Rationalizing the Iran regime’s regulation of arts and culture, the Supreme Leader has declared that they are part of an enemy “soft war” against the Islamic Republic.

Ayatollah Khamenei sent a written message to filmmakers, producers, and actors on Tuesday, 12 days after a meeting with them in Tehran.

Khamenei used the note not only to castigate other countries, but also to warn Iranians about what he considers inappropriate art and culture:

He continued with the military analogy, “Some individuals pass by this national event indifferently; some side with the enemies and help them; the first group are irresponsible and the latter are on the side of the enemies.”

Since the mass protests after the 2009 disputed Presidential election, artists, writers, and filmmakers have been restricted. Some have been banned from pursuing their work, put under house arrest, or detained.

President Hassan Rouhani pledged to open up Iran’s social and cultural spheres after his election in 2013, but he has struggled against the objections of hardliners, including the Supreme Leader, and amid Iran’s economic difficulties and US sanctions.

In his message, Khamenei defined acceptable art with a focus on “cultural themes such as the dear martyrs; the Sacred Defense [the 1980s Iran-Iraq War]; the Islamic Revolution; the Islamic lifestyle; the spiritual, faithful motives of the nation and their manifestations; their resistance against the super criminals and global corrupts; the Arbaeen walk [religious ceremony]; and so forth.”