Iranian “No Bears” filmmaker Jafar Panahi has announced a hunger strike to protest his continued incarceration in Iran’s Evin prison, even after the country’s courts voided his sentence last week.
In July of last year, Panahi went to the Evin prison to inquire about the arrests of fellow filmmakers Mohammad Rasoulof and Mostafa Al-Ahmad, who were detained for their social media protest over the government response to a building collapse that killed more than 40 people.
Panahi’s inquiry reactivated a six-year sentence the director was originally handed in 2010 along with a 20-year-long filmmaking and travel ban, and he’s remained in incarceration since his inquiries.
The reactivated sentencing originated from Panahi’s attendance of a 2009 funeral for a student killed in the Green movement, where Iranian citizens demanded the removal of then-president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
The award-winning director’s films have regularly challenged Iranian systems and traditions, and his most recent film “No Bears,” a painful and troubled indictment of censorship in which Panahi plays himself as a filmmaker at the Turkey/Iran border, played the New York and Venice film festivals. “No Bears” was released in the U.S. in late December.
Tahereh Saeidi, Panahi’s wife, announced the hunger strike on her Instagram page Wednesday. She also stressed that Panahi’s lawyers have successfully appealed his sentencing, now allegedly obsolete due to Iran’s 10-year statute of limitations, yet his incarceration remains.
Panahi, however, is protesting inhumane treatment at Evin under the Islamic Republic’s judiciary and security forces he says have taken him hostage. He’s refusing to eat, drink, or take his medications.
“I firmly declare that in protest against the illegal and inhumane behavior of the judicial and security apparatus and their hostage-taking, I have started a hunger strike since the morning of the 12th of Bahman (February 1),” wrote Panahi in a statement shared with IndieWire.
He added, “I will refuse to eat and drink any food and medicine until the time of my release. I will remain in this state until perhaps my lifeless body is freed from prison.”
Panahi, who won the Special Jury Prize in Venice for “No Bears” and previously won Best Screenplay at Cannes for 2018’s “Three Faces,” had asked about the conditions and hopeful release of Rasoulof in July. Once Panahi arrived at the prison, he was told by guards that he had an outstanding prison sentence dating back 10 years that barred him from making films, and he was arrested again.
Panahi’s six-year sentencing has been largely denounced by the film community. At the Venice Film Festival premiere of “No Bears,” an empty seat was left for Panahi at the press conference out of protest.
Here’s Panahi’s full unedited statement regarding the hunger strike, shared with IndieWire:
“On July 20 of this year, in protest against the arrest of two of our beloved colleagues, Mr. Mohammad Rasulof and Mostafa Al-Ahmad, together with a group of filmmakers gathered in front of Evin prison, and it was decided that a number of us and the lawyers of the detained colleagues entered the Evin courthouse and peacefully We were talking with the relevant authorities and the relevant investigator when an agent came and took me to the judge of branch 1 of Evin’s sentence enforcement. The young judge said without introduction: “We were looking for you in the skies, we found you here.”
You are under arrest!” In this way, I was arrested and transferred to Evin prison for the execution of a sentence that had been issued for eleven years. According to the law for which I was arrested in 1988, after more than ten years of non-execution of a The sentence is subject to the passage of time and becomes unenforceable. Therefore, this arrest was more like banditry and hostage-taking than the execution of a judicial sentence.
Even though my arrest was illegal, the respected lawyers succeeded in violating the ruling issued in 1990 by resuming the proceedings in the Supreme Court, which is the highest authority for judicial cases, on the 15 October 2022 of this year, so that they can go to the same branch for retrial. Width to be referred. In this way, according to the law, with the acceptance of the request for retrial and violation of the verdict, the case was referred to the branch and I should have been released immediately by issuing bail; While we have seen that it takes less than thirty days from the time of arrest to the hanging of the innocent youth of our country, it took more than a hundred days to transfer my case to the branch with the intervention of security forces.
According to the clarity of the law in cases of violation of the sentence in the Supreme Court, the judge of the same branch was obliged to release me by issuing a bail order as soon as the case was referred to that branch, however, by issuing a heavy bail order, in practice after months of detention Legally, I was still kept in prison with repeated excuses and every day by the security agencies.
What is certain is that the behavior of the bully and extra-legal security institution and the unquestioning surrender of the judicial authorities once again show the implementation of selective and tasteful laws.
It is only an excuse for repression. Even though I knew that the judicial system and the security institutions have no will to implement the law (which they insist on), but out of respect for my lawyers and friends, I went through all the legal ways to get my right; Today, like many people trapped in Iran, I have no choice but to protest against these inhumane behaviors with my dearest possession, that is, my life.
Therefore, I firmly declare that in protest against the extra-legal and inhumane behavior of the judicial and security apparatus and this particular hostage-taking, I have started a hunger strike since the morning of the 12th of Bahman, and I will refuse to eat and drink any food and medicine until the time of my release. I will remain in this state until perhaps my lifeless body is freed from prison.
With love for Iran and the people of my land, Jafar Panahi”
With translation assistance from Mansour Jahani.