NPWJ congratulates with 2012 sakharov prize’s laureates for their struggle in supporting Iranian democrats

26 Oct, 2012 | Press Releases

Brussels – Rome – New York, 26 October 2012

This morning in Strasbourg, the European Parliament awarded the 2012 Sakharov Prize to Ms Nasrin Sotoudeh and Mr Jafar Panahi.

Nasrin Sotoudeh is an Iranian lawyer and human rights advocate. She has represented opposition activists imprisoned following Iran’s disputed June 2009 presidential elections, juveniles facing the death penalty, women and prisoners of conscience. She was arrested in September 2010 on charges of spreading propaganda and conspiring to harm state security and has been held in solitary confinement. Ms Sotoudeh recently started an hunger strike in prison to protest against the brutal persecution of dissenters and opposition forces by the Iranian regime.
Jafar Panahi is an Iranian film director. Mr Panahi was arrested in March 2010 and later sentenced to six years in jail and a 20-year ban on directing any movies or leaving the country. His latest film, “This Is Not a Film”, was smuggled from Iran to the 2011 Cannes Film Festival. His films represent a denunciation of the hardships imposed on the poorest and most marginalised sector of the Iranian society, notably children and women.

Statement by Niccolo’ Figa’-Talamanca, Secretary General of No Peace Without Justice:

“Today we honour two Iranian citizens who with their skills and cultural sensitivities remind us that civil society and democrats inside Iran are still struggling to fight a criminal regime. The loose alliance of journalists, academics, students, women’s groups and other voluntary organisations that work under the heading of civil society has in recent times proved itself one of the few forces able to pressure Iran’s ruling theocracy towards political reform. Nowhere was this more apparent than in the protests that followed the presidential elections of 2009, when thousands of ordinary Iranians took to the street in an effort to assert their democratic rights.

“The conservative forces that rule Iran have identified civil society as the most likely threat to their continued power and have consequently dedicated considerable resources to silencing its politically active members through censorship, legislation, arrest, imprisonment, intimidation and violence. Ms Nasrin Sotoudeh and Mr Jafar Panahi are, unfortunately, only the tip of an iceberg of political prisoners detained and tortured in Iranian jails right now.

“By awarding the Sakharov Prize to these two Iranian human rights defenders, the European Parliament takes a stance to stregthen democratic voices in Iran. Indeed, too often the international community has limited its support for Iranian democrats, fearing that any form of engagement might  disrupt the great diplomatic games around the nuclear program. That line of reasoning has gone too far”.

For further information, please contact: Gianluca Eramo, email:, phone: +32 (0)2 548-3925 or Nicola Giovannini or +32 (0)2 548-3915.