Campaign

Update

July 17, 2022

Defiant, Renowned Iranian Filmmakers Jailed – Global Demand for Their Release

July 17, 2022

What I can observe from my own story is that the satisfaction that you receive once you resist oppression and despotism can be higher than the price you have to pay.” – Mohammad Rasoulof

Acclaimed filmmaker Jafar Panahi stood before the dreaded gates of Evin Prison in Iran on July 11, 2022 to inquire after fellow directors Mohammad Rasoulof and Mostafa Aleahmad — detained 3 days earlier for leading a social media campaign - #lay_down_your_arms - calling on police and military to refuse to shoot protestors.  Panahi was likely aware that his international stature might not protect him from a similar fate.

What I can observe from my own story is that the satisfaction that you receive once you resist oppression and despotism can be higher than the price you have to pay.” – Mohammad Rasoulof

Acclaimed filmmaker Jafar Panahi stood before the dreaded gates of Evin Prison in Iran on July 11, 2022 to inquire after fellow directors Mohammad Rasoulof and Mostafa Aleahmad — detained 3 days earlier for leading a social media campaign - #lay_down_your_arms - calling on police and military to refuse to shoot protestors.  Panahi was likely aware that his international stature might not protect him from a similar fate.

Panahi and Rasoulof are among Iran’s, and the world’s, most acclaimed independent directors. Dozens of Rasoulof’s films have won international awards, most recently the prestigious Berlin Best Film of 2020 for There Is No Evil (which Rasoulof created in four distinct stories to get around the ban on his filmmaking and strict permit restrictions; he was unable to accept his award in person as he is banned from leaving Iran).  One of Rasoulof’s “offenses” is his recent film, “Intentional Crime”, about the murder in prison of beloved poet Baktash Abtin by the authorities denying him timely COVID treatment.

Panahi won Venice’s Best Film of 2000 (The Circle) and Berlin’s Best Film of 2015 (Taxi), along with many other international awards, yet he, too, is prohibited from making films in Iran or traveling outside Iran.

L-R: Mohammad Rasoulof, Jafar Panahi, Mostafa Aleahmad. Photo: IranWire

In 2010 both Panahi and Rasoulof were convicted of “assembly and colluding with the intention to commit crimes against the country’s national security and propaganda against the Islamic Republic” of Iran (IRI) for their movies and sentenced to six years in prison. After international pressure, including from such prominent U.S. filmmakers as Steven Spielberg, Martin Scorsese, Robert Redford, and Francis Ford Coppola, as well as brave actions inside Iran, Rasoulof served one year, and Panahi was released with his sentence hanging over his head; they have both managed to brilliantly subvert the ban on making films at great personal risk.

Jafar Panahi knew he was taking a big risk when he went to the prosecutor’s office at Evin Prison to defend his colleagues, but he went anyway. Authorities arrested Panahi on the spot, and some reports state that his 2010 sentence is now being enforced. In a phone call from Evin to his wife three days after his arrest -- which he called “kidnapping and theft” -- Panahi reported being deprived of visits, access to medical facilities, and the money his family provided for his food and water.

The Cannes Film Festival, PEN America, the Berlin International Film Festival, the European Film Academy, and the International Coalition for Filmmakers at Risk are among the prominent voices worldwide demanding the release of the three filmmakers. The arrests made headlines in mainstream outlets including CNN, Variety, U.S. News, DW (Germany), BBC (UK), The Guardian, and France24.

In the face of growing protests and upheaval in Iran and the global struggle to free these heroic filmmakers and ALL of Iran’s political prisoners, the IRI is escalating its vicious campaign of repression against dissidents and religious and ethnic minorities.

In a June 28 speech, Iran’s “Supreme Leader” Khameini stated, “In the year 1981, the Iranian nation was able to frustrate the enemy by sticking to one of the divine traditions, namely jihad and resistance. Today, the same rule and law are in force, and God in the year 2022 is the same God he was in 1981.” The Center for Human Rights in Iran (CHRI) warned that Khameini was urging “state security agencies and the judiciary to increase repression to the levels seen soon after the 1979 revolution, when thousands who had been accused of opposing the new regime were executed.”  This is a serious threat to all of Iran’s political prisoners coming from a theocratic regime that has carried out several massacres of political prisoners before.

Who Will Stand Up For These Brave Heroes? We Must and Will!

As the IEC wrote in a recent update, “Iran: Surge of Executions and Repression Amidst a Surge in Massive Protests”:

Publishing the Emergency Appeal right now —with its powerful political content and world-renowned signers— is the best way to impact the international political terrain and build broad awareness and support for all of Iran’s political prisoners.  Its stance of proceeding from the interests of humanity, not of those of any reactionary government, and stressing the “special responsibility” people in the U.S. have to oppose the IRI’s vile repression while also actively opposing “any war moves by the U.S. government that would bring even more unbearable suffering to the people of Iran” is even more important now given the current situation in Iran and the world... The ad will highlight some of its prominent signers, such as Nobel Laureates Jody Williams and Shirin Ebadi, Noam Chomsky, Daniel Ellsberg, Cornel West, Judith Butler, Raymond Lotta, as well as Gloria Steinem, an early signer of the Emergency Appeal and founder of Ms. magazine.

The Ms. magazine ad will appear in the 50th anniversary summer issue, be mailed to subscribers in late July, and available on newsstands on August 9.  It could reach over 100,000 readers.  Due to the generosity of dozens of donors, in the U.S., Europe, Canada, from the Iranian diaspora and elsewhere, the IEC has successfully raised the funds for this ad as well as ads on msmagazine.com.  To meet our operating costs and expand the IEC into new areas, including campuses in the fall, we ask that donations and regular monthly sustainers to this campaign continue being made through our website.

We especially urge students and academics to volunteer to do campus outreach, internet research, and Farsi-English translations by contacting us at freeiranspoliticalprisoners@gmail.com. See the report on our June 10 program at DePauw University for an example of the type of campus program we hope to hold in the fall. For example, student clubs or classes might stage campus screenings of the amazing films of Panahi and Rasoulof.  Contact us with your ideas and plans.

Update July 28, 2022:

More than 80 renowned French filmmakers and artists have called for the release of jailed Iranian directors Jaafar Panahi, Mohammad Rasoulof and Mostafa Alehahmad.

The signatories, who include Costa Gavras, Jacques Audiard, Michel Hazanavicius, Christine Angot, Catherine Corsini, Jean-Pierre Dardenne, and Edgar Morin, stated:

“We wish to express our anger against these arrests, intimidations and imprisonments... We extend our absolute solidarity to all Iranian authors, artists, filmmakers, who struggle every day to exercise their art, at the cost of their freedom. We admire your courage, your determination, your works, and the solidarity you show. Know that our support will be unrelenting until your release.”

Campaign Updates & Press Releases

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Iran Uprising Enters 4th Week:
June 1, 2022
Update
Save the Date: June 10
December 2, 2021
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Eyes of World on Iran as JPCOA Talks Resume
October 3, 2021
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Now Available Online – Watch
September 22, 2021
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UN Press Conference Photos and Video
September 17, 2021
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Heroism for Our Times
May 20, 2021
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Letter to Signatories

Prisoner News