Jafar Panahi has gone on a hunger strike to protest being still held in Tehran’s Evin prison even though Iran’s supreme court has overturned the conviction that led to the dissident director’s detention.
Panani has issued a statement from prison saying that to protest against the “illegal and inhumane” treatment by the Islamic Republic’s judiciary and security forces and their “hostage-taking” he will stop eating, drinking, and taking his medications until “maybe my lifeless body would be released from this prison.”
The statement announcing Panahi’s decision to go on a hunger strike was posted by Panahi’s wife Tahereh Saeedi and son Panah Panahi on their Instagram accounts.
Panahi, 62, is known globally for prizewinning works such as “The Circle,” “Offside,” “This is Not a Film,” “Taxi,” and most recently “No Bears,” winner of last year’s Venice’s Special Jury Prize. He was arrested last July in Tehran in the wake of the country’s conservative government crackdown. Panahi had been there to visit Tehran’s prosecutor’s office to follow up on the situation of fellow dissident filmmaker Mohammad Rasoulov, who had been incarcerated a few days earlier after signing an appeal against police violence.
Since his arrest, Panahi’s lawyers in October managed to successfully overturn the six-year sentence issued against the director in 2010 for “propaganda against the system,” in Iran’s highest court, according to Panahi’s lawyer, Saleh Nikhbakht. That sentence has become obsolete due to the country’s 10-year statute of limitations and Panahi’s case has been sent to an Iranian court of appeals. But the directors’ wife and lawyers say that Iranian security services are forcing the judiciary to keep him behind bars.
Rasoulov and Panahi’s imprisonment took place before the wave of protests sparked in September by the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini while she was held in custody for allegedly wearing a loose hijab. Those protests have caused more than 500 civilians to be killed by government security forces and more than 100 members of the Iranian film industry to be arrested or banned from making movies.
On Jan. 4, Iranian authorities released Taraneh Alidoosti, the star of Asghar Farhadi’s Oscar-winning film “The Salesman,” almost three weeks after she was jailed for criticizing a crackdown on the anti-government protests.