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.


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 [email protected].

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.

Global Day of Action for Iran this Saturday

On July 25, people in more than 60 cities across the world will be standing in solidarity with the Iranian people in their struggle for human rights. Protesters in Iran continue to experience brutality on the city streets while the number of arrests steadily rises– the latest being the detainment of opposition leader Mir Hussein Mousavi’s brother-in-law, Shapour Kazemi.

The global day of action, organized by United4Iran, is organized around the following four core demands:

  1. That member states and civil society organizations of the international community give sustained attention to the Iranian people’s human rights as a matter of international concern, and that the UN should immediately initiate an investigation into grave and systematic human rights violations in Iran, including the fate of prisoners and disappeared persons, unlawful killings, and torture and other ill-treatment;
  2. An end to state-sponsored violence, accountability for crimes committed and no recourse to the death penalty.
  3. The immediate and unconditional release of all prisoners of conscience, including politicians, journalists, students, and civil society activists; and
  4. Freedom of assembly, freedom of association, and freedom of expression (including freedom of the press) as guaranteed by the Iranian constitution and Iran’s obligations under international covenants that it has signed.

Supporters include Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Shirin Ebadi, Sean Penn, Dariush, Jody Williams, Betty Williams, Mairead Maguire, Adolfo Perez Esquivel, Rigoberta Menchu Tum, Simin Behbahani, Reza Aslan and Ismael Khoi. Dariush will actually be performing at the rally in DC!

Attend an event near you! Visit united4iran.org for a complete listing.

San Diego, California

Rally time: July 24, 6-8pm
Rally location: Balboa Park, (1900 Park Blvd., San Diego, CA, 92101) at the corner of President’s way, on the lawn
More information: www.facebook.com/event.php?eid=101590536518
Contact: Stephanie Hanson at 760-230-2936, [email protected]

San Francisco, California

Rally time: July 25, 12pm-4pm
Rally location: City Hall
More information: www.norcal4iran.com
Contact: [email protected]

Chicago, Illinois

Speaker: Roxana Saberi

Time: July 25, 12 noon
Place: Federal Plaza, Dearborn and Adams
Rally time: Noon
Rally location: Federal Plaza at Dearborn and Adams Street in downtown Chicago
More information: Facebook or contact [email protected]

New York, New York

Rally time: July 25, 12:30pm
Rally location: Starts at Times Square, 41st and 7th Avenue. There will then be a march to the United Nations.

Washington DC

DC event on July 25 will be in 3 parts:

Part one: Demonstration @ UN Office
Start at 4:00pm, corner of 18th+K. We have requested road closure from DCDOT. Signs, slogans, use of bullhorns.

Part two: March to Rally
March starts at 5:15pm, East on K st one block, South on 17th st (march past WH w/o stopping), Enter Constitutional Gardens at 17th + Constitution St.

Part three: Rally at National Mall Constitution Gardens (on 19th + Constitution)
Jody Williams, Nobel Laureate
Mehrangiz Kar, Human Rights Lawyer
Joe Stork, Human Rights Watch, Deputy Director of Middle East and North Africa Division
Parisa Saeb, Human Rights Activist
Dariush, Prominent Iranian Singer and Social Activist

For more information, contact [email protected].

Samah Choudhury contributed to this post