At Hopi’s AGM on February 12 2011, John McDonnell MP launched this important new campaign. We will hold a first open organising meeting soon, so please get in touch if you want to get involved. Email firstname.lastname@example.org or call Mark on 07950 416 922. Continue reading
Jafar Panahi says at the moment he has little hope of making another film, all he can do is produce a film in his head but he adds “I will have to make a film, that is my life.” He is eager to thank all those who called for his release, film directors, actors, theatre directors, artists , festival organsiers but also his friends and compatriots.
He says : “I started the hunger strike when one night they took me for questioning and the interrogators asked: ‘what is the name of your film?’ I thought they were referring to the film I was making when they arrested me in my house on the 1st of March. So I replied ‘that film isn’t finished yet so it hasn’t got a name’. They replied no no, we are asking about the film you are making in prison in your cell.'”
“I said: ‘What film?’ These people really thought someone had smuggled a camera and I was making a film in their jail! The truth is once I told a group of fellow prisoners that I have so far made five films and as a joke I added ‘and here I am making a film of myself’. The jail authorities must have heard this and thought that in my tiny cell I was making a film.”
Panahi adds: “All the pressures imposed by these interrogators are due to their imagination, it shows their fear of cinema. Here (in Iran) it is a crime even to think about making a film! Dreaming about a film is a crime.”
(Translation from Farsi by HOPI)
Hands Off the People celebrates the fact that Iranian film maker Jafar Panahi has been released from prison after more than two months. For the last week, he has been on hunger strike to protest against the conditions in the notorious Evin prison that he and his fellow prison mates had to endure.
He was arrested in March, apparently over plans to make a new critical film about the protests that sprung up in Iran after the rigged presidential elections in June 2009.
International pressure, including the protests staged at the Cannes Festival, as well as the campaigning work of organisations like Hopi (which, amongst other things, organised solidarity screenings of Panahi’s film ‘Offside’), have clearly played a role in him being freed. Panahi’s family and friends have told us how heartened he was to see that there were people fighting for his freedom.
He was released on a bail of $200,000 (£140,000).
But the struggle continues: his case has been referred to a revolutionary court, and he will still face trial, the official Irna news agency said. And hundreds of activists still remain behind bars. At least nine have been sentenced to death, and two have been executed already.
Hopi will continue to fight for the release of all political prisoners in Iran. Sanctions and war are not the answer to deal with the theocracy in Iran. Real democracy must come from below, from the workers’, the students, the women and unemployed in Iran.
Support Hands Off the People now. Join the campaign or make a donation: http://hopoi.org/
Ben Lewis reports on the campaign to free the outspoken film maker imprisoned by the Iranian regime
Activists in Hands Off the People of Iran have been informed that Jafar Panahi, the internationally acclaimed film maker who has been incarcerated for over two months, has begun a hunger strike in Evin prison.
This is the latest brave step by Panahi, who is increasingly becoming a symbol of resistance. The solidarity he can generate is of grave cause concern for the Islamic Republic, despite its jails, armed thugs and reactionary militias. Panahi fully realises this, and he is using his standing to exert as much pressure on the regime as possible. He has refused offers of bail, saying that he will only accept it when all other political prisoners are released. Like him, the overwhelming majority of these prisoners were arrested as part of the shocking wave of repression unleashed by the regime in response to the enormous protests on the streets of Iran following last June’s rigged presidential elections.
As we have reported previously, Panahi has been subjected to rigorous interrogation in jail. The Evin interrogators appear to be pursuing the tried and tested approach of bombarding him with the same questions over and over again in order to force inconsistencies in his answers, backing this up with the soul-destroying conditions and humiliating treatment for which Evin prison has become infamous.
Last Saturday the authorities kept all inmates in his wing of the prison outside their cells in the open air for the whole night. Next morning he was interrogated once more, this time being accused of secretly working on a film from his cell. He is particularly concerned about some of the new threats that have been made against his family.
