Sentenced by the Iranian authorities to one year in prison and 223 lashes, Keywan Karimi has finally been imprisoned. His crime was to make films.

Keywan is 31 years old and has his whole life ahead of him. His vocation is cinema, and he has devoted his life to telling and sharing stories. He expresses his love for Iran through his films, which depict the reality of his country and his people, with genuine courage and lucidity. Writing on the City, a documentary on graffiti and messages written on the walls of Tehran from the 1979 revolution to the movements of 2009, is the reason why he has just been condemned and the symbol of his courage.

And courage is one thing Keywan does not lack. While he was still free, he was aware of the risks he was taking and heavy sentences he might be facing if he were to continue filming. Like him, too many Iranian artists, journalists and citizens have been imprisoned and persecuted because their discordant voice was found to be disturbing. They are too politically incorrect, and too curious about the rest of the world. We cannot accept that.

No one can resist 223 lashes, whether they are administered in one go, or over several sessions. The execution of such a barbarous act, and of Keywan’s imprisonment, should show the world – from heads of state to simple citizens – that the values of the Islamic Republic of Iran share nothing with those of a democracy.

We solemnly request Keywan Karimi’s release from the Iranian President, Mr. Hassan Rohani. In past decades, the Islamic Republic of Iran has signed treaties like the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the UN Covenant on Civil and Political Rights of 1966. Why has Iran decided to turn its back on its own culture and history?

It cannot be tolerated that this country, which seems eager to deepen relations with other nations, simultaneously despises fundamental rights and denies all freedom of expression and creation.

We also call on Belgium, on the European Union and on all governments who are friends of democracy, to intervene in favor of Keywan with the Iranian authorities. As representatives of civil society, we need you to save him and to defend, through him, all artists whose lives are in danger.