Sakharov Prize and a new European policy towards Iran

A sense of pride, despair and hope is what I felt when I learned that the prestigious Sakharov Prize was awarded to human rights lawyer, Nasrin Sotoudeh, and filmmaker, Jafar Panahi.

by Saba Farzan on 29 October 2012 14:56

My parents used to share their love for each other through reading Persian poetry. And so during my Mum’s pregnancy it was clear that the name of their first and only child would be inspired through our culture’s poetic legacy.

My Mum chose Saba, the name of a romantic wind carrying the messages of lovers to each other and mentioned a million times in Persian poems, and my Dad chose Nima, after the great modern poet Nima Yoshij who revolutionized Iran’s poetry with a genre called “New Poetry” by using a diction that people not only understood, but spoke in the streets of Iran.

My parents told me this story of their search for a name when I was a little girl and ever since I’ve connected emotionally with the name Nima. It is about a little boy called Nima, together with his sister Meraveh, that I can’t stop thinking since Friday – and frankly over the past two years these two young Iranians have been constantly in my thoughts. They are Nasrin Sotoudeh’s beloved children growing up without their wonderful mother through the cruelty of Iran’s dictatorship.

My thoughts have been a mixture of pride, despair and hope when I learned about the news that the prestigious Sakharov Prize was awarded to human rights lawyer, Nasrin Sotoudeh, and filmmaker, Jafar Panahi.

Pride because the Sakharov Prize is going for the first time in history to a courageous Iranian woman and an innovative artist. Despair because I immediately thought what took the EU so long to honor these two peaceful freedom fighters? Hope as I’ve no doubt it’ll enormously help to boost the downfall of a brutal dictatorship that should have become history already many years ago.

The truth is at this point everyone knows how bad this regime is and what an abysmal human rights record it has. The question is how is this going to change? How will Iranians gain their legitimate freedom and respect for human rights? Those – both Iranians and Westeners – who exposed themselves to “dialogue”, “reform” and ultimately keeping the Islamic Republic in power have left enough evidence of how shameful their behavior and thinking is. 

Let’s mark these collaborators off and move on to what is really decisive: slowly, but constantly there is a shift happening in European-Iran policy. Ironically, earlier than it happened in the U.S. under the Obama administration.

Within European capitals a major analysis has been growing that the end of this nuclear conflict is inevitably connected with the end of this regime. Still a coherent regime change policy is missing, but in their hearts and minds European diplomats and politicians have said good bye to the Iranian dictatorship and are waiting – almost impatiently – for the Iranian people to rise again, this time with a final move.

And they rightly sense that a woman like Nasrin Sotoudeh with her intellect and fine character represents together with so many other courageous freedom lovers the future of Iran. Not only shedding light on the Islamic Republic’s human rights abuses, but to pressure this dictatorship and sending stronger signals to Iran’s democrats has become fortunately a daily schedule for Europe’s diplomats and politicians.

Excluded from that intellectual and political process are of course Catherine Ashton and the bunch of parliamentarians already on their way to chat with the murderers of innocent Iranians.

While they don’t define Europe’s Iran policy anymore and while I’m extremely glad that their counterproductive trip to Iran hasn’t happened, it is sickening beyond words that it was the Islamic Republic that cancelled this trip as not a single democratic politician with a minimum of self-respect should board a flight to shake the hands of these criminals.

There’s a good chance that this happened the very last time while this regime is still in power. The next steps for the EU to a more coherent Iran policy are to close all Iranian embassies, further impose tougher sanctions, continue a severe pressure on human rights violations and heavily support the Iranian people to once and for all finish this tyranny.

Nasrin’s little son Nima and his sister Meraveh should grow up with their loving mother as all children of Iran’s political prisoners do. Nasrin Sotoudeh is one of our boldest daughters and she deserves freedom and respect – now. 

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