It’s been a whirlwind 24 hours. Yesterday Jafar Panahi announced, via open letter, that he was going on hunger strike to protest his imprisonment. The announcement was completely devastating for those of us who have been EXTREMELY concerned about him since his imprisonment in July of last year. We haven’t seen him, not one glimpse. We have heard audio clips on occasion (he somehow sent an audio message to the Miami Film Festival), and he sounded weak and discouraged. But honestly he’s in a prison with one of the most notorious reputations in the world, especially if you are deemed a “political” prisoner, as he is. They could be doing anything to him in there and nobody would know.
“I firmly declare that in protest against the unlawful and inhumane behavior of the judicial and security apparatus and this particular hostage-taking, I have started a hunger strike since the morning of the 1st of February 2023, and I will refuse to eat and drink any food or medicine until the time of my release,” wrote Panahi in a letter published on his wife’s Instagram page. “I will remain in this state until perhaps my lifeless body is freed from prison.”
You can read his full letter, here. I was away from the internet from around 3 pm yesterday until 11 pm at night, so I got home and saw the news. It was crushing.
Then I woke up this morning to the miraculous news from his wife, Tahereh Saidii, on Instagram, that Jafar Panahi was released on bail. And there are pictures of the release, of Jafar being embraced joyously by his wife. I don’t know what this bail means. They have also released Mohammad Rasoulof, another filmmaker, in early January – and they also released Taraneh Alidoosti after detaining her for three weeks. I don’t think this is evidence of “softening” – the regime is hanging people in public. But I do think international pressure has gotten to them. The pressure to release Jafar Panahi has been non-stop (and this is just a continuation from the non-stop pressure exerted on the regime during Panahi’s first imprisonment – and hunger strike – back in 2010-11.)
So I don’t know what the future holds but I will just say it is so good to see his face.