The recent arrests of Iranian directors Mohammad Rasoulof, Mostafa Al-Ahmad and Jafar Panahi – all of whom have been locked up in Tehrans notorious Evin Prison is a result of mounting tensions between the government of Iran’s President Ebrahim Raisi and the West, reports ‘Variety’.
Syrian multi-hyphenate Orwa Nyrabia, chair of the Berlin-based International Coalition for Filmmakers at Risk (ICFR), and who is in close contact with the detained directors, said in a statement accessed by ‘Variety’: “The government in Iran is sending a message to all of us around the world saying, ‘Things are getting worse’, and this appears to be part of the nuclear deal negotiations and the geopolitical repercussions of what’s happening after the Russian invasion of Ukraine.”
Talks to revive Tehran’s 2015 nuclear accord with world powers have ground to a halt partly due to the fact that Russia is balking, since lifting sanctions could free up million of barrels of Tehran’s crude oil stocks for global consumption, giving Russia less leverage as a major oil and gas supplier to the world, political analysts say.
‘Variety’ further states that along with the dissident filmmakers, Iranian authorities last week arrested reformist politician, Mostafa Tajzadeh, who has been critical of the government. Several foreigners have also landed in Iranian prison in recent weeks, including two French citizens, a Swedish tourist, and a Polish scientist, the Associated Press has reported, prompting concerns that Iran is trying to leverage all these arrests as bargaining chips in the negotiations.
Nyrabia, who also heads the International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam (IDFA), points out that Iran’s ongoing crackdown on its film community also comprises internationally known Iranian doc directors Mina Keshavarz (“The Art of Living in Danger”) and Firouzeh Khosravani (“Radiograph of a Family”), both arrested in their Tehran homes in May and subsequently released on bail but banned from travelling, despite no charges being filed.
He notes that over the years, when the West and Iran were at loggerheads, “these (directors) were the people who were breaking the barrier and making everyone in the world connect with Iranian culture and find empathy and identification with the people and society in Iran.”