He wanted to declare his solidarity with his colleagues and has now been arrested himself: The Iranian film director and Berlinale winner Jafar Panahi was taken away on Monday when he wanted to ask the public prosecutor about his colleagues Mohammad Rasoulof and Mostafa Aleahmad, who had already been arrested last Friday. This is what the Mehr news agency said. The exact circumstances of Panahi’s arrest are unclear, and there is no official confirmation of the media reports.
The filmmaker, who has won several awards at international festivals, has made several films in the past despite a ban on working in Iran and a ban on leaving the country. His film “Taxi Tehran” was awarded the Golden Bear at the Berlin Film Festival in 2015.
At the weekend in Iran, two prominent directors, Berlinale winner Mohammad Rasoulof and Mostafa Aleahmad, were taken from their homes to prison. Rasoulof won the Golden Bear in 2020 with “There is no evil”, he was taken to Tehran’s notorious Evin prison and interrogated there.
The two are said to have endangered public order with a call against violence and also worked with opponents of the regime, according to the accusation and pretext of the Iranian judicial authorities.
According to Rasoulof’s lawyers, the authorities also used the final judgment of a one-year prison sentence from 2019, which he has not had to serve so far, partly because of the high risk of corona in Iranian prisons. The management duo of the Berlinale, Carlo Chatrian and Mariette Rissenbeek, had protested against the arrest.
The background to the appeal, signed by more than 70 filmmakers, is the collapse of a shopping arcade in the southwestern Iranian city of Abadan in May, which killed more than 40 people. Protests were then violently suppressed by the police and security forces. Under the hashtag “Put your gun down” (put down your gun), the filmmakers had called for an end to police violence.
Jafar Panahi, director of acclaimed films such as “Offside”, “This Is Not a Film” and “Closed Curtain”, said he had expressed solidarity with several hundred filmmakers on the Internet after the arrest at the weekend with Rasoulof and Aleahmad. Similar to Rasoulof, despite censorship, he does not allow himself to be banned from speaking and does not stop creating films. Both Panahi and Rasoulof were arrested in 2010 and sentenced to prison terms that they have not served to date.
The recent arrests of prominent dissidents, including the July 9 arrest of prominent reformist Mostafa Tajzadeh, who had previously been imprisoned, are part of a crackdown by the Iranian authorities following peaceful protests, Human Rights Watch writes. “Unable or unwilling to face the many serious challenges Iran faces, the government resorts to the repressive reflex of arresting well-known critics,” said the human rights organization’s Iran researcher Tara Sepehri Far. He speaks of a “cynical” reaction to the apparently renewed public outrage in Iran about the government’s manifold failures.
Recently, the international fame of Panahi and Rasoulof, for example, has always had a protective effect. One can only speculate as to why, despite all international warnings and protests, the authorities are again taking relentless action against the filmmakers who are critical of the regime. Perhaps they are counting on the fact that, given the numerous current crises, less attention is focused on Iran than usual.
The Cannes Film Festival has now called for the immediate release of the three directors. A statement said that the arrest and the wave of repression against artists in Iran were strongly condemned. The festival management of the Berlinale also spoke up again. According to the festival management, they learned of the arrest of another Iranian filmmaker with sadness and indignation. As a critic of the Iranian regime, Panahi has suffered reprisals for years.