There is clearly a lot of work for us in the solidarity movement. We must do what we can to publicise Jafar Panahi’s brave stance, not least using his wonderfully human films. He – and indeed all the other political prisoners in Iran – cannot be allowed to suffer without an outcry. Holywood directors Martin Scorscese, Steven Spielberg, Francis Ford Coppola and Robert Redford have issued forthright statements demanding his release. At this week’s 63rd Cannes Film Festival there were countless expressions of solidarity. One of the nine chairs for jury members remained empty in his honour. Given Panahi’s reputation internationally, it is quite striking that his case has hitherto been subjected to what John McDonnell MP has described as a “media blackout” in Britain, and we must break through this.
Simultaneously, it is vital ensure that the brutal actions of the Iranian state and its callous treatment of dissenters and critical figures of all kinds should not in any way be misappropriated by the US or UK governments to cover their designs on Iran and the region more generally. At a time when the permanent members of the UN security council – US, UK, China, Russia and France – have agreed on new proposals for a fresh round of sanctions, and when the rightwing Israeli politicians hypocritically hark on about the danger of a “second holocaust”, this is of the utmost importance.
Indeed, given that public opinion is not exactly welcoming the prospect of the further escalation of tension in the Middle East, one of the ways in which the imperialists may attempt to respond is to disingenuously latch on to the cause of Iran’s political prisoners. So there is a danger that the political and cultural establishment in the US and UK could hijack Panahi’s courageous stance for their own nefarious purposes. So we must redouble our campaign for the immediate and unconditional release not only of Panahi, but of all political prisoners, and link this with implacable opposition to imperialist sanctions and threats of war. A fight on two fronts which Hopi has conducted since its inception.
May 12 saw well over 100 people attend a solidarity screening at London’s Soho Theatre of Panahi’s best known film, Offside, jointly organised by Hopi and the Labour Representation Committee. The event was the first in a series of film showings and solidarity events across the country. The Manchester screening took place on May 18, and there will be a further one in Glasgow on May 21.
The event opened with Soho Theatre’s artistic director, Lisa Goldman, providing a moving account of her work with Panahi on artistic projects in Iran. She was followed by John McDonnell, who outlined the significance of the campaign to free Panahi. “Every movement creates a symbol,” he said. “In refusing bail until all other political prisoners are freed, Jafar is taking a courageous stance that we in Hopi wish to applaud and highlight.” He emphasised the importance of Hopi’s core principles – against war or sanctions on Iran; but no support for the theocracy and unequivocal solidarity with genuinely democratic struggles from below against its rule, especially those of the workers’ movement.
This was a theme British-Iranian comic Shappi Khorsandi took up in her opening remarks to the audience, explaining that is why she “loved” Hopi. Offside was certainly a big hit with the audience: stormy applause followed its closing credits. At the end a message of thanks was read out from Panahi’s family.
Hopi activists have been present this week at the Public and Commercial Services union conference in Brighton and our stall has had a very good response from delegates. PCS has been affiliated to Hopi since 2008 and the annual conference is always a good time to meet PCS militants new and old. Gratifyingly, the response we had from the delegates this year was particularly warm. We distributed some 400 information bulletins on the Jafar Panahi campaign and have already received over 50 signed postcards, which will be sent off in a special batch to Panahi’s family in Iran. We also raised funds for our campaigning work by selling numerous ‘No to war; no to theocracy’ badges and copies of Panahi’s films.
From Weekly Worker 818
Over one hundred people attend solidarity screening of arrested Iranian film maker Jafar Panahi’s Offside at Soho Theatre.
May 12 saw a well-attended solidarity solidarity screening of Jafar Panahi’s best known film, jointly organised by Hands Off the People of Iran (Hopi) and the Labour Representation Committee. The event is part of a series of film showings and solidarity events across the country to raise the profile of Jafar Panahi and others incarcerated for political ‘crimes’ in Iran.
Panahi was arrested on March 1 as part of the Iranian state’s crackdown on the pro-democracy movement sparked by the rigged presidential elections in June 2009. He has refused bail until all political prisoners of this movement are freed.
The event opened with Soho Theatre’s artistic director Lisa Goldman providing a moving account of meeting Panahi in Iran. She was followed by John McDonnell MP outlining the significance of the campaign to free Panahi.
“Every movement creates a symbol” he said. “In refusing bail until all other political prisoners are freed, Jafar is taking a courageous stance that we in Hopi wish to applaud and highlight”. He emphasised the importance of Hopi’s core principles – against war or sanctions on Iran; but no support for the theocracy and unequivocal solidarity with genuinely democratic struggles from below against its rule, especially those of the workers’ movement.
