Clemency call for Iranian filmmaker facing 223 lashes

Keywan Karimi ran into trouble with Iran’s Revolutionary Guards over a documentary he shot about graffiti in the capital Tehran

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More than 30 major European film organizations appealed to the Iranian government Thursday to grant clemency to a young director sentenced to 223 lashes there.

Keywan Karimi, 30, ran into trouble with Iran’s powerful Revolutionary Guards over a documentary he shot called “Writing on the City” about graffiti in the capital Tehran.

“It is completely unacceptable that through the simple act of expressing his artistic and critical outlook, Karimi should be on the list of artists... whose freedom -- if not their life itself -- has been taken,” the groups said in an open letter to the Islamic Republic.

Karimi spent 15 days in solitary confinement in 2013 and was accused of making “propaganda against the regime” and “insulting religious values”.

But since then several other “ridiculous” charges have been added including drinking alcohol, having extramarital affairs and making pornography, the avant-garde filmmaker told AFP last week.

“All I was doing was filming what was being written on the walls of Tehran,” said the young director, who comes from the country’s Kurdish minority.

Karimi was sentenced to six years in prison in 2015 but after an international outcry in which acclaimed Iranian directors including Jafar Panahi and Mohsen Makhmalbaf rallied to his support, five years of the term was suspended.

The threat of the 223 lashes has not however been lifted, and the prison authorities are now demanding that the punishment be carried out.

“I am not a political activist,” Karimi told AFP in a telephone interview. “I am not being sent to prison because I oppose the regime but because I am a filmmaker.”

“Writing on the City” has since been shown at film festivals in France, Spain and Switzerland and in the meantime Karimi has continued working on another film project.

“I am waiting for them to come for me. The support I have received helps break the solitude and solidarity from the film world also warms my heart,” he added.

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