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Iranian film director and human rights lawyer awarded by EU

21 November 2012

The European Parliament’s ‘Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought 2012’ goes to two Iranians as joint winners: the imprisoned lawyer Nasrin Sotoudeh and film director Jafar Panahi.

Nasrin Sotoudeh and Jafar Panahi will be awarded and receive 50,000 euro on 12 December 2012 during a ceremony at the European Parliament in Strasbourg.

The Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought honours exceptional individuals who combat intolerance, fanaticism and oppression to defend human rights and freedom of expression. It is named in honour of the Soviet physicist and political dissident Andrei Sakharov and has been awarded annually by the European Parliament since 1988 to individuals or organisations that have made an important contribution to the fight for human rights or democracy.

Pussy Riot were among the three 2012-finalists who were chosen by the EU foreign affairs and development committees on 9 October 2012, and from these three finalists EU president Martin Schulz and political group leaders chose the laureates on 26 October.

“The award of the Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought to the Iranians Nasrin Sotoudeh and Jafar Panahi is a message of solidarity and recognition to a woman and a man who have not been bowed by fear and intimidation and who have decided to put the fate of their country before their own. I sincerely hope they will be able to come in person to Strasbourg to the European Parliament to collect their prize in December,” said Martin Schulz when he announced the winner after the meeting.
Film smuggled out of Iran inside a cake
Jafar Panahi, born in 1960, is an Iranian film director, screenwriter and film editor. After several years of conflict with the Iranian government over the content of his films (including several short-term arrests), Panahi was arrested in March 2010 along with his wife, daughter and 15 friends and was later charged with committing propaganda against the Iranian government.

Despite support from filmmakers, film organizations and human rights organizations from around the world, in December 2010 Panahi was sentenced to a six-year prison sentence and a 20-year ban on directing any movies, writing screenplays, giving any form of interview with Iranian or foreign media and from leaving the country.

This led to Panahi’s last film to date: ‘This Is Not a Film’, a documentary feature in the form of a video diary that was made in spite of the legal ramifications of Panahi’s arrest. It was smuggled out of Iran in a USB stick hidden inside a cake and was screened at the 2011 Cannes Film Festival.
Background of The Sakharov Prize
The Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought, named in honour of the Soviet physicist and political dissident Andrei Sakharov, has been awarded by the European Parliament every year since 1988 to honour exceptional individuals who combat intolerance, fanaticism and oppression. Like Andrei Sakharov himself, all the winners of the prize have shown how much courage it takes to defend human rights and freedom of expression.

Parliament awards the human rights prize, endowed with 50,000, at a formal sitting held in Strasbourg on or around 10 December, the day on which the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights was signed in 1948.

In 2011, the prize went to five representatives of the Arab Spring, in recognition and support of their drive for freedom and human rights.

Former winners include Nobel Prize laureates Nelson Mandela (1988), Aung Sang Suu Kyi (1990) and the UN, represented by Secretary General Kofi Annan (2003).
European Parliament – 26 October 2012:
Nasrin Sotoudeh and Jafar Panahi – winners of the 2012 Sakharov Prize
European Parliament – 26 October 2012:
Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought 2012
artsfreedom.freemuse.org – 21 June 2012:
Iran: Travel ban on film director
European Parliament about the Sakharov Prize:
europarl.europa.eu/sakharov
Jafar Panahi’s profile on Wikipedia – the open encyclopedia:
wikipedia.org/wiki/Jafar_Panahi

 

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