Keywan Karimi is an Iranian documentary filmmaker arrested in December 2013 and sentenced in October 2015 to 6 and a half years in prison for “insulting Islamic sanctities” and “illicit relations,” later reduced to 1 year 223 lashes, and a fine of 20 million Rial ($660 USD) after a February 2016 appeal. Karimi was originally charged with “propaganda against the state” over his 2012 film Neveshtan Rooye Shahr (Writing on the City) which dealt with graffiti throughout Tehran. This charge was apparently dropped in the appeals process, with “insulting Islamic sanctities” added when investigators found an unspecified music video on his hard drive.
Karimi is one of Iran’s most prominent directors and often targets social issues in his films. His 2012 film The Broken Border dealt with the smuggling of state-subsidized gasoline from Iran to Iraq by the impoverished Kurdish community and won the prize for best short documentary at the 2013 Beirut International Film Festival. Karimi has directed 11 other films, including The Adventures of the Married Couple, which played in 40 film festivals and won prizes in Spain and Colombia.
Karimi’s trial has been internationally criticized as unfair, with his charges having been changed without his knowledge and his lawyer having been given inadequate time to prepare a defense. Abbas Fahdel, another director and friend of Karimi was quoted as saying, “I fear that a new petition of simple citizens won’t give us any advantage. What could help is the intervention of governments and international organizations, especially human rights organizations.”
Keywan Karimi has been sentenced to one year in Tehran’s Evin Prison, Iran’s high-security facility often used for the detention of political dissenters, artists, and other prisoners of conscience. It is unclear when the director will receive his fine and lashes, or if he has faced them already. Keywan Karimi is expected to remain in Evin Prison until at least February 2017.