By: Daniel McElroy
Karimi, an internationally acclaimed Kurdish Iranian filmmaker, was originally found guilty of “propaganda against the state” and “insulting sacred values” in October 2015 because of a documentary he had made called “Writing on the City.” The film explores the importance of political graffiti in Tehran between the 1979 Islamic revolution and 2009, when the results of the Iranian presidential election were contested.
Karimi was originally sentenced to six years in prison and 223 lashes, but an appeals court reduced this to one year in February 2016. His jail sentence began on November 23, 2016 at Evin Prison in the Iranian capital.
Well known for his films “The Adventure of the Married Couple” and “Drum,” Karimi received widespread support from the international filmmaking community immediately following his conviction, as well as throughout his imprisonment. The news loomed large at the 2016 Cannes Film Festival, and soon after a group of French filmmakers asked France and several other European countries to pressure Iran for Karimi’s release. Additionally, the 2017 International Film Festival and Forum on Human Rights in Geneva dedicated its 15th anniversary program to demanding justice for Karimi.
Karimi’s release comes as Iran prepares for presidential elections on May 19. The current president, Hassan Rouhani, had originally run for office promising greater respect for Iranians’ personal freedoms, and he plans to seek reelection next month. Nonetheless, the Human Rights Activists News Agency, which first reported Karimi’s release, called it “conditional,” and no statements have been made by state officials about the terms of the shortened sentence.