Published in Bild am Sonntag on January 2, 2011
English translation kindly provided by Elli Mee
In October 2010, two German journalists were arrested in Iran after they had entered the country on tourist visas, and had tried to cover the backgrounds of the stoning sentence against Sakineh Ashtiani. Now, Bild am Sonntag newspaper published statements from 100 prominent figures from politics, entertainment and sports calling for the release of the two reporters.
Here is what three of them said:
Wolf Biermann – poet, singer-songwriter and former East German dissident
It does not take a prophet to predict that on one beautiful day, the dictatorship in Iran will be overthrown – most suitably by the Persian people themselves. Until that day, I am trembling in fear of the next stoning of an innocent woman. And I am scared of the final nuclear bomb directed at tiny Israel – the announced attempt to stone the Jewish people in Israel with modern technology.
I take sides with those who defend the two German reporters. These two journalists have done nothing else than what is described by the Latin word ‘reportare’: to bring back, give an account, describe – the contrary of lying, inventing, fabricating on purpose. They had a modest intention: carrying some words to Europe, directly from the mouth of the son whose mother is to be murdered.
When a stoning is carried out, those fundamentalist bigots often try to abuse the close male relatives of the abused woman – fathers, brothers, husbands or sons – and make them throw the first stone. The son of Sakineh Ashtiani must be a courageous man. Apparently he does not want to throw stones, instead he only throws a few words of truth. This is, in my eyes, the true Islam: devotion to God, respect of all people and love for one’s mother.
Herta Müller – winner of the 2009 Nobel Prize in Literature
Two journalists have taken a risk. They did not observe the press laws of the Islamic dictatorship, which are no more than a censorship tool. This is held against them – but does it justify their incarceration? Of course not. The two journalists have dared to describe the inhumane sentence against Sakineh Ashtiani, the barbaric stoning, not only as a scandal of justice. They did not accept that her son is condemned to silence – her son who is of course despaired about the arbitrariness in Iran, the cynicism that forces his mother to incriminate herself.
The situation reminds me of the show trials in the Stalinist dictatorships of Eastern Europe. Back then, just like today, the attention of the West was crucially important. Until those regimes collapsed, dissidents were reliant on courageous journalists from Western countries. The truth about the mistreatment of people [in communist countries] came out on secret paths. We can only hope that Iran will not use the two journalists as a pawn for its own interests. They have already spent far too much time in prison for violating press laws. And today, no one can be forced to look away.
Ferdinand von Schirach – criminal defense lawyer and writer
Dear president Ahmadinejad, during your inauguration you promised to engage in a free and open dialogue. But the reality in your country is that journalists are arrested, newspapers are banned, and people are jailed for expressing their opinion. Remember that those who trample freedom of speech in their own country will not be heard in the free world. During the opening of the Iranian Cultural Festival in Weimar in 2009, your ambassador said that the cultural relations between Germany and Iran had their highlight in the spiritual relationship between Goethe and Hafez. This is true, but both Goethe and Hafez always despised fundamentalism and racism. Both were worshippers of freedom. Therefore I ask you to release the two journalists in the name of freedom.