"It is hard to fathom the idea of being incarcerated for six years simply for speaking my mind, or to be banned from making films for 20 years." – Oscar-winning filmmaker Paul Haggis ("Million Dollar Baby," "Crash")
I have often gotten in trouble for opening my mouth, but I could never imagine being imprisoned and silenced for making a film.
Distinguished filmmaker Jafar Panahi and his artistic collaborator, Mohammad Rasoulof, were each sentenced to an exceptionally harsh six years in prison because they make socially critical films in Iran, where a brutal artist crackdown is escalating.
Jafar and Mohammad were also outrageously forbidden to travel, make movies or even speak to the press for an unimaginable period of 20 years.
They broke no laws. They expressed their views peacefully. Yet they are paying an awful, inhumane price for exercising their human rights.
Gagging artists and suppressing art are corrosive and dangerous threats to civil society. Repression of dissent is growing at a frightening rate in Iran.
Still, we know the voices of freedom and human rights can overcome the forces of persecution and injustice. Iranian-American journalist Roxana Saberi was once held in Iran’s notorious Evin prison on trumped-up charges of espionage. Roxana was freed after Amnesty International and other organizations rallied for her unconditional release.
I urge you to raise your voice now, for Jafar and Mohammad and courageous human rights activists everywhere, to say, “Stop.”
Joining you are Sean Penn, Harvey Weinstein, Martin Scorsese, actress and AIUSA spokesperson Nazanin Boniadi and dozens of other artists. These great talents are working with Amnesty to raise awareness of Jafar and Mohammad’s plight and dial up the international pressure on the Iranian government to drop the preposterous charges against the filmmakers.
When we shine our lights together, we can open prison doors and set the innocent free. No special effects needed, just the unwavering commitment of human rights defenders like you.