Amnesty Action: Distinguished Iran Film Director Jafar Panahi Sentenced to Prison, Artisic Ban

Dec 21, 20100 comments

Jafar Panahi, an internationally celebrated film director who won the coveted “Golden Lion” prize at the Venice Film Festival for his 2000 film “Dayareh” (Circle), has been sentenced to six years in prison plus a twenty-year ban on all his artistic activities—including film making, writing scripts, traveling abroad and speaking with media. Jafar Panahi was convicted of “propaganda against the state” for having exercised his right to peaceful freedom of expression through his film-making and political activism. He was specifically accused of making an anti-government film without permission and inciting opposition protests after the disputed 2009 presidential election. Mr. Panahi’s artistic collaborator, Mohammad Rasoulof, was also sentenced to six years in prison. Jafar Panahi was detained in Evin Prison in Tehran for nearly three months following his arrest at his home on 1 March 2010. While in prison he carried out a hunger strike to protest his degrading treatment, including being forced to stand outside in the cold with no clothing. He was invited to be a judge at the Cannes Film Festival in May 2010 but was in detention during the entire festival. His absence was recognized by the presence of an empty chair meant for him in prominent view on the stage throughout the festival. Jafar Panahi is a peace activist who is a member of the National Peace Council in Iran, a group set up in July 2008 on the initiative of the Center for Human Rights Defenders, an NGO established by Nobel Peace Laureate Shirin Ebadi and other prominent lawyers that was shut down by the government in December 2008. The National Peace Council has 85 representatives from different social and, ethnic groups and professions. Its aims are “creating and strengthening the basis for peace; preventing a military attack; abolishing the imposed sanctions and preventing any additional sanctions; ending the situation of ‘Neither war, Nor Peace.’” Jafar Panahi had supported the opposition Green Movement and had appeared at international film festivals in 2009 wearing a green scarf. Jafar Panahi was briefly arrested in July 2009 during a gathering at a cemetery in Tehran of people mourning the death of Neda Agha Soltan, a young woman apparently killed by a member of the Basij militia during a protest at the outcome of the 2009 presidential election. He was later released, but subsequently banned from travelling abroad, including to the 2009 Berlin Film Festival in which he was due to participate. He was not permitted to attend the Venice International Film Festival in September 2010. While speaking at his trial in Tehran in November, he said, “I, Jafar Panahi, declare once again that I am an Iranian, I am staying in my country and I like to work in my own country. I love my country, I have paid a price for this love too, and I am willing to pay again if necessary.”

Take Action Head of the Judiciary Ayatollah Sadegh Larijani Office of the Head of the Judiciary Pasteur St., Vali Asr Ave., south of Serah-e Jomhouri, Tehran, 1316814737 Islamic Republic of Iran Email: Via website:; Salutation: Your Excellency *2nd box (starred)=first name,3rd box(starred)=family name,5th box (starred)=email address, last box=substance of message, To send press grey box on left bottom side Supreme Leader of the Islamic Republic Ayatollah Sayed ‘Ali Khamenei, The Office of the Supreme Leader Islamic Republic Street – End of Shahid Keshvar Doust Street, Tehran, Islamic Republic of Iran Email: via website: (English)

Your Excellency: I am writing to you to express my concern about the harsh sentence imposed on acclaimed film maker Jafar Panahi. He was sentenced to six years in prison as well as a total ban on his artistic activities for a period of twenty years. He was convicted of “propaganda against the state” for making a film deemed to be against the government, and for his alleged involvement in inciting the protests following last year’s presidential election. His artistic collaborator, Mohammad Rasoulof, was also sentenced to six years in prison. Jafar Panahi was detained for nearly three months following his arrest on 1 March 2010. While in detention, he reported that he was subjected to degrading treatment and went on a nine-day hunger strike in protest. Because he was in prison, he was unable to accept the invitation to be a judge at the prestigious Cannes Film Festival in May 2010. I urge you to overturn the harsh sentences imposed on Jafar Panahi and Mohammad Rasoulof. I urge that all charges brought against them that stem from their peaceful activities as artists and political activists be dropped. The right to freedom of expression through art and peaceful political activism is guaranteed by Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Iran is a state party. Thank you very much for your attention.

Background Jafar Panahi’s films have been described as “social realist” and often provide a critique of the treatment of women in Iranian society. Several of his films have been banned in Iran. His first feature “Badkonake Sefid” (White Balloon) used non-professional actors to tell the ostensibly simple story of a small girl attempting to buy a goldfish for her family’s Nowruz (Iranian New Year) celebration. “Dayareh” (Circle) is a film comprised of interlinked tales about several socially marginalized women struggling through challenging circumstances that reveal the oppression of women. His 2006 movie “Offside” combines humor with social criticism in a story about some girls who disguise themselves as boys so they can attend a soccer match, which is off-limits to female spectators. A large number of prominent film directors, actors and critics, including Martin Scorsese, Steven Spielberg, Michael Moore, and Kenneth Turan called for Jafar Panahi’s release while he was detained earlier in 2010. Abbas Kiarostami, another highly regarded Iranian film director who has collaborated with Mr. Panahi on films, published an open letter protesting the detention of Mr. Panahi and Mohammad Rasoulof. Other noted Iranian film makers who had criticized the government, such as Bahman Ghobadi and Mohsen Makhmalbaf, are currently living outside of Iran. Source: