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Award-Winning Iranian Filmmaker Reportedly On Hunger Strike In Jail

By Golnaz Esfandiari, RFE/RL

Iranian filmmaker Jafar Panahi has reportedly begun a hunger strike in Tehran's Evin prison, where he has been held for more than two months on security charges.

Jafar Panahi Openly Supported the Green Opposition Movement

A Paris-based Iranian cultural center has released a letter said to be by Panahi in which he says he has gone on a hunger strike to protest his treatment in prison.

In the letter, Panahi makes three demands: the right to see his family and make sure that they are safe and sound, access to a lawyer, and his unconditional release.

Panahi says he has been accused of filming inside his prison cell, which he says is a complete lie. He also says that officials have threatened to arrest his family and send them to Evin prison, and take his daughter to a dangerous detention center.

Panahi says in the letter that he will not give up his hunger strike until his demands are met. "My only demand is to deliver my body to my family so that they can burry me wherever they want," he says.

Panahi, who has received a number of international awards including the Golden Lion at the 2000 Venice Festival, was arrested at his home in March. A number of prominent filmmakers, including Oliver Stone and Stephen Spielberg, have called for his release.

On May 18 prominent Iranian filmmaker Abbas Kiarostami renewed his call for Panahi's release and called his imprisonment "intolerable." (watch video)

"When a filmmaker, an artist, is imprisoned, it is art as a whole that is attacked, and it is against this that we should react," Kiarostami said at the Cannes Film Festival, where an empty chair has been left on the jury panel for Panahi.

French actress Juliette Binoche cried at the press conference where Kiarostami was speaking, as reports emerged that Panahi had gone on a hunger strike.


A documentary (in Persian with French subtitles) about Panahi titled "Vicious Circle" -- a reference to Panahi's movie "Dayereh" (The Circle") -- was screened at Cannes in which Panahi talks about one of his interrogation sessions at the Intelligence Ministry.

Panahi says after the interrogation was over and the Intelligence Ministry official felt he'd done his job, he told Panahi, "I like the movie 'Dayereh.'"

Copyright (c) 2010 RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036.

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