This was a theme British-Iranian comic Shappi Khorsandi took up in her opening remarks to the audience, explaining that she “loved” Hopi precisely because of this principled stance. Her acutely observed act then interlaced anecdotes drawn from her own background as the daughter of an Iranian activist who had also been persecuted by the Iranian theocracy with observations on the eccentricities of British society from an ‘outsider’.
Panahi’s moving film was a huge hit with the audience; stormy applause followed its closing credits.
Mark Fischer, Hopi national secretary said:
“Tonight was a real success. We are fighting to raise the profile of Jafar Panahi, who in spite of his international prominence as an artist, has been largely ignored by what John McDonnell dubbed in his speech a ‘media blackout’. He – and all political prisoners in Iran – must not be forgotten”.
Panahi’s family sent thanks to the organisers of the event. Hopi has plans for more solidarity events in the near future.
Supporters of Hopi include (for a full list, visit www.hopoi.org/supporters.html):
ASLEF – train drivers union
PCSU – Public and commercial services union
Communist Party of Great Britain
Diane Abbott MP – Labour
John McDonnell MP – Labour
Caroline Lucas MP – Green Party
Dr Derek Wall – male principal speaker, Green Party
Bill Bailey – comedian
Haifa Zangana – writer
Ken Loach – film maker
Naomi Klein – author
John Pilger – campaigning journalist
Professor Alan Macfarlane – University of Cambridge
Professor Moshé Machover – King’s College, London
Professor John McIlroy – Keele University
Professor Bridget Fowler – Glasgow University
Professor Christine Cooper – Strathclyde University
Dr Terry Brotherstone – University of Aberdeen UCU
Dr Adam Swift – University of Oxford
Professor Phil Taylor – University of Strathclyde
Professor George Joffe – King’s College, London & University of Cambridge
Peter Jowers – University of the West of England
Professor Guy Julier – Leeds Metropolitan University
Victor Kattan – Research Fellow, British Institute of International & Comparative Law
Dr Gerry Kearns – University of Cambridge
Professor Jeremy Keenan – University of Exeter & University of Bristol
Dr Andrew Cumbers – University of Glasgow
Dr Rolf Czeskleba-Dupont – University of Roskilde
Professor Bill Bowring – Birkbeck College, University of London
Professor Hamid Dabashi – Columbia University
Professor Moataz Fattah – Cairo University
Hopi is a campaign established in 2008 around the central slogans ‘No to imperialist war! No to the theocratic regime!’ As well as British activists, the organisation centrally involves a large number of Iranian exile organisations and individuals who have been forced into exile to avoid arrest and imprisonment.
With comedy from Shappi Khorsandi and an introduction by John McDonnell MP. The event is co-sponsored by the Labour Representation Committee (click here to read their letter, urging support for the event). For details of screenings in Glasgow and Manchester, click here)
Wednesday, May 12, 6pm. Soho Theatre, 21 Dean Street, London W1
Jafar Panahi – the well known Iranian film maker – was arrested on March 1 and is still being held without any charges. He has twice been offered bail, but has refused in solidarity with all those incarcerated for their participation in the mass demonstrations against the regime that have shaken Iran since June 2009.
The Hopi showing of the director’s most popular film in the West – ‘Offside’ – is an important opportunity to raise the profile of Panahi and step up the pressure on the regime in Tehran. We believe that international solidarity of this sort – not the threat of military strikes or sanctions – is the way to deliver effective aid to the struggle of ordinary people in Iran for freedom and social change.
- Please let us know if you can distribute leaflets and we’ll send you some. Maybe your union branch is planning a mailout soon?
- Even if you can’t come, perhaps you could sponsor the event by making a donation? You can do so on http://hopoi.org/?p=1195
- You could also try to get your organisation/trade union branch to sponsor the event.
Tickets: £10 (£20 solidarity, £5 unwaged). All profits go to the charity ‘Workers Fund Iran’. Please buy your ticket via Paypal here or by sending a cheque/postal order to PO Box 54631, London N16 8YE
You can also get a new copy of the film from us – we recommend a donation of £10 to cover all costs. Just add the amount when you’re paying.
