Authoritarian rulers are creating troubles for creative and liberal personalities across the globe, including Iran. Jafar Panahi recently became the third Iranian film-maker to be arrested in less than a week. Later, he has been ordered to serve six years in jail. The Police arrested Panahi (62), the winner of a Golden Bear at the Berlin Film Festival in 2015 for his film ‘Taxi’, on July 11, 2022 for supporting anti-Government protests.
The Mehr news agency confirmed the news, stating: “Jafar Panahi has been arrested today (July 11) when he went to the Prosecutor’s Office to follow up on the situation of another film-maker, Mohammad Rasoulof.” Earlier, the Iranian Police had detained Rasoulof and Mostafa Al-Ahmad.
Panahi, known as a critic of Iran’s hardline Islamist Government, had been arrested in 2010 for the first time and convicted of “propaganda against the system“. He had spent six years behind bars. The Iranian authorities have barred him not only from making films (for the next 20 years), but also from writing scripts, and leaving the country to receive any international awards.
It may be noted that the collapse of the 10-storey Metropol building claimed 43 lives on May 23, in the South-western Iranian city of Abadan. Later, people started staging protests relating to the deaths of those 43 people in different cities. The Police arrested Rasoulof and Aleahmad for supporting the protests. The concerned authorities in Iran accused the two of links with opposition groups based outside the country and plotting to undermine State Security. In a report, IRNA has mentioned: “In the midst of the heartbreaking incident in Abadan’s Metropol, (the film-makers) were involved in inciting unrest and disrupting the psychological security of society.”
Panahi was arrested for condemning the detention of the two film-makers. It was when, a group of leading Iranian film-makers, under the leadership of Rasoulof, published an open letter on July 11, calling on the Iranian Security Forces to “lay down their arms” in the face of outrage over the “corruption, theft, inefficiency and repression” surrounding the Abadan collapse.
On July 11, organisers of the Cannes Film Festival issued a statement, saying that they “strongly condemn the arrests, as well as the wave of repression evidently under way in Iran against its artists”. They also called for their immediate release. The Berlin Film Festival, too, condemned the detention of Rasoulof and Al-Ahmad, with Festival Directors Mariette Rissenbeek and Carlo Chatrian mentioning in a statement: “It’s shocking that artists are taken into custody because of their peaceful endeavours against violence.” However, Panahi would have to serve six years in jail.
Panahi is known across the globe for his films: The Circle (2000), Offside (2006) and Taxi (2015), among others. He is considered as one of the top Iranian film-makers. Rasoulof, too, had won the top prize of Berlin Film Festival in 2020 for his movie ‘There Is No Evil‘.
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