Iranian film director Jafar Panahi begins hunger strike

Iranian film director Jafar Panahi, whose sentence was voided by a court in the country in October but Panahi is being kept incarcerated in the notoriously harsh Evin prison has started a hunger strike.

“I firmly declare that in protest against the illegal and inhumane behaviour of the judicial and security apparatus and their hostage-taking, I have started a hunger strike since the morning of the 12th of Bahman (February 1),” Panahi wrote in a statement released by the filmmaker’s wife, Tahereh Saeedi, and his son, Panah Panahi, on their Instagram accounts Wednesday evening, as first reported by film news site Deadline.

“I will refuse to eat and drink any food and medicine until the time of my release. I will remain in this state until perhaps my lifeless body is freed from prison,” added the director.

Panahi was arrested in July 2022 in Tehran and ordered to serve a six-year sentence for “propaganda against the system” that had been suspended after he served two months in 2010.

His jailing came after the Golden Bear-winning director questioned the recent arrest of fellow filmmakers Mohammad Rasoulof and Mostafa Aleahmad — who on social media had called on their country’s security forces to lay down their weapons during mass protests.

Iran’s Supreme Court then invalidated Panahi’s arrest in October, as the sentence had already passed Iran’s 10-year statute of limitations period and was no longer applicable.

It was expected last week that the acclaimed filmmaker would be released on bail pending a retrial, but Iranian authorities have blocked his liberation process until now, which “is only an excuse for repression,” Panahi told Deadline.

“By law, he should immediately be released on bail and his case reviewed again,” his lawyer, Saleh Nikbakht, told AFP.

Since 2010, Panahi has been banned from leaving Iran and from filmmaking and even writing scripts for 20 years.

Nonetheless, he has since directed five award-winning films by stealth, including his latest, the semi-autobiographical No Bears that won the special jury prize at the Venice Film Festival last October. 


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