“We the undersigned call for the immediate and unconditional release of Iranian film maker, Jafar Panahi, and all political prisoners incarcerated since the mass democratic upsurges against the theocratic regime in the aftermath of the rigged elections of June 2009.
The Iranian people themselves must be free to shape their own future; free from interference either from the western powers/Israel in the form of military attack and sanctions, or the repressive apparatus of the theocratic state.
Hands off the people of Iran!”
Initial signatories include:
- John McDonnell MP, Labour Party
- Lisa Goldman, artistic director Soho Theatre
- Jeremy Dear, general secretary National Union of Journalists
- Moshe Machover, Israeli activist
- Nader Sadeh (Berlin)
To add your name, email email@example.com as soon as possible. We are aiming to publicise this statement in many newspapers and websites. You can also join the Facebook group to Free Jafar Panahi, which keeps you updated with the campaign
Other signatories include:
Yassamine Mather; Hopi
Ruben Markarian, Rahe Kargar;
Mohamad Reza Shalgouni, Rahe Kargar;
Harry Cohen MP;
Pete Firmin (joint secretary and president, Brent Trades Union Council – pc);
Bill Wilson, member of the Scottish Parliament;
Anthony Neilson, Writer/ Director and Literary Associate of the RSC;
Marsha Jane Thompson, Labour Representation Committee;
Elaine Smith, member of Scottish Parliament;
Rebecca Lenkiewicz, Writer;
Dr Sue Blackwell, National Executive Committee (elect), University and College Union
Andy Hewett, Green Left;
Jenny Morgan, filmmaker;
Peter Grant, Manchester Piccadilly No1 Branch, ASLEF;
Priya Thakar, University of Manchester;
Chuck Hamilton, Tennessee Human Rights Coalition;
Mark Fischer, Communist Party of Great Britain
Behrooz Farahany, Solidarité socialiste avec les travailleurs en Iran-Paris;
Keith Baker, chair Scottish Education and Action for Development;
Paul Frost, East Midlands Green Party T U Group Rep, Unison member;
Christina Purcell, Manchester Met UCU Campaigns Officer (pc);
Dr. Marsha Levine, McDonald Institute for Archaeological Research;
Abe Hayeem, Chair, Architects and Planners for Justice in Palestine;
Dieter Elken, Marxist Initiative, Berlin;
Mick Hall, Organized Rage;
Aleksander Glogowski PhD, Jagiellonian University, Cracow, Poland;
Regi Theodor Enerstvedt, professor emeritus, University of Oslo, Norway;
Anders B Jonasson, senior lecturer, University of Skövde;
Ali Reza Akhavan;
Prof. Haim Bresheeth;
Dr. Mehrdad Emadi;
Ann M. Crosby;
Joanne George Wills;
Rachel Archer ;
B. Plant ;
Ali Reza Akhavan;
John S. Burke,
Nadia Marques de Carvalho;
Dr. A. Holberg, Germany;
Maud Bracke, University of Glasgow;
ارژنگ بامشاد Arjang Bamshad
احمد نوین Ahmad Novin
امیر جواهری لنگرودی Amir Javaheri Langaroudi
رفعت لنگرودی Rafat Langaroudi
گیلک جواهری لنگرودی Gilak Javaheri Langaroudi
هما جوادی Homa Javadi
ابوالحسن عظیمی Abolhassan Azimi
عیدی نعمتی شاعر Aydi Nemati (Poet)
سیاووش میرزایی شاعر Siavash Mirzaii (Poet)
رضا چیت ساز Reza Chitsaz
داریوش ارجمندی Dariush Arjmandi
پریسا آزادیان Parissa Azadyan
مریم اسکویی Maryam Oskoui
فریدا سهابیان Frida Sohrabyan
سیران مرادیان Siran Moradyan
شهاب شکوهی Shahb Shokouhi
یوسف آبخونYoussef Abkhoun
پروین شکوهی Parvin Shokouhi
نقی ریاحی لنگرودی Naghi Riyahi Langaroudi
سروژ قازاریان Sorouj Ghazaryan
نجف روحی Najaf Rouhi
حمید آذر Hamid Azar
رضا سپید روحی Reza Sepid Rouhi
علی جالینوسی Ali Jalinous
احمد شکوهی Ahmad Shokouhi
بهرنگ ریاحی لنگرودی Behrang Riyahi Langaroudi
محمد تجلی جو Mohamad Tajali Jou
بهروز نظری Behrouz nazari
صادق افروز Sadegh Afrouz
احمد سعیدی Ahmad Saiidi
علی یوسفی Ali Youssefi
نگار فکری- Negar Fekri
Bettina Allamoda (Berlin), artist
Over two months since his arrest, Panahi, whose most famous films are the widely acclaimed The circle (winner of the Golden Lion prize at the Vienna film festival in 2000) and Offside, has still not been charged with any crime. Twice offered bail during that time, he has refused out of solidarity with all those incarcerated for their participation in the mass demonstrations against the regime that have shaken Iran since June 2009.
