By Fereshteh Ghazi, Rooz Online
Iran's Nobel Peace Prize laureate Shirin Ebadi told Rooz on Monday that the reason prominent film director Jafar Panahi was arrested and remains behind prison bars is that he is against war. In the exclusive interview Ebadi specifically said that one of the charges against Panahi was that he was a member of Iran's National Peace Council and that he had working relations with the Center for the Defenders of Human Rights.
Jafar Panahi waving a green scarf in support of the Green Movement at the
Montreal World Film Festival in August 2009.
Ebadi also addressed family members who had loved
ones in Iranian prisons asking them not to allow their family members to remain
unpublicized or in prison cells and called on them to talk to the media, spread
news of the conditions of their imprisoned members, and directly contact
Panahi was arrested on March 2 this year along with members of his family and guests at his house who were involved in the production of his latest film. His family members and guests were subsequently released but he remains behind bars till today.
Read on for the interview.
Qazi: Please tell us who creased the National Peace Council and for what purpose?
Ebadi: This group was created on my recommendation and the initiative of the Center for the Defenders of Human Rights which has 85 representatives from different groups, sub-nationalities and trades. Among artists, Ms Fatemeh Motamedara, Ms Rakhshan Bani-Etemad and Mr. Panahi are members. The goal of the Council is to find ways for creating peace in society. Unfortunately since its inception Iranian officials have looked at this group suspiciously and even issued several warnings asking me to dissolve the Council and stop the meetings of the group at the offices of the Center for the Defenders of Human Rights. I did not accept these and have strongly protested, asking them whether they were supporters of war by preventing pro-peace activists from working. On one hand I was very surprised at the security apparatus' opposition with the Peace Council and wondered whether this was an error on part of some professionals or a policy of the state, i.e. to be in opposition with peace.
Qazi: According to the official document, the charges against Mr. Panahi are that he was engaged in making a film against the regime and without a permit.
Ebadi: Mr. Panahi is a person who deeply believes in peace for Iran and he worked for this. After his arrest, officials announced that he was arrested because he did not have the license on the film that he was producing. Assuming this to be true, then the absence of this license will prevent him from showing his film in the country's movie theatres. Anybody can make a movie in his house and do whatever s/he wants with it. But a more important point is that the film has not even been made or screened. How did security agents know that the film was against the state? They searched Panahi's house for five hours and take him to a prison handcuffed. My question is are there no professionals in the ministry of intelligence who review these activities and that such actions not only do not protect society but in fact throw it into danger and insecurity.
Qazi: In the interview that I had with Mr. Panahi's wife, she told me that one of the charges against Mr. Panahi was that he was wearing a green scarf at the Montreal Film Festival. Can this be the grounds arresting someone?
Ebadi: According to the laws of the Islamic republic of Iran no action is deemed to be a crime unless it is specified by law. Legally, wearing a green scarf or any scarf is not a crime, which is why I declare that one day Mr. Panahi will come out of prison with his head up and that will be the time to investigate the arbitrary actions of intelligence agents and sue them. The arrest of Mr. Panahi brings no benefit to the Islamic republic and only adds to the black record of the Islamic regime.
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