Crowds gather for the free screening of Asghar Farhadi's The Salesman in Trafalgar Square, central London, as the Iranian director is boycotting this weekend's Oscars over Donald Trump's travel ban. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Sunday February 26, 2017. Farhadi, who won an Academy Award in 2012, has said he will not attend the awards show even if he is granted permission to enter the country following the ban on people from seven Muslim-majority countries from entering the United States. See PA story SHOWBIZ Oscars. Photo credit should read: Jonathan Brady/PA Wire
Crowds gather for the free screening of Asghar Farhadi’s The Salesman in Trafalgar Square (Picture: Jonathan Brady/PA Wire)

Thousands of people have attended a screening of The Salesman in Trafalgar Square ahead of the Oscars ceremony its director boycotted.

The screening of the film was scheduled by London Mayor Sadiq Khan after Asghar Farhadi announced he would boycott the ceremony in the wake of Trump’s travel ban.

Woman’s 20 year ‘tummy ache’ was actually 11cm tube left behind after operation

Under the controversial order the Iranian would have been unable to travel to the United States, so he and the film’s lead actress, Taraneh Alidoosti, said they would not attend the Academy Awards in Los Angeles.

The free event was held in Trafalgar Square, for which the director was not present, but instead sent a recorded message for the crowd.

He said: ‘Despite our different religions, cultures and nationalities, we are all citizens of the world.

Crowds begin to gather for the free screening of Asghar Farhadi's The Salesman in Trafalgar Square, central London, as the Iranian director is boycotting this weekend's Oscars over Donald Trump's travel ban. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Sunday February 26, 2017. Farhadi, who won an Academy Award in 2012, has said he will not attend the awards show even if he is granted permission to enter the country following the ban on people from seven Muslim-majority countries from entering the United States. See PA story SHOWBIZ Oscars. Photo credit should read: Jonathan Brady/PA Wire
Thousands attended the screening ahead of the Oscars tonight  (Picture: Jonathan Brady/PA Wire)
Lily Cole speaks before the free screening of Asghar Farhadi's The Salesman in Trafalgar Square, central London, as the Iranian director is boycotting this weekend's Oscars over Donald Trump's travel ban. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Sunday February 26, 2017. Farhadi, who won an Academy Award in 2012, has said he will not attend the awards show even if he is granted permission to enter the country following the ban on people from seven Muslim-majority countries from entering the United States. See PA story SHOWBIZ Oscars. Photo credit should read: Jonathan Brady/PA Wire
Lily Cole was amongst those to address the crowd (Picture: Jonathan Brady/PA Wire)
Mayor of London Sadiq Khan speaks before the free screening of Asghar Farhadi's The Salesman in Trafalgar Square, central London, as the Iranian director is boycotting this weekend's Oscars over Donald Trump's travel ban. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Sunday February 26, 2017. Farhadi, who won an Academy Award in 2012, has said he will not attend the awards show even if he is granted permission to enter the country following the ban on people from seven Muslim-majority countries from entering the United States. See PA story SHOWBIZ Oscars. Photo credit should read: Jonathan Brady/PA Wire
Sadiq Khan said the screening would send the message London Is Open (Picture: Jonathan Brady/PA Wire)
Crowds gather for the free screening of Asghar Farhadi's The Salesman in Trafalgar Square, central London, as the Iranian director is boycotting this weekend's Oscars over Donald Trump's travel ban. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Sunday February 26, 2017. Farhadi, who won an Academy Award in 2012, has said he will not attend the awards show even if he is granted permission to enter the country following the ban on people from seven Muslim-majority countries from entering the United States. See PA story SHOWBIZ Oscars. Photo credit should read: Jonathan Brady/PA Wire
Crowds gathered for the free screening (Picture: Jonathan Brady/PA Wire)

He apologised for not being at the event in person, and added: ‘However, I am there in spirit and I thank you all from the bottom of my heart.’

Also present was model Lily Cole who said the travel ban was ‘unnecessary in this day and age’.

She said: ‘We are here to say what alternatives are possible, we are here to demonstrate that alternatives are possible and why things like the Trump ban are unnecessary in this day and age, because London is wonderfully open.

‘I hope you remember the pretext that brought us here, because we may see more ludicrous policies coming out, we may see more attempts to discriminate against millions of people based purely on their race and where they were born.

‘And what we all need to be here today to remember and keep saying is, ‘no, that’s not acceptable’ and an alternative is possible.’

Mandatory Credit: Photo by Dinendra Haria/REX/Shutterstock (8436051d) Photo-call organised Amnesty International with activists holding placards before the screening of The Salesman in Trafalgar Square for the release of Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe and Kamal Foroughi. 'The Salesman' film screening, London, UK - 26 Feb 2017
Richard Ratcliffe protested his wife’s imprisonment before the screening (Picture: Dinendra Haria/REX/Shutterstock)

Khan took told the crowd the ‘key message’ they would send to the world is that ‘London is open’.

He said afterwards: ‘There are people here from Iran to Iraq, from Shoreditch and Streatham, from Lebanon and London – showing the world that London is open. Open to talent, open to creativity and open to people.

‘At a time when people want to have travel bans, we should talk about welcoming people. At a time when people want to build walls, we should build bridges.

‘At a time when people are dividing communities, I want to unite communities.

‘At a time when politicians are motivating people by fear, I want to motivate them by hope, and I think the great thing about today, particularly post-Brexit, people thought we as a city would become inward-looking and insular.

‘Nothing could be further from that position. We are outward-looking and we are showing the world that we are open.’

Before the screening, Richard Ratcliffe was amongst those to protest his wife Nazanin Zaghair-Ratcliffe’s imprisonment in Iran.

A petition had urged Sadiq Khan to use the opportunity to condemned her imprisonment but the London Mayor’s office had dismissed it as a matter for the Foreign Office.