Hollywood Unites for Iranian Filmmakers

Paul Haggis hands off Amnesty petition to Iran mission representative on June 8, 2011. © AI

World-renowned Iranian film director and peace activist, Jafar Panahi, and his artistic collaborator, Mohammad Rasoulof continue to face an uncertain future. Both men were charged with “propaganda against the state” in December, 2010, and sentenced to six years in jail.

Their lives have been in limbo for the past five months as each day carries with it the dreaded possibility of starting this lengthy period of incarceration. Panahi also received a 20-year ban on filmmaking, traveling abroad, and speaking with the media, which has been in effect since the sentencing.


Justice for Everyone

It’s just after 5 am and I’m in line with the first 20 people waiting for a coveted seat in the courthouse for Troy Davis’ evidentiary hearing.  Reporters, supporters of Troy Davis, and supporters of Mark MacPhail, the victim in this tragic case, are all jumbled together.

Last night we gathered in the Davis family’s church for a vigil. Two death row exonerees spoke, including Juan Melendez.  He was on death row in Florida 17 years for a crime he didn’t commit. He shared a piece of that story and encouraged the Davis family and supporters to stay strong.  Larry Cox, AIUSA’s executive director gave an impassioned speech. He told the crowd that it was time for the characterization of this as a duel between Davis and MacPhail to end.

“How can you be for justice for one person and not be for justice for everyone?’” he asked.

Juan Melendez speaks in Savannah, June 22 - (c) Scott Langley

Larry Cox, AIUSA Executive Director, speaks in Savannah, June 22 - (c) Scott Langley

The Rev. Dr. Raphael Gamaliel Warnock of Ebenezer Baptist Church (Dr. King’s church in Atlanta) described the struggle for Troy as one for “the soul of this country.”  And he recalled the key moments when “God pressed the pause button” in Troy’s case, with one stay of execution after another.

It was a moving night. And I was once again humbled to be part of this growing movement and to experience the many miracles along the way.

We now await the first day of the hearing with much hope and anticipation. We don’t know how it will go, but we are grateful for the breakthrough that the U.S. Supreme Court created by ordering this hearing last year and we will remain watchful while the process unfolds.

More on the Universal Declaration of Human Rights

Reflections on its 60th anniversary by former U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Mary Robinson, author and former child soldier Ismael Beah, doctor and human rights activist Farai Madzimbamuto, and our own Larry Cox.

And a classic 1988 Amnesty International animated guide to the UDHR — with voice over by Debra Winger and Jeff Bridges, and music by David Byrne (among other ’80s alt-rock luminaries).

Happy Human Rights Day — write a letter and help save a life this week!