• News
  • Jul 14, 2022

Three Iranian Directors Arrested Within a Week

Portraits of (from left to right) MOSTAFA ALEAHMAD, JAFAR PANAHI, and MOHAMMAD RASOULOF. Image via Instagram; screenshot via 3 Faces (2018), copyright Memento Films; and copyright Cosmopol Film, courtesy the Berlin International Film Festival. 

Iranian authorities have arrested three filmmakers for allegedly harming the “security of society.” On July 8, director Mohammad Rasoulof, who is known for his film There Is No Evil (2020), and his colleague, fellow filmmaker Mostafa Aleahmad, were seized from their homes in a “coordinated and brutal attack,” according to Kaveh Farnam and Farzad Pak, producers of There Is No Evil. Rasoulof and Aleahmad had spoken out on social media against ongoing police brutality in Iran with the hashtag “put down your gun.” Three days later, on July 11, acclaimed director Jafar Panahi was also arrested during his visit to the prosecutor’s office, where he was investigating the arrests and whereabouts of Rasoulof and Aleahmad.

According to the Islamic Republic News Agency, Rasoulof and Aleahmad were arrested for allegedly “inciting unrest and disrupting the psychological security of society” in their connection to ongoing protests that were sparked by the collapse of the ten-story Metropol building in Abadan in May. In an open letter released by Rasoulof on Instagram on May 29, a group of Iranian directors wrote that “the public anger over corruption, theft, inefficiency, repression, and suffocation has been followed by waves of protests,” and urged “the people who have become the cause of people’s oppression in the military units to lay down their weapons.” The letter was signed by more than 90 cinematographers, including Rasoulof, Aleahmad, and Panahi.

For more than a decade, Panahi and Rasoulof have been outspoken critics of the Iranian government’s persecution of cultural workers and filmmakers. On May 14, Rasoulof published another letter condemning the Iranian government’s unreasonable arrests of filmmakers throughout the years. Previously, Rasoulof and Panahi were arrested in December 2010 on accusations of filming without a permit and “making propaganda” against the system. Panahi has been barred from leaving Iran since 2010 and Rasoulof since 2017.

Both Panahi and Rasoulof have won the Berlinale’s Golden Bear award, respectively in 2015 and 2020. The directors have also presented their films at other European festivals, including in Cannes and Venice, but have been unable to accept their awards due to their travel ban. The festivals’ organizers urged for the immediate release of the directors from their current detention.

The Metropol Complex in Abadan collapsed on May 23 due to poor construction, a result of long-term state corruption. Forty-three people died. The event sparked a series of protests in Iran demanding that the officials responsible for the tragedy be prosecuted for their incompetence.  

Angelique Santos is ArtAsiaPacific’s editorial intern.