On March 16, General Ali Zolghadr, Commander of Tehran’s Intelligence and Public Security Police, reported the arrest of five individuals who had published the so-called Eggplant Rain video clips. A few hours later, Amir Taghipour, the maker of these viral videos, posted a video on his Instagram page in which he apologized for making the videos [Persian video].
The day before, on March 15, three videos appeared on social media that showed eggplants raining from Tehran’s skies. The videos soon attracted the attention of social media users, who left satirical comments, linking the image of raining eggplants to the strange and painful experiences of the Iranian people over the past few months.
Taghipour is a visual effects specialist who is lives in Canada. His page on the online database IMDb shows that he has worked on a number of Hollywood movies, including Blade Runner 2049, Mortal Engines, War for the Planet of the Apes, X-Men: Apocalypse and King Arthur: Legend of the Sword. In this apology video, Taghipour explains that he had been teaching a course in Tehran at the invitation of a school for visual effects and that he had made these videos for as a demonstration.
“The students wanted to combine real footage with a three-dimensional object and to make it believable,” he says. According to Taghipour, the idea for making this video clip took shape in early winter, and it was to be completed last month, but as a result of the coronavirus outbreak it took until March 14 to finish it.
An informed source tells IranWire that the detainees were pressured to deny any connection between the clips and recent events, especially the coronavirus outbreak. That is why Taghipour explains that idea took shape in early winter, before the epidemic started. Many commenters on social networks have compared recent events, including the November protests, the shooting down of the Ukrainian passenger plane over Tehran and the outbreak of coronavirus to computer games when, after winning in one stage of the game, you have to start on a more difficult and challenging level.
Expecting a Dragon
Many compared Eggplant Rain whatever would come after the coronavirus epidemic. “We passed the phase where eggplants rain from the sky,” one wrote. “The next phase is sure to be a dragon.”
Taghipour explains that after the videos were completed, his students posted them on social media, their followers shared them, and “unfortunately, certain unprincipled individuals exploited them.” General Zolghadr said the videos had “disturbed the public mind,” a common charge by the Iranian regime against those who dare to speak freely. In the end of his video, Amir Taghipour again apologizes to people who were “disturbed” by the video clips.
An informed source tells IranWire that Taghipour was forced to post this video on his Instagram page after he was arrested. According to this source, the Young Journalists Club (YGC) news agency, an affiliate of the Political Bureau of the Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting (IRIB), was behind the arrests.
The source says the video of Taghipour’s apology was also recorded under the supervision of the YGC. After the apology video was published, this news agency went to Hamid Reza Goodarzi, Tehran’s Deputy Governor for Security Affairs, and quoted him repeating that the videos were conceived in early winter and that they were meant to teach visual effects techniques.
According to General Zolghadr, after the Eggplant Rain videos were posted, “immediately a team of Tehran’s security police took action and were able to identify the main persons responsible for publishing the videos.”
This statement – and Taghipour’s apology video – led to angry and sarcastic reactions on social media. Many asked why the culprits of acid attacks on women in Isfahan and of the downing of the Ukrainian passenger plane were not so quickly identified and arrested.
In 2014, three young women were victims of acid attacks in Isfahan, and were left with life-changing injuries — their faces were disfigured and their eyesight damaged. The attacks shook Iran, and people demanded that those responsible be found and punished to the limit of the law. Instead, authorities clashed with protesters calling for justice and arrested journalists reporting on the attacks.
After the Ukraine International Airlines Flight 752 was shot down by anti-aircraft missiles over Tehran on January 8, it took three days for the Revolutionary Guards to admit responsibility. As of now, nobody has been punished or even reprimanded for this disaster. Instead, intelligence agents harassed the grieving families of the victims and a senior advisor to President Hassan Rouhani openly threatened Iranian journalists based outside the country “to refrain from engaging in a psychological war related to the Ukrainian aircraft and cooperating with anti-Iranian rebels."
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