Hollywood Celebs to Help Film Director Jafar Panahi

Amnesty International will lead a delegation of Hollywood luminaries to the Iran Mission to the United Nations on Wednesday, June 8 to symbolically rename a NYC street plaza “Azadi Square” (“Freedom Square”) and deliver tens of thousands of petition signatures demanding the reversal of the harsh sentence against acclaimed film director Jafar Panahi (pictured above).

The group will include Academy Award-winning filmmaker Paul Haggis, Iranian-born actress Nazanin Boniadi, film producer and actress Trudie Styler and journalist/filmmaker Maziar Bahari, whose book about his imprisonment and torture in Iran will be published June 6.

The artists will join Amnesty International USA executive director Larry Cox and human rights activists for a rally, photo opportunity and press conference beginning at 10:30 a.m. outside the mission offices, located at 622 Third Avenue, between 40th and 41st streets. 

With symbolic “street signs” in Farsi the plaza area near the mission will be renamed, after the city square in Tehran that was the location of massive peaceful protests against government repression. 

The delegation will then attempt to personally present to mission officials scads of petition papers signed by more than 20,000 people demanding that Panahi’s sentence be overturned.

The petitions were signed by Haggis, Boniadi, and Styler along with other luminaries, including Hollywood directors, producers, composers, actors Martin Scorsese, Edward Zwick, Ridley Scott, Phillip Noyce, Ron Howard, Paul Mazusky, Harvey Weinstein, Lina Wertmuller, Hans Zimmer, Michael Apted, Sean Penn, Mia Farrow, Gabriel Byrne, Elliott Gould, Harvey Keitel, Sir Patrick Stewart, Josh Brolin, Susan Sarandon, among others.

Amnesty International has called on Iran to reverse the sentence imposed on Panahi and his artistic collaborator Mohammad Rasoulof, saying their basic right to freedom of expression is being violated.

Larry Cox said: “Imagine your government telling you that you cannot work, speak your mind or express your beliefs – or you will be thrown in prison. This is the ordeal that Jafar Panahi and Mohammad Rasoulof suffer every day. These two men are being persecuted; it is simply wrong and we must speak up against Iran’s actions.” 

According to Amnesty, Panahi has been sentenced to six years in prison and a twenty-year ban on all his artistic activities—including film making, writing scripts, traveling abroad and speaking with media.

He was convicted of “propaganda against the state,” as he was accused of making an anti-government film. Panahi’s artistic collaborator, Mohammad Rasoulof, was also sentenced to six years in prison. Panahi is not currently in detention but could be forced to report to prison at any time.

Jafar Panahi was detained in Evin Prison in Tehran for nearly three months following his arrest at his home on March 1, 2010.

Photo courtesy: Amnesty International

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