Monday, November 9, 2009

Human Rights Activist Shadi Sadr Receives a 'Tulip'

Shadi Sadr (35) is an Iranian lawyer and human right activist. Together with 2003 Nobel prize winner Shirin Ebadi, she is one of the most outspoken advocates for women's rights in Iran. She is the founder of Raahi, an organisation that provided legal advice to poor women until it was shut down by the regime, and she campaigned against stoning, a punishment mainly used against women.

The Dutch government has given her 2009 Human Rights Defenders Tulip for "her exceptional courage, perseverance and work in an environment of concern, where human rights are repeatedly violated," in the words of foreign minister Maxime Verhagen.
Sadr herself was arrested in July and detained for almost two weeks in the infamous Erin prison. She was interrogated not just about the protests by the opposition or her work for women's rights, "but about everything: conferences, contacts with foreigners, my whole life," she says in an interview with NRC Handelsblad.

"I was branded as one of the leaders of the women's department of the velvet revolution," Sadr says. (The Iranian authorities have accused the opposition of trying to overthrow the regime by means of a 'velvet revolution' at the instigation of foreign powers.)
It has been determined that prisoners have been tortured to death during interrogations. The opposition has also accused the authorities of rape

Sadr was not subjected to physical torture herself. "But at one point I was interrogated while in front of me more than a dozen young men were being mistreated. To me this was real torture. After half an hour I was numb. I was in a nightmare."

Her release was the result of internal and international pressure, she says. She was made to post the equivalent of 250,000 euros bail.

Sadr says she wants to go back to Iran, "but not to prison". For the moment she is living in Germany, where she has been given a 6-month scholarship for scientific research.

She is nevertheless "very optimistic" about the democratic future of her country. "It is a long process, and the costs will be high. But last week's demonstration has shown the government cannot afford to let down its guard for a minute. The security forces are being more aggressive than ever, and the opposition is braver than ever. There is fear, this is undeniable, and there is oppression, but people took to the streets regardless."

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