Wednesday, September 24, 2008


Our Voices Are Heard

Rooz (R): You appear to be the first person to receive the award of the Italian international committee on human rights. Why do you think a woman human rights attorney was selected as the first recipient of the award?

Nasrin Sotudeh (NS): This question has to be asked of the committee. But I think human rights are an inter-linked issue in the world. Some countries cannot be excluded from the expectation to observe and respect human rights. International attention to civil activists around the world stems from this view.

R: As a human rights activist and also a defender of if human rights activists in Iran, you have been a witness to the struggles of these advocates. What is your general assessment of the condition of human rights advocates in Iran?

NS: If I wanted to say it in one term it would be: Very dismal. Human rights defenders, particularly attorneys who have defended civil activists pro bono, have either ended up in jail or are exposed to repeated summons. This is despite the fact that exerting pressures on lawyers is illegal according to international law and the domestic laws of Iran. According to Iranian law, attorneys enjoy immunity in their work, similar to those enjoyed by judges. But this is something that is regularly violated.

R: What do you think is the impact of these awards on human rights activists?

NS: Bestowing these awards indicates the importance that the international community gives to Iranian issues and the acknowledges of such activities by public opinion around the world. This acknowledgment also carries a message to the effect that the international public opinion supports the human rights activists in Iran. The evidence of course are the prizes or awards that are given to civil rights activists in Iran, which are significant by virtue of their numbers and quality.

R: What is the impact of this domestically?

NS: You see, the purpose of the accusations and charges that are raised by dictatorial regimes against civil rights activists is to break their spirit. At the least they want to weaken their morale and waken their determination in their cause. Support from international public opinion indicates that the voice of Iran’s civil society is heard and is acknowledged by the world’s civil community. So I think this type of recognition by the international community strengthens the beliefs and convictions of activists in their work and efforts.

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