Jafar Panahi in Danger of Heart Attack, in Solitary Confinement
Taherah Saeedi, the wife of film director Jafar Panahi,who was arrested on 2 March 2010, has published a report about her husband’s condition in solitary confinement that has rendered him immobile and under emotional stress. She stated that in the past, her husband has twice experienced severe spasms in his chest for which he was taken to the emergency room. The attending physician diagnosed his condition to be psychological and said that if it continued he could suffer a heart attack.
The following is her report, which contains details of Panahi’s treatment in prison. This report was originally published on Rooz Online:
“After a whole month in limbo, we were finally able to meet Jafar. I found him very pale, thin, and weak. Though he didn’t like to worry us and talk about his psychological and physical condition, through his words we found out that he has been moved from his previous cell to a smaller cell, or I’d better say a smaller crypt. In his old cell he had enough space to spend some time daily on exercising, but in his new cell with a cellmate this is no longer possible, as there is only space for two people to sleep in the cell and there is no room for moving around. Also, since he was arrested a month ago, he has not been allowed to go to the prison yard for fresh air (and it has happened that he has stayed in his cell for 7-8 days without seeing anyone). Every possible way has been used for breaking his spirit. He is deprived of his basic and legal rights. Can all of this be called anything but torture? Does a regime have the right to treat one of its artistic elite so shamefully and inhumanely on the basis of a film that has not yet been made? During a phone call, they allowed me to take him fruits, nuts, and cookies for Nowruz, but when I went to see him, they wouldn’t let me give the items to him and only allowed me to give him some money. Jafar said he has never gone to the prison store during this time and as such, it makes no difference to him whether he has money or not. Though he has been strong in his interrogations and has not bowed to his interrogators, maintaining a good spirit, his face and words brim with sadness. During our meeting, for a moment, Jafar put his hand on his chest and his face contorted. Soulmaz [their daughter] and Jafar’s mother were there, so I couldn’t ask him about it. In the past, twice he has suffered severe chest spasms and has been moved to the emergency room. [Back then] his physician said the reason for the spasms was psychological and a result of his work-related problems, advising us that a continuation of this condition is dangerous and could lead to a heart attack. Aside from his holding crypt and the lengthy interrogations, I am really worried about Jafar’s physical condition. I hope all prisoners are released.”
On Monday, March 1, 2010, at a few minutes after 10:00 p.m., Iranian film director Jafar Panahi was arrested along with his wife and his daughter and 15 guests at their home. The arrest culminated months of pressure by the Iranian Ministry of Intelligence on the independent filmmaker. Reacting to the arrest, the Tehran Prosecutor told state news agencies: “His arrest is not because he is an artist and is not political, either. This individual is a suspect for having committed certain crimes. He has been arrested along with another individual on orders from the case judge and investigations continue.” Panahi was arrested last summer at Tehran Behesht-e Zahra Cemetery when he laid flowers on the graves of individuals killed during the post-elections protests. He was released within a few hours.