One of Iran’s best-known filmmakers, Jafar Panahi, has gone on hunger strike to protest his continued detention and “the illegal and inhumane behavior" of the Islamic Republic’s judicial and security bodies.
Panahi said in a statement released by his family on February 1 that he will “refuse to eat and drink any food and medicine” until his release.
“I will remain in this state until perhaps my lifeless body is freed from prison," the 62-year-old director added.
The Cannes film festival award-winner and director of The White Balloon, The Circle and No Bears is being held in Tehran’s Evin prison.
He was arrested in early July 2022, before the eruption of the current wave of nationwide protests, after he protested the detention of two other filmmakers.
Iranian authorities decided to reactivate sentences imposed on him in 2010 for his attendance at the funeral of a student shot dead during the 2009 wave of protests and his attempt to make a film against the backdrop of the uprising.
Panahi’s lawyer has argued that the 2010 sentence had passed Iran’s 10-year statute of limitations period and was no longer applicable. He was granted permission to apply for a retrial in a move that should have resulted in his release on bail, but the authorities have blocked this.
“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,” he said in his statement.
Panahi’s detention preceded the September death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini while in custody for allegedly violating the Islamic Republic’s headscarf law.
Amini’s death triggered an ongoing wave of nationwide protests demanding more freedoms and women’s rights - the biggest threat to Iran’s clerical rulers since the 1979 revolution that brought them to power.
In response, the authorities have unleashed a fierce crackdown on dissent, killing more than 520 people and detaining over 18,000, activists say. The judiciary has handed down stiff sentences, including the death penalty, to protesters.
Several Iranian filmmakers, actors and other prominent public figures have been summoned or arrested by the authorities.