“Today, like many people trapped in Iran, I have no choice but to protest this inhumane behavior with what I hold most dear: my life. »
In a statement released Thursday, February 2 by his wife, Iranian director Jafar Panahi, imprisoned in Tehran for six months, explains that he has started a hunger strike to protest against the conditions of his detention.
"I will refuse to eat and drink and take any medicine until I am released," said the filmmaker, whose hunger strike began on February 1.
"I will remain in this state until, perhaps, my lifeless body is released from prison. »
Jafar Panahi, whose films have won awards at several European film festivals, was arrested on July 11, 2022 even before the start of the wave of protest actions that have shaken the Iranian regime since September. The 62-year-old director was forced to serve a six-year prison sentence handed down in 2010 for "propaganda against the system".
A hope of liberation
On October 15, the Supreme Court overturned the conviction and ordered a new trial, giving his lawyers hope for his release, but he remains detained in Evin prison in Tehran where a fire and clashes had caused chaos in October 2022.
Jafar Panahi won a Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival in 2000 for his film Le Cercle. In 2015, he was awarded a Golden Bear in Berlin for Taxi Tehran, and in 2018 he won Best Screenplay for Three Faces at the Cannes Film Festival. On Twitter, this film institution "reaffirms its full support for him by calling, like many artists, festivals and organizations around the world, for his immediate release".
“This cry for Freedom obliges us collectively” underlined the ARP and the SRF, two collectives of French filmmakers. "We stand in solidarity with Iranians fighting for their rights, condemn this arrest and call for his release," the Berlin International Film Festival wrote on Twitter.
Jafar Panahi's latest film, No Bear, which, like most of his recent works, features him directly, was screened in 2022 at the Venice Film Festival when he was already imprisoned. The film won the Special Jury Prize.
His arrest in July came after he attended the court hearing of another director, Mohammad Rasoulof, who was arrested a few days earlier. The latter was released from prison on January 7 after being granted a two-week leave for health reasons.
Activist Farhad Meysami also on hunger strike
Film personalities are among thousands arrested in Iran in a crackdown on protests sparked by the death in custody of Mahsa Amini, a young Iranian Kurd arrested for allegedly breaking a strict dress code for women. Actress Taraneh Alidoosti, who released images of herself not wearing an Islamic veil, was among those detained before being released in early January after almost three weeks in detention.
In a sign of the dangers faced by hunger strikers, human rights activists on Thursday released photos of the emaciated body of activist and doctor Farhad Meysami, sentenced to five years in prison and who refuses to eat .
"This painful image is a symbol of the Iranian people's nonviolent struggle to achieve basic human rights," said Mahmood Amiry Moghaddam, the director of the Norway-based NGO Iran Human Rights, saying that Farhad Meysami had been on hunger strike since October.