Jailed Iranian Director Jafar Panahi Hunger Strikes Against “Hostage-Taking”
In an open letter, renowned Iranian director Jafar Panahi has announced the beginning of his hunger strike in Tehran’s Evin Prison until he is freed from his illegal imprisonment.
“I firmly declare that in protest against the unlawful 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 1st of February 2023, and I will refuse to eat and drink any food or medicine until the time of my release,” wrote Panahi in a letter published on his wife’s Instagram page. “I will remain in this state until perhaps my lifeless body is freed from prison.”
At the time of this writing—while Panahi is starving himself in an Iranian prison—the government is promoting its Fajr International Film Festival, which has been boycotted by several Iranian directors and actors in protest against the government’s ongoing persecution of activists and dissidents, including in the film industry, as well as the state’s ongoing trampling of basic human rights such as freedom of speech and expression.
While detained, Panahi was suddenly ordered to serve a six-year prison sentence issued against him in 2010 for his films. The sentence had previously been “suspended” and had accordingly lapsed and become unenforceable after several years, yet judicial authorities illegally imprisoned Panahi anyway and blocked his attempts to be released.
Panahi, who had endorsed the “lay down your gun” campaign, was also among rights activists and lawyers who sought to file a lawsuit against Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and other senior officials for their gross negligence during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Panahi is among several Iranian film and theatre industry members who are being persecuted, including through death sentences issued without due process and unjust imprisonment, for peacefully calling for basic human rights and freedom in Iran.
Following is a translation by the Center for Human Rights in Iran (CHRI) of Panahi’s letter.
On July 20 of this year, in protest against the arrest of two of our beloved colleagues, Mr. Mohammad Rasulof and Mostafa Al-Ahmad, I, 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 11 years. According to the law, for which I was arrested in 2009, after more than 10 years of non-implementation of the sentence it is subject to the passage of time and becomes unenforceable. Therefore, this arrest was more like banditry and hostage-taking than the enforcement of a judicial sentence.
Even though my arrest was illegal, the respected lawyers succeeded in violating the ruling issued in 2010 by resuming the proceedings in the Supreme Court, which is the highest authority for judicial cases, on the 15 of October 2022 of this year, so that they can go to the same branch for retrial.
…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 30 days from the time of the arrest to the hanging of the innocent youth of our country, it took more than a 100 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… I was still kept in prison with repeated excuses every day by the security agencies.
What is certain is that the behavior of the bullying and extrajudicial security institutions 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 rights. 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 extrajudicial 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 1st of February 2023, 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,
Women’s rights defender Farhad Meysami is also on hunger strike in Rajaee Shahr Prison in Karaj. Read the details about his case here.