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