Jailed Iranian filmmaker Jafar Panahi announces hunger strike

Award-winning moviemaker, awaiting trial for ‘propaganda against the system,’ vows to refuse food, water, medication until he or his ‘lifeless body’ is freed from prison in Tehran

In this file photo taken on August 30, 2010 Iranian film director Jafar Panahi poses during an interview in Tehran. (Atta Kenare/AFP)
In this file photo taken on August 30, 2010 Iranian film director Jafar Panahi poses during an interview in Tehran. (Atta Kenare/AFP)

PARIS, France (AFP) — Acclaimed Iranian filmmaker Jafar Panahi, who has been jailed for the last six months, said he has begun a hunger strike to protest his continued detention, according to a statement published by his wife Thursday.

Panahi, whose films have won prizes at all of Europe’s main film festivals, was arrested in July even before the current wave of protests that have shaken the regime started in September.

There were expectations last month that the judiciary could order his release, but he remains behind bars in Tehran’s Evin prison.

He started his dry hunger strike, refusing food and water, from Wednesday, he said in the statement.

“Today, like many people trapped in Iran, I have no choice but to protest against this inhumane behavior with my dearest possession — my life,” said Panahi.

“In protest against the illegal and inhumane behavior of the judicial and security apparatus and this hostage-taking, I have started a dry hunger strike as of February 1. 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, 62, was arrested on July 11 and had been due to serve a six-year sentence handed down in 2010 after his conviction for “propaganda against the system.”

But on October 15, the Supreme Court quashed the conviction and ordered a retrial, raising hopes among his legal team he could be released.

Panahi won a Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival in 2000 for his film “The Circle.” In 2015, he won the Golden Bear at Berlin for “Taxi Tehran,” and in 2018, he won the best screenplay prize at Cannes for “Three Faces.”

Panahi’s July arrest came after he attended a court hearing for fellow film director Mohammad Rasoulof, who had been detained a few days earlier.

Rasoulof was released from prison on January 7 after being granted a two-week furlough for health reasons and is still believed to be outside of jail.

Cinema figures have been among the thousands of people arrested by Iran in its crackdown on the protests sparked by the September 16 death in custody of Mahsa Amini, 22, who had been arrested for allegedly violating its strict dress code for women.

Star actor Taraneh Alidoosti, who had published images of herself without wearing the Islamic headscarf, was among those detained, although she was released in early January after being held for almost three weeks.

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