Thursday

27th Apr 2017

Iranian prize winners put their necks on the line

  • Pictures of Sotuodeh and Panahi being put up in the EU parliament (Photo: europarl.europa.eu)

The winners of this year's EU Sakharov prize for free speech have risked their safety by speaking out to MEPs on Wednesday (12 December).

The statements - by imprisoned Iranian human rights lawyer Nasrin Sotoudeh, and by Iranian film maker Jafar Panahi, who is under a six-year suspended sentence - were read out on their behalf in Strasbourg because Iran declined to let them collect the award in person.

Dear EUobserver reader

Subscribe now for unrestricted access to EUobserver.

Sign up for 30 days' free trial, no obligation. Full subscription only 15 € / month or 150 € / year.

  1. Unlimited access on desktop and mobile
  2. All premium articles, analysis, commentary and investigations
  3. EUobserver archives

EUobserver is the only independent news media covering EU affairs in Brussels and all 28 member states.

♡ We value your support.

If you already have an account click here to login.

Sotoudeh's letter, read by exiled Iranian lawyer and Nobel laureate, Shirin Ebadi, said that human rights are the reason behind all the Arab Spring revolutions, which began with a failed uprising in Iran in 2009.

She noted: "I'd like to send my warmest and sincerest greetings from Evin prison [in Tehran] ... This [Sakharov] decision is a great source of pride for me and encourages me to keep up my struggle with patience and calm."

She added: "The fight to protect human rights as a lawyer is a compelling one even if it leads to imprisonment."

Panahi's letter, read out by Greek film director Costa-Gavras, said: "The authorities of my country are becoming so intolerant that they cannot even stand independent journalists or film makers."

He noted that his sentence gave him a choice: "To run [from Iran] or to live with this sword of Damocles above my head."

But he added: "I chose to stay" because "I love my country dearly ... even though I can no longer take up my camera."

The statements in themselves constitute a risk for Sotoudeh and Panahi and for their families.

Sotoudeh noted that she recently went on hunger strike because of "judicial pressure" on her closest relatives designed to keep her quiet.

Panahi pointed out that an Iranian blogger - 35-year-old Sattar Beheshti - last month died in police custody for speaking out against the regime on a webpage which, according to the Sakharov winner, had just eight readers.

For his part, parliament President Martin Schulz paid tribute to "a man and a woman who are standing up for a better Iran."

He added that the prize "says to the regime: 'You are being watched'."

Dutch Liberal deputy Marietje Schaake, who nominated Sotuodeh and Panahi, said: "These winners are true symbols of the courage of the Iranian people."

Tarja Cronenberg, a Finnish green deputy who chairs the parliament's Iran delegation, noted: "The European Parliament should build a strong, frank, and open dialogue with Iran and its people."

The prize was handed over to two empty chairs.

Russia suspected of Macron hack

Likely Russian spies tried to steal email passwords from Macron's people the same way they hacked US elections, new study says.

News in Brief

  1. EU parliament moves to lift Le Pen's immunity
  2. EU Commission launches probe into Hungary's university law
  3. Scots slowly losing appetite for independence - poll
  4. Council of Europe puts Turkey on watch list
  5. EU to put parental leave on political agenda
  6. Israel cancels German meeting over human rights groups
  7. Hungary's Orban will participate in EU parliament debate
  8. Malta floats cash-for-refugees plan

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. UNICEFRace Against Time to Save Millions of Lives in Yemen
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersDeveloping Independent Russian-Language Media in the Baltic Countries
  3. Swedish EnterprisesReform of the European Electricity Market: Lessons from the Nordics, Brussels 2 May
  4. Malta EU 2017Green Light Given for New EU Regulation to Bolster External Border Checks
  5. Counter BalanceCall for EU Commission to Withdraw Support of Trans-Adriatic Pipeline
  6. ACCAEconomic Confidence at Highest Since 2015
  7. European Federation of Allergy and Airways60%-90% of Your Life Is Spent Indoors. How Does Poor Indoor Air Quality Affect You?
  8. European Gaming and Betting AssociationCJEU Confirms Obligation for a Transparent Licensing Process
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Region and the US: A Time of Warlike Rhetoric and Militarisation?
  10. European Free AllianceEFA MEPs Vote in Favor of European Parliament's Brexit Mandate
  11. Mission of China to the EUXinhua Insight: China to Open up Like Never Before
  12. World VisionViolence Becomes New Normal for Syrian Children

Latest News

  1. EU starts legal action against Hungary
  2. Brexit is about Europe's future as well
  3. Power struggle in Greenland: Three reasons why the EU should care
  4. Nordic and Baltic countries step up digitalisation efforts
  5. European states still top media freedom list
  6. Let’s not put European public health at risk
  7. Threatened Budapest university calls for EU support
  8. Orban set to face down EU threats