Stop Fundamentalism – The European Parliament may award two Iranians, one a woman lawyer and the other a filmmaker, with the 2012 Andrei Sakharov’s Prize for Freedom of Thought, says the European Parliament’s website.
Iranian imprisoned woman-lawyer Nasrin Sotoudeh, and filmmaker and director Jafar Panhi are the two Iranians named to be among the nominees of this year’s Sakharov Prize.
Nasrin Sotoudeh is an Iranian prominent human rights lawyer. She represented many imprisoned Iranian opposition activists and politicians following the disputed June 2009 Iranian presidential elections. She also represented many prisoners sentenced to death for crimes committed when they were juveniles. She is one of the top leading lawyers in Iran who has been imprisoned for doing their job in defending their clients.
Sotoudeh was arrested in September 2010 on charges of spreading propaganda and conspiring to harm state security. She has been imprisoned in solitary confinement in the notorious Evin Prison. In January 2011, Iranian authorities sentenced Sotoudeh to 11 years in prison in addition to barring her from practicing law and from leaving the country for 20 years. Her husband, Reza Khandan, says that she has withdrawn all her appeal requests.
Jafar Panahi is an Iranian film director, screenwriter and film editor. He won his first international recognition with his feature film “The White Balloon” in 1995 wining the Caméra d’Or at the 1995 Cannes Film Festival, which was in fact the first major award won by an Iranian film at Cannes film festival. Although Panahi’s films were mostly banned for showing in Iran, he was quickly recognized as an influential filmmaker in the country wining many awards including the Golden Leopard in 1997, the Golden Lion in 2000, the Circle and Silver Bear in 2006 Berlin film festival and many others.
Panahi was arrested in 2010 along with his wife, daughter and several other friends and later charged with “committing propaganda against the Iranian government’. Later he received a six-year prison term and a 20-year ban from cinema work. He is also forbidden from having any media presence and also from leaving the country.
A short list of nominees also include a Russian feminist punk-rock music group, a civil society activist from Belarus, three Rwandan opposition figures, and a Pakistani legal assistant to victims of blasphemy law.
The Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought is given yearly to honor exceptional persons who struggle against intolerance, fanaticism and oppression, defending human rights and freedom of expression, say the European Parliament’s website.
The final winner will be decided on October 26 by the political group leaders and will be awarded on December 12 during a ceremony at the European Parliament’s plenary session in Strasbourg.
5 Arab activists received 2011’s prize in recognition of European support for freedom and the Arab Spring. Some 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 prize has been awarded since 1988 by the European parliament.