Monday, September 26, 2022

Iran arrests third most outspoken filmmaker in escalating crackdown

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates ( Associated Press) — Iran has arrested an internationally renowned filmmaker, multiple newspapers reported Tuesday, the third Iranian director to be jailed in less than a week as the government steps up a crackdown on the country’s storied film industry.

The arrest of award-winning director Jafar Panahi and increased pressure on filmmakers follows a wave of recent arrests as tensions rise between Iran’s hardline government and the West. The security forces have arrested several foreigners and a prominent reformist politician as talks to revive Tehran’s nuclear deal with world powers stall and fears grow over the country’s economic crisis.

Panahi, one of Iran’s best-known dissident filmmakers, had gone to the prosecutor’s office in Tehran on Monday night to check the cases of his two colleagues detained last week, when security forces also arrested him, according to reports. reports.

A colleague of Panahi, who spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of reprisals, told The Associated Press that authorities sent him to Iran’s notorious Evin prison to serve a sentence that dates back years.

In 2011, Panahi received a six-year prison sentence on charges of creating anti-government propaganda and was banned from making films for 20 years. He was also banned from leaving the country.

However, the sentence was never really enforced and Panahi continued to make underground films, without script approval or government permissions, which were released abroad to great acclaim.

Panahi has won multiple festival awards, including the 2015 Berlin Golden Bear for “Taxi,” a far-reaching meditation on poverty, sexism and censorship in Iran, and the 2000 Venice Golden Lion for “The Circle”, a deep dive into women. she lives in the patriarchal society of Iran.

The Berlin International Film Festival said it was “shocked and outraged” to learn of Panahi’s arrest.

“The arrest of Jafar Panahi is another violation of freedom of expression and freedom of the arts,” festival directors said.

His arrest followed the arrest of two other Iranian filmmakers, Mohammad Rasoulof and Mostafa al-Ahmad.

Authorities accused Rasoulof and al-Ahmad of undermining the nation’s security by voicing opposition on social media to the government’s violent crackdown on unrest in the country’s southwest.

After the catastrophic collapse of the Metropol Building that killed at least 41 people in May, protests erupted over accusations of government neglect and deep-seated corruption. Police responded with a heavy hand, beating protesters and firing tear gas, according to images widely circulated online.

Rasoulof won the first prize at the 2020 Berlin Film Festival for his film “There Is No Evil,” which explores four stories loosely connected to the themes of Iran’s death penalty and personal freedoms under tyranny. In 2011, Rasoulof’s film “Goodbye” won an award at Cannes but he was not allowed to travel to France to accept it.

Cannes strongly condemned the arrests of the three filmmakers and “the obviously ongoing wave of repression in Iran against its artists.”

Several foreigners have also landed in an Iranian prison in recent weeks, including two French nationals, a Swedish tourist, a Polish scientist and others, raising concerns that Iran is trying to use them as bargaining chips in negotiations.

It’s a tactic Iran has used in the past, including in 2014 when authorities arrested Washington Post reporter Jason Rezaian. He was released a year and a half later in a prisoner swap with the United States when the landmark nuclear deal went into effect.

On Monday, the family of a Belgian aid worker held in Iran, Olivier Vandecasteele, called on Brussels to do “everything” to secure his release from Evin prison. They said he was arrested in late February after working for more than six years in Iran to help its Afghan immigrant community.

Belgium’s foreign ministry told the Associated Press on Tuesday that it had asked Iran for his release on “several occasions” and still had “no information on the reasons for his arrest.” He said the government was providing him with consular assistance.

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Associated Press writer Nasser Karimi in Tehran, Iran, contributed to this report.

Nation World News Desk
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