakhshian)
In Tehran, a group of Iranians chant slogans in support of Ayatollah Khamenei, whose regime has cracked down on filmmakers.

Since its launch in 2009, the BBC Persian's television channel has been a thorn in Iran's side. The regime has tried jamming the station’s satellite signals and intimidating the families of journalists who work for the network. Despite these efforts, the news channel remains extremely popular in Iran. People often subvert government restrictions by recording productions off the Internet and passing them around on DVDs and flash drives. 

In September, the Iranian regime and BBC Persian had their most heated battle yet. The station aired a documentary called The Ayatollah’s Seal. It chronicles the personal and political life of Iran’s current Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Khamenei.

After the documentary hit the airwaves, the regime immediately blocked the BBC’s satellite feed and arrested five documentary filmmakers and one film distributor – even though they had nothing to do with the making of the film.

Bozorgmehr Sharafedin, a senior broadcast journalist with BBC Persian and the director of The Ayatollah’s Seal, tells us why he decided to shed light on the Supreme Leader’s power over Iran.