Panahi in Teheran in August
Award-winning Iranian filmmaker Jafar Panahi and his collaborator Mohammad Rasoulof were handed a 6 year prison term by an Islamic court in Iran in December for engaging in "propaganda against the state." In addition, Panahi was banned for 20 years from engaging in any artistic activities, which includes the writing and making of films, giving interviews to the press, leaving the country or communicating with foreign cultural organizations. In short the mullahs who run Iran want not only to imprison Panahi but permanently wreck his artistic career. A great many prominent filmmakers and actors as well as human rights organizations have denounced this sentence. The point has rightly been made that this is an attack on all of Iranian cinema, one of the most creative and humane film cultures of the last quarter century.
On Tuesday the foreign affairs chief of the European Union, Catherine Ashton, called for the repeal of Panahi's sentence. Ashton's statemnt said in part,
"The EU calls on Iran to live up to those international obligations, including the right to freedom of expression through art and writing.
"This case is all the sadder given the high international reputation of the Iranian film industry and Iranian filmmakers."
While one should take any statement about human rights emanating from an official spokesman for the EU with a grain of salt it is nevertheless significant and indicative of the revulsion felt by many in the art and cinema community internationally that such a statement was issued.
Panahi and Rasoulof now share the fate of thousands of other Iranians jailed for their opposition to this regime. Gagging artists is always a sign of political weakness. It's not coincidental that this savage sentence came down at the same time the Ahmadenijad government eliminated subsidies on many basic staples that will devastate the already meager living standards of workers and the poor. Socialists in the West have an obligation not to lend any credibility or legitimacy to the designs against Iran by Western imperialism but it is equally our duty to stand in solidarity with the victims of this hateful regime. We urge our readers to sign a petition in defense of Panahi posted here:
For our prevous statements on Panahi, see:
Iranian filmmaker Jafar Panahi's court statement
A case of political hypocrisy: The WSWS's 'defense' of jailed Iranian filmmaker Jafar Panahi