His detention is the most serious example of the treatment Panahi has suffered so far. Up to now, the theocratic regime has been conducting a campaign of harassment against the 49-year-old artist. He has been unable to travel abroad since wearing a green scarf – the colour of the opposition movement – at the Montreal Film Festival in 2009. He was also arrested briefly after attending the memorial service for student Neda Agha Soltan, who was murdered by regime forces during a demonstration. Earlier the ministry of culture and Islamic guidance had announced he would not be allowed to make another movie until he ‘re-edited’ earlier films and he was unable to work for a year.
There is a clear theme of social criticism in his work. In a 2007 interview with the LA Times, Panahi described himself as “a socially committed filmmaker” who operates in the context of a brutally oppressive society: “My movies are about limitations and restrictions, and these are restrictions that I’ve personally experienced.” However, those are minor relative to “the greater restrictions that Iranian women are suffering”, he said.
The prison authorities are piling on the pressure. His wife, Tahereh Saeedi, was only allowed to meet him on March 31 – almost a month after his arrest. She reports that his interrogators continually cover the same ground: “They keep asking him the same questions in order to find contradictions in his comments,” Saeedi revealed in a radio interview.
Moshé Machover, a member of the Hopi steering committee, commented in a press statement: “Jafar Panahi has taken a brave stance. He stands shoulder to shoulder with those brave participants in the mass movement of opposition to the theocratic regime that have been arrested. Now we must stand shoulder to shoulder with him.”
Comrade Machover continued: “Our most effective act of solidarity with the inspiring movement for radical change that has filled Iran’s streets is to ensure that imperialism does not launch another disastrous military adventure in the Middle East, this time against an Iran which is pregnant with radical, genuinely democratic change from below”.
John McDonnell MP, a supporter of Hopi, said: “The world must make its voice heard in demanding that Jafar Panahi is released without charge along with all those incarcerated for nothing more than demanding basic civil liberties and democratic rights. These violations of basic human rights must not be allowed to go unnoticed and without protest.”
Eight things you can do now:
- Send emails, faxes and letters of protest to the embassy of the Islamic Republic of Iran, 16 Prince’s Gate, London SW7 1PT; firstname.lastname@example.org; 020 7589 4440. Don’t forget to send us a copy.
- Sign our statement ‘Freedeom for Jafar Panahi and all political prisoners’ Email email@example.com
- Join the Facebook group to Free Jafar Panahi, which keeps you updated with the campaign
- Put on showings of Panahi’s films: The wounded head (1988), Kish (1991), The last exam (1992), The circle (2000), Crimson gold (2003) and above all Offside (2006). We have been given official permission to show his films, so we can help you to get hold get a copy of the film and DVDs to sell. We can also provide a speaker to introduce the film
- Order Hopi’s ‘Free Panahi’ postcards. Get people to sign the cards and return them to us asap – we will forward them to his family in Iran to show our solidarity. We ask for a donation of £5 or more for 30 cards to cover postage and printing costs
- Order the A4 bulletin we have produced to highlight Panahi’s case (as well as the ongoing threat of a military attack and increased sanctions). We ask for a donation of £5 or more for 30 bulletins to cover postage and printing costs
- Get your trade union branch/organisation to sponsor this important campaign.
- Financially support the campaign: please use the Paypal button below or send cheque/s to Hopi, PO Box 54631, London N16 8YE
- Click here to read our March 5 press release