Iranian Feminist attorney and human rights activist, Shadi Sadr has decided to dedicate her Women of Courage Award to Shiva Nazar Ahari, an imprisoned women’s rights activist. Sadr chose not to travel to Washington D.C. on Wednesday March 10 to receive the award from U.S. Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton. Instead she sent a recorded message to be braodcast at the awards ceremony. The U.S. Department of State decided not to broadcast Sadr’s message during the ceremony. Below is the full English text of her message, which was published on the website of Women Living Under Muslim Laws.
Shadi Sadr’s Speech for the International Women of Courage Award Ceremony
March 9, 2010
I am honored to be selected as one of the ten recipients of the International Women of Courage Award, which I consider as yet another opportunity for me, and other human rights activists, to bring to the international community’s attention the efforts of Iranian women on a global level. This award also enables me to publicize the systematic human rights abuses in Iran, particularly the crackdown on civil society activists in the aftermath of the 2009 presidential elections.
This Award, as is evident by its title, is given every year to women all across the globe that have illustrated exceptional courage in defense of women’s rights, social justice and human rights. For this exact reason I would like to dedicate my award to Shiva Nazar Ahari, a young activist that is currently imprisoned in Iran for her women’s rights and human rights activism. I dedicate this award to her since I believe her courage has been exceptional and deserving of worldwide recognition.
Shiva, who since her youth has been an influential activist, founded the Committee of Human Rights Reporters, a university student group that provides important and objective reports concerning human rights abuses in Iran. She has also been actively involved in the women’s rights movement, never for a moment ceasing her efforts on behalf of human rights and democracy.
Unfortunately, shortly after the elections, Shiva was arrested and kept for months in solitary confinement and subjected to extreme interrogations. After spending more than 100 days in prison, Shiva was released on a $200,000 bail for only three, brief months. Shiva, who had re-started her activism immediately upon her release from prison, was arrested once more in December 2009 along with other members of the Committee of Human Rights Reporters. Since her arrest, the authorities have placed her under extreme pressure in order to make her confess to the crime of ‘acting as an enemy of God’, which carries the death penalty under state law. They kept her for a long period in a cage-like cell so small that she could barely move her limbs. Despite such extreme torture, Shiva has not, even today, accepted that her peaceful activism in promotion of Women’s rights and democracy are acts of terrorism, and consequently has faced even more abusive treatments.
Shiva, one of the world’s most courageous women, who herself worked tirelessly in defense of the rights of political prisoners, is herself in a small prison cell, and deprived of having even a pen and paper or meeting with a lawyer, and is kept blind-folded.
To be honest, since the Iranian regime declares that all human rights activists and civil activists are spies and puppets for the West, particularly the United States, I initially worried that to dedicate this award to Shiva alone might increase the pressure and hostility of her interrogators and the judicial forces and make matters worse for her.
However, I eventually arrived at the conclusion that the Iranian government will still accuse all activists of being spies, similar to the way they accused me of selling myself to America for receiving this award (calling me a “servant of the United States”), so that it really makes little difference. As Shiva is not with us and cannot attend this award ceremony, I will also refrain from attending with the hope that my absence will turn the attention of the international community to her dire situation. I would like to request that you all take any measures available to you to help to free Shiva along with other human rights activists and journalists in Iranian prisons.