A weight on the heart

Alexander Law Prize honors Iranian human rights advocate Shadi Sadr.

Before Shadi Sadr left her native Iran, she was arrested, beaten, and imprisoned. Her crime? Doing her work as a lawyer: defending the rights of other Iranian women in prison.

Sadr escaped to live in Germany in 2009. On Nov. 11, 2010, Sadr—also a journalist and human rights advocate—received the Katharine and George Alexander Law Prize. Awarded annually by the SCU School of Law, the prize recognizes lawyers who work to extinguish injustice.

She opened her acceptance speech with a thank you to Professor Cynthia Mertens and dedicated her remarks to human rights lawyer Nasrin Sotoudeh and Nazanin Khosravani, a journalist and civil rights activist, both now jailed in Iran.

Below are excerpts from Sadr’s acceptance speech.

On her female clients:

When I met those women in prisons, when I agreed to represent them as their attorney and read their thick case files, when I shook their hands and kissed their cheeks in greetings, when I saw the fear of death fill their eyes and saw their children cry bitter tears of separations, I gave them hope and optimism, and yet my own heart was weary and devoid of all hope to be able to really do anything for them. Those women walked out of the case files and the newspapers and entered my life. Their names and faces became a recurring part of my dreams.

On the Iranian government’s scrubbing of the past:

My generation, a generation that came of age and went to school and college during the government of the Islamic Republic, has little information about the widespread violations of prisoners’ rights in the 1980s. Even worse, complete and utter censorship about the news and information pertaining to that period has caused my generation to believe the official narrative, which mainly was that those who were executed in prisons were terrorists who killed innocent pedestrians in the streets.

On Iranian government suppression of postelection protests in 2009:

What occurred during the crushing of the postelection protests clearly showed what we thought was wrong. Violations of human rights occurred on such a widespread scale that it was only comparable to the events of the first decade after the revolution … Last year, we witnessed how the government unjustly and unfairly labeled many people who, like myself, participated in the peaceful postelection demonstrations with the charge of Moharebeh, which means taking arms against the government and is punishable by execution.

post-image Defender: Shadi Sadr Photo: Newsha Tavakolian
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