An Azadi Square Campaign Success and a Chastening Reminder Why We Do This

The second anniversary of Iran’s disputed presidential elections passed on Sunday June 12 without a major public observance in Iran. After having been brutally suppressed by Iran’s security forces, Iranians have not been able to engage in the massive protests of two summers ago. Some of the most memorable of those demonstrations took place in Tehran’s Azadi (Freedom) Square.

Although the citizens of Tehran have been too terrorized to return to Azadi Square to exercise their rights, activists outside of Iran continue to demonstrate their solidarity by holding their own actions in public spaces that they have renamed “Azadi Square” for the occasion.

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Hollywood Greats Join Amnesty to Express Outrage Over Panahi Sentence

Jafar Panahi

One week after the astonishing news that Iranian cinematic giant Jafar Panahi had been handed a harsh prison sentence and an unprecedented twenty-year total ban on his artistic activities, Mr. Panahi’s colleagues and admirers around the world have spearheaded a concerted effort to overturn the travesty of justice that has been inflicted on him. Academy Award winners Paul Haggis and Sean Penn, along with film producer and movie studio chairman Harvey Weinstein, have joined forces with actress and Amnesty International USA spokesperson Nazanin Boniadi to condemn the shocking sentence imposed on Mr. Panahi. Mr. Haggis is also encouraging members of the film community to wear white ribbons prominently during upcoming awards ceremonies and other public events as a symbol of protest. So far their effort has been supported by renowned film directors Martin Scorsese, Mohsen Makhmalbaf and Lina Wertmuller, Iranian pop singer Googoosh, by Iranian-American journalist and former prisoner of conscience Roxana Saberi, and by Amnesty International’s distinguished human rights movement colleagues Hadi Ghaemi and Rudi Bakhtiar of the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran.

Paul Haggis, who is the founder of Artists for Peace and Justice, stated, “If this happened to me, I would hope my colleagues would speak out in my name, as we are compelled to speak out in Jafar’s.  I urge the Iranian authorities to overturn Mr. Panahi’s inhumane and unjust sentence. I ask that people across the world join Sean Penn, Harvey Weinstein and myself in signing the Amnesty International petition calling for the immediate reversal of the sentence against Jafar Panahi and Mohammad Rasoulof [Mr. Panahi’s artistic collaborator, also sentenced to six years in prison].”

Our goal is to encourage thousands of people to add their own names to the growing list of petition signers. Please show your support for Jafar Panahi, Mohammad Rasoulof and the right to freedom of expression by taking this easy action.  Another great way to generate interest would be hold viewings of one of Jafar Panahi’s great films –“Badkonak-e Sefid (White Balloon), “Dayareh” (Circle), for which he won the Golden Lion at the 2000 Venice Film Festival, “Talayeh Sorkh” (Crimson Gold), or “Offside”—at your school, university, Amnesty International group meeting, or just a gathering for friends. Please take pictures of the gathering and send it to Amnesty International and also please use the opportunity to gather signatures for the Panahi/Rasoulof petition. And Amnesty International is always excited to hear about creative activism—if you have an ideas, please contact kscott@aiusa.org.

Jafar Panahi’s films are banned in his own country—a tragedy as Mr. Panahi has repeatedly expressed his love for his country and his desire to stay in Iran to make his films there. We are looking forward to many more of this great artist’s beautiful films in the future. Let’s do what we can to make sure he can make them.

I Am Neda

By Mikel Jollett and Nazanin Boniadi for The Neda Project

Actress Nazanin Boniadi and The Airborne Toxic Event's Mikel Jollett

The tragic death of Neda Agha-Soltan on June 20th, 2009, sent a shiver down the cumulative spine of all freedom-loving people across the world. She quickly became the face of the human rights movement in Iran and has given a voice to the voiceless around the world.

In honor of her and in solidarity with the people of Iran, The Airborne Toxic Event and Amnesty have teamed up for the Neda Project. The song “Neda” is released on iTunes today (Tuesday, June 8th) with ALL proceeds from sales to benefit Amnesty International.

In addition to the iTunes release, we have made a web-based video retelling the historic events around Neda’s death. The purpose of the video is to tell the story to people of the world who may not be aware of the Iranian struggle for freedom and to send a message to people living inside Iran that we stand with them and support their brave efforts.

What you can do:

1.  Watch the video

2.  Send out a message via your various social media, alerting others to the video. If you use twitter include this text:

I am Neda. www.youtube.com/watch?v=wXN_yCSbUYk #neda r/t

3.  Change your Facebook/Myspace/Imeem status to “I am Neda”

4.  Upload a picture of yourself holding a sign saying “I am Neda”

5.  Visit nedaspeaks.org to learn more about the struggle for human rights in Iran and to participate in specific political actions that Amnesty has crafted urging the release of political prisoners.

Why Neda?

We believe that the viral video of Neda’s death was a sea-change in political power in the world. It was the first viral video to change the course of history, a symbol that the power of broadcasting is no longer simply in the hands of governments and corporations, but in the hands of people. It is in the hands of anyone with a cell phone camera and an internet connection. It is in your hands right now.

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Iranian American Entertainers Speaking Out

Many Iranian Americans have turned to the arts as a means of critiquing the status quo both in Iran and the US. Among them is Maz Jobrani, an Iranian American  comedian and a part of the “Axis of Evil” comedy troupe. He has been touring with the troupe since 2005; his routine surrounding Iran, racial profiling, and being Muslim in America. His act is so popular that he has appeared on shows ranging from the Colbert Report to The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson.

Last week, Jobrani also voiced his support for upholding human rights in Iran and urged his viewers to attend the Global Day of Action for Iran. “Over the last few weeks, we have watched elements within the Iranian regime react with brutality to people who seek to have a voice in their own government,” he said. “Many have been imprisoned and tortured. Some stand to be executed. We cannot simply stand by.”

Nazanin Boniadi is an Iranian born actress who has appeared on the soap opera General Hospital as well as the films Charlie Wilson’s War and Iron Man. When she’s not on set, Boniadi works alongside Amnesty International as an official spokesperson for disenfranchised populations across the world. She has been increasingly involved with Iranian youth and women, bringing attention to many of their unjust convictions and treatments in detainment. Last year, Boniadi wrote a heartfelt entry on Amnesty’s blog about the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

A bit from Jobrani’s stand-up routine:

 

Jobrani’s message of support for the Global Day of Action for Iran:

 


Samah Choudhury contributed to this post