Jafar Panahi, one of Iran’s best-known filmmakers, has been in prison since July. The 2015 Berlinale winner protests against this: In his own words, he refuses to eat and drink “until my lifeless body may be freed from this prison”.

Famous Iranian film director Jafar Panahi has gone on a hunger strike to protest his prison sentence. Like so many others detained in Iran, he has no choice but to “protest with my most precious possession – my life,” Panahi said in a statement released by his wife.

According to Panahi, she has been refusing food, drink and medication since Wednesday. The 62-year-old announced that he wanted to do this “until the time of my release”. “I will remain in this state until possibly my lifeless body is freed from this prison,” he said.

According to his lawyer, about a week and a half ago, Panahi had hopes that he would be released soon. Lawyer Salehi Nikbacht said on January 21 that the Supreme Court had overturned the verdict against his client. Judicial officials informed Panahi that a decision on his detention should be made within a few days. According to his lawyer at the time, the director had already suffered from health problems before he was imprisoned and “got a serious skin disease in prison”.

Panahi was arrested in July in a court in the capital, Tehran, while attending the hearing of director friend Mohammad Rasoulof, who was already in custody. The judiciary then decided that Panahi had to serve a prison sentence that had already been imposed in 2010. At the time, Panahi was sentenced to six years in prison for “propaganda” against the regime, and he was also banned from making films, writing screenplays or speaking to the media for 20 years. He was accused of supporting protests against the re-election of ultra-conservative President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in 2009 and of making critical films.

Panahi is one of the best-known Iranian filmmakers. At the Venice Film Festival in 2000 he received the Golden Lion for “The Circle”. He won the Golden Bear at the Berlinale in 2015 with the secretly filmed film “Taxi Tehran”, but was unable to attend the award ceremony due to a ban on leaving the country. In 2018 his film “Three Faces” was awarded the prize for best screenplay in Cannes.