Iranian Rights Advocates Nasrin Sotoudeh and Jafar Panahi Receive Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought

Sunday 28 October 2012

Change for Equality:
European Parliament News:, reported on Friday October 26, 2012 that the Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought 2012 goes to Iranians Nasrin Sotoudeh, an imprisoned human rights defender and lawyer, and Jafar Panahi, a film director who with his work called attention to the hardships suffered by Iran’s poor. EP president Martin Schulz made the announcement in plenary on Friday 26 October.

Besides being a human rights lawyer, Nasrin Sotoudeh is a women’s rights activists who has for years fought for gender equality in Iran.

Jafar Panahi, has worked through his art to bring attention to issues of gender equality and has been a long time advocate of women’s rights, including as a vocal supporter of the One Million Signatures Campaign. Iranian women’s rights activists welcome the awarding of this prize to two staunch supporters of equality, and hope that the award works to bring attention to the plight of political prisoners, especially female prisoners, who have been persecuted for their human rights and women’s rights advocacy and who face serious hardships while in prison, including lack of visitation with their children.

The award comes at a time, when Nasrin Sotoudeh has embarked on her second hunger strike in prison to protest pressures by security and prison officials against her and her family, including limitations placed on her visitation with her family and children and a travel ban imposed on her 12 year old daughter, Mehraveh. Political prisoners are often denied due process in the court system only to face other pressures while in detention, that go against minimal rights guarantees provided by Iranian law.

The European Parliament News reported further that "nominations come from a political group or at least 40 MEPs. The foreign affairs and development committees decided on the three finalists on 9 October and from these three political group leaders chose this year’s laureate on 26 October."

The prize will be awarded 12 December during a ceremony at the European Parliament in Strasbourg. The winners will receive €50,000.

Former winners

In 2011, the prize went to five representatives of the Arab Spring, in recognition and support of their drive for freedom and human rights.

Former winners include Nobel Prize laureates Nelson Mandela (1988), Aung Sang Suu Kyi (1990) and the UN, represented by Secretary General Kofi Annan (2003).

The Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought honors exceptional individuals who combat intolerance, fanaticism and oppression to defend human rights and freedom of expression. It is named in honor of the Soviet physicist and political dissident Andrei Sakharov and has been awarded annually by the European Parliament since 1988 to individuals or organisations that have made an important contribution to the fight for human rights or democracy.


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