Iranian documentary filmmaker Mojgan Ilanlou was recently detained in Evin Prison.
Iranian documentary filmmaker Mojgan Ilanlou was recently detained in Evin Prison. (Screenshot: YouTube/Rastakhiz Media)

Iranian documentary filmmaker Mojgan Ilanlou detained in Evin Prison

Washington, D.C., August 21, 2023—Iranian authorities must immediately release documentary filmmaker Mojgan Ilanlou and cease jailing members of the press for their work, the Committee to Protect Journalists said Monday. 

On Sunday, August 20, Illanlou responded to a summons from Tehran’s intelligence police. When she arrived at the police headquarters, authorities arrested her and transferred her to Evin Prison, according to news reports and a person familiar with the case who spoke to CPJ on the condition of anonymity, citing fear of reprisal.

As of Monday, authorities had not disclosed the reason for Ilanlou’s detention.

“In their desperate efforts to silence their critics, Iranian authorities have now imprisoned Mojgan Ilanlou, a filmmaker who has boldly documented the lives of Iranian women,” said CPJ Middle East and North Africa Program Coordinator Sherif Mansour. “Authorities must realize that they cannot hide Iran’s difficult realities by jailing journalists and independent voices, and release all those held in custody for their reporting.”  

Ilanlou’s latest film, One Thousand Women, follows a group of female wrestlers in Iran who struggle for equal opportunities in the face of restrictions, such as Iran’s strict Islamic dress code.

Authorities previously detained Ilanlou on October 18, 2022, and held her in Evin Prison’s Ward 2A, which is run by the intelligence wing of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, those news reports said. She was in prison when One Thousand Women premiered at the Vienna Human Rights Film Festival in December.

Following her arrest, Ilanlou was sentenced to nine years and nine months in prison, 74 lashes, and a two-year ban from travelling outside Iran on the charges of spreading propaganda against the system, colluding against national security, and disturbing national order, by Judge Iman Afshari of Branch 26 of Tehran’s Islamic Revolutionary Court, the person familiar with her case told CPJ.

Ilanlou was released on February 15, 2023, after Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei issued an amnesty for thousands of prisoners.

Iran ranked as the world’s worst jailer of journalists when CPJ conducted its most recent worldwide census of imprisoned journalists on December 1, 2022. Ilanlou was not included in the census because CPJ was not aware of her case at the time.

CPJ emailed Iran’s mission to the United Nations in New York requesting comment on Ilanlou’s arrest and imprisonment but did not receive any reply.

Overall, Iranian authorities detained at least 95 journalists in the wake of nationwide protests last September. Many have been released on bail while awaiting trial or summonses to serve multi-year sentences.