Iran Cranks Up Its Crackdown on Culture

Before his jailing on March 1, for being a 'security risk' to the Iranian regime, award winning film director Jafar Panahi had given extensive interviews about the ways he maneuvered to avoid dealing with, or catching the eye of the Culture Ministry.

For his award winning 2006 film Offside, Mr Panahi, who was already under threat from the authorities (in remarkable understatement he said that they felt "sensitive" about him) submitted a fake script for approval by the Ministry, and replaced his own, controversial name with that of an assistant on the shoot.

This week, the Iranian Deputy Culture Minister for Cinematic Affairs, has introduced more stringent measures to clamp down on dissidents and "security threats." New laws, including the banning of foreign names in Iranian films and more rigorous assessment by "religious experts in order to make the cinema more fruitful" have been introduced.

"In two or three years, most of our films (will) be pure," Deputy Minister Javad Shamaqdari told the Tehran Times. "We are trying to implement restrictions in order to get rid of the malevolence resulting from these problematic films."

The attack on culture in Iran has been steadily growing since last year. Two weeks ago, filmmaker and blogger Mohammad Nourizad was jailed for three and a half years for "spreading propaganda against the clerical establishment and insulting the country's leaders."

There is a growing international movement to draw attention to the increasing prosecution and repression of artists, film makers, journalists and academics in Iran.

The movement to free Jafar Panahi has attracted high profile support, including Walter Salles, the Brazilian director of The Motorcycle Diaries.

"Jafar Panahi is a uniquely sensitive artist," Mr. Salles told Huffington Post, "The fact that such an important artist cannot express himself freely and is now under arrest in his own country is not only an act of violence against Jafar Panahi and his family, but also against all those who admire his work and support freedom of expression throughout the world."

Please note: for information on the global movement in support of Jafar Panahi visit to Free Jafar Panahi group on facebook and @freejafarpanahi on twitter.