Acclaimed Iranian filmmaker Jafar Panahi, who has been jailed for the past six months in Evin prison, said he has begun a hunger strike to protest his detention.
The filmmaker’s wife, Tahereh Saeidi, announced the protest action on her Instagram page.
In a statement issued from his prison cell and sent to The Hollywood Reporter by the director’s publicist, who translated the message, Panahi, 62, recounted his recent imprisonment.
“This arrest was more like banditry and hostage-taking than the execution of a judicial sentence,” Panahi writes.
He adds that he will refuse all food, drink and medicine until he is freed from prison.
“I will remain in this state until perhaps my lifeless body is freed from prison.”
Panahi's July arrest came after he attended a court hearing for fellow film director Mohammad Rasoulof, who had been detained a few days earlier. Once Panahi arrived at the prison, he was told by guards that he had an outstanding prison sentence dating back 10 years that barred him from making films, and he was arrested again for "propaganda against the system".
The director, whose films have won prizes at all of Europe's main film festivals, was arrested in July even before the current wave of protests that have shaken the regime started in September.
His films (The Circle, Taxi Tehran, and his most recent, No Bears) have drawn retribution from the Islamic Republic. No Bears was screened at the 2022 Venice Film Festival when the director was already behind bars. It won the Special Jury Prize. At the premiere, an empty seat was left for Panahi at the press conference out of protest.
His imprisonment has drawn the attention of international film festivals and activists.
"We stand in solidarity with Iranians fighting for their rights, condemn his arrest and call for his release," stated the Berlin Film Festival.
The Cannes Film Festival said it "reaffirms its full support (for Panahi) by demanding, like many artists, festivals and organisations around the world, his immediate release."
Here is Panahi’s full unedited statement regarding the hunger strike, as translated by his representative:
“On July 20 of this year, in protest against the arrest of two of our beloved colleagues, Mr. Mohammad Rasulof and Mostafa Al-Ahmad, together with a group of filmmakers gathered in front of Evin prison, and it was decided that a number of us and the lawyers of the detained colleagues entered the Evin courthouse and peacefully We were talking with the relevant authorities and the relevant investigator when an agent came and took me to the judge of branch 1 of Evin’s sentence enforcement. The young judge said without introduction: “We were looking for you in the skies, we found you here.”
You are under arrest!” In this way, I was arrested and transferred to Evin prison for the execution of a sentence that had been issued for eleven years. According to the law for which I was arrested in 1988, after more than ten years of non-execution of a The sentence is subject to the passage of time and becomes unenforceable. Therefore, this arrest was more like banditry and hostage-taking than the execution of a judicial sentence.
Even though my arrest was illegal, the respected lawyers succeeded in violating the ruling issued in 1990 by resuming the proceedings in the Supreme Court, which is the highest authority for judicial cases, on the 15 October 2022 of this year, so that they can go to the same branch for retrial. Width to be referred. In this way, according to the law, with the acceptance of the request for retrial and violation of the verdict, the case was referred to the branch and I should have been released immediately by issuing bail; While we have seen that it takes less than thirty days from the time of arrest to the hanging of the innocent youth of our country, it took more than a hundred days to transfer my case to the branch with the intervention of security forces.
According to the clarity of the law in cases of violation of the sentence in the Supreme Court, the judge of the same branch was obliged to release me by issuing a bail order as soon as the case was referred to that branch, however, by issuing a heavy bail order, in practice after months of detention Legally, I was still kept in prison with repeated excuses and every day by the security agencies.
What is certain is that the behavior of the bully and extra-legal security institution and the unquestioning surrender of the judicial authorities once again show the implementation of selective and tasteful laws.
It is only an excuse for repression. Even though I knew that the judicial system and the security institutions have no will to implement the law (which they insist on), but out of respect for my lawyers and friends, I went through all the legal ways to get my right; Today, like many people trapped in Iran, I have no choice but to protest against these inhumane behaviors with my dearest possession, that is, my life.
Therefore, I firmly declare that in protest against the extra-legal and inhumane behavior of the judicial and security apparatus and this particular hostage-taking, I have started a hunger strike since the morning of the 12th of Bahman, and 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.
With love for Iran and the people of my land, Jafar Panahi.”