Iranian Director Sentenced to Six Years and 223 Lashes for Film that “Insults Religious Sanctities”

The award-winning Iranian filmmaker Keywan Karimi has been sentenced to six years in prison and to 223 lashes, for a film he directed called “Writing on the City,” which examines political graffiti in Iran from the 1979 Revolution to its controversial 2009 elections, reports Jon Gambrell for the Associated Press. Karimi’s conviction “follows similar punishments for other artists and journalists in Iran, even as its moderate government moves toward detente with the West over its contested nuclear program,” writes Gambrell, who takes note of the ongoing, ambiguous criteria limiting expression in Iran.

Karimi, who currently remains free, was specifically charged with “insulting sanctities”; his attorneys plan to appeal. The Adventure of the married Couple (2013) inspired by an Italo Calvino short story—the director’s previous film—played in forty film festivals and were awarded various prizes.

“I don’t know what happened that I should go to jail for six years,” Karimi said. “I speak about the government, I speak about society, I speak about (graffiti), I speak about a laborer.”

Gambrell notes that the government, in 2014, arrested young Iranian men and women for releasing a video of themselves dancing to Pharrell Williams’ song “Happy.” They ultimately received suspended sentences of six months in jail and ninety-one lashes.