Iranian Activists Win Prestigious Sakharov Prize for Commitment to Human Rights

Freedom House congratulates Nasrin Sotoudeh and Jafar Panahi, two brave Iranian nationals who have been awarded the European Parliament’s prestigious 2012 Sakharov Prize for Human Rights and Freedom of Thought.  The award recognizes "a woman and a man who have not been bowed by fear and intimidation and who have decided to put the fate of their country before their own," parliament president Martin Schulz said Friday.  The parliament has formally requested the Iranian government to permit a visit by European parliamentarians to visit Sotoudeh and Panahi to present their message in person.

We call on the Iranian government to permit international access to these two distinguished individuals, and to end the unjust imprisonment of Sotoudeh and persecution of her family.

Nasrin Sotoudeh, a distinguished human rights lawyer who represented many human rights activists after the fraudulent June 2009 election, is currently serving a six-year sentence in Tehran’s notorious Evin prison. Sotoudeh  has been accused of various political crimes, including “acting against national security.”  On October 17, she began a hunger strike to protest the Iranian judiciary’s mistreatment of her family, including depriving her of regular family visits. Officials also banned her 12-year-old daughter, Mehraveh Khandan, from traveling outside the country and summoned her to the revolutionary court for interrogation without charges.

Jafar Panahi is an acclaimed filmmaker who is well known for calling attention to the desperate situation of Iranian children and society more broadly. Two years ago, he was arrested as a result of his work and sentenced to six years in prison on charges of “propagating [lies] against the Islamic Republic of Iran.” Panahi has been banned from making films for 20 years. He was released temporarily on bail from prison last year.

The case of Soutoudeh and Panahi are among many recent attacks on human rights defenders, their work and their families by the Iranian regime. Although the regime denies holding any political prisoners, human rights groups have been able to identify at least 1,000 to date.  Many of these are held in secret.

Iran is ranked Not Free in Freedom in the World 2012, Freedom House's survey of political rights and civil liberties, and Not Free in Freedom of the Press 2012 and Freedom on the Net 2012.

Learn more:

Freedom in the World 2012: Iran

Freedom of the Press 2012: Iran

Freedom on the Net 2012: Iran

Countries at the Crossroads 2012: Iran

Blog: From Bad to Worse: The Human Rights Situation in Iran