Scene from the film “Bears don’t exist” by Iranian director Jafar Panahi
Director Panahi released after 7 months, but Iran is not loosening its grip on dissidents
Iranian director Jafar Panahi was released on bail two days after he went on a hunger strike to protest his detention, lasted nearly seven months. The director was arrested months before the current anti-regime protests erupted, but his imprisonment has become a symbol of the plight of artists who stood up to the authorities. Panahi was released from Evin Prison in Tehran “two days after starting his hunger strike for freedom,” the US-based Center for Human Rights in Iran (CHRI) wrote on Twitter, while the newspaper Iranian reformist Shargh posted an image of Panahi jubilantly embracing a supporter.
His wife Tahereh Saeedi posted a photo of Panahi leaving the prison in a vehicle on Instagram. The award-winning filmmaker was arrested in July and went on dry hunger strike Wednesday to protest his continued detention.
“Jafar Panahi has been temporarily released from Evin prison thanks to the efforts of his family, respected lawyers and cinema representatives,” reads a statement from the Iranian Film House, which brings together industry professionals. The announcement that Panahi would go on an outright hunger strike sparked a wave of worldwide concern for the director, who won awards at all three major film festivals in Europe.
“Today, like many people trapped in Iran, I have no choice but to protest this inhumane behavior with my dearest possession: my life.” Panahi said in his wife’s published statement. “I will remain in this state until perhaps my lifeless body is released from prison,” she said.
Jafar Panahi, The 62-year-old was arrested on July 11 and was due to serve a six-year sentence handed down in 2010 after his conviction for “propaganda against the system”. On October 15, the Supreme Court overturned the conviction and ordered a new trial, stoking his legal team’s hopes that he could be released, but he remained in prison.
Panahi won the Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival in 2000 for his film “The Circle”. In 2015 you won the Golden Bear in Berlin for “Taxi Tehran”, and in 2018 you won the best screenplay award in Cannes for “Three faces”. Panahi’s latest film, “No Bears”, which like most of his recent works stars the director himself, was screened at the 2022 Venice Film Festival when the director was already behind bars. It won the Special Jury Prize.
“It’s extraordinary, a relief, a total joy. We express our gratitude to all those who rallied yesterday,” said its French distributor, producer Michele Halberstadt. “His next battle is to have his sentence overturned officially recognized. He’s out, he’s free, and that’s already great.”
Panahi’s arrest in July came after he attended a court hearing involving fellow filmmaker Mohammad Rasoulof, who had been arrested a few days earlier. Rasoulof was released from prison on January 7 after being granted a two-week furlough on grounds of ill health and he is believed to still be out of jail.
Movie personalities were among thousands arrested by Iran in its crackdown on protests sparked by the Sept. 16 death in custody of Mahsa Amini, 22, who was arrested for allegedly violating her strict dress code for women . Lead actress Taraneh Alidoosti, who had posted her own pictures of herself without the Islamic veil, she was among those arrested, though she was released in early January after being held for nearly three weeks.
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