Comment: The power of the weak


Published in “Nürnberger Zeitung”, October 5 2009

Nuremberg International Human Rights Award 2009
We do not know how Abdolfattah Soltani felt in the hour when his wife accepted the Nuremberg International Human Rights Award on his behalf at the Nuremberg Opera House. However, we can very well imagine how the feeling of powerlessness must be gnawing at a man who has fought hard, who has been in prison, and who is now forced to stand by and watch how the Guardians of the Revolution and their henchmen are still calling the shots in his native country.

Against this background, one cannot help but wonder what the rulers of Iran have achieved by prohibiting this man from leaving the country? Is this supposed to stabilise a shaky system, which has most obviously engaged in electoral fraud or has at least allowed it to happen? Experience teaches us that no regime lasts forever. Germany will be celebrating the 20th anniversary of the collapse of the East German communist regime in November. The Berlin Wall came down after the GDR had run itself into the ground in economic, moral and spiritual as well as in political terms.

Similar signs of exhaustion are now apparently being displayed by the political leadership in Tehran and by sections of Iran’s high clergy. Those who have seen the young and bright faces at this summer’s demonstrations have good reason to hope, particularly since sources of information can no longer be blocked as easily as in former times.

In yesterday’s message to the assembled company at Nuremberg, Abdolfattah Soltani, too, unequivocally expressed the hope that violence and tyranny will come to an end.

And this hope is by no means unfounded: The Universal Declaration of Human Rights proclaimed 41 [sic!] years ago set a milestone. Ever since then, it has become a generally accepted tenet that no human being may be humiliated, oppressed or degraded. At any rate, those in power are now judged by this standard. They even have to expect to be tried if they are in breach of it.

This has meanwhile turned into the power of the weak – the fact that human rights have now become the benchmark of a global civilisation. Even if it may still be a while before Abdolfattah Soltani is indeed able to travel to Nuremberg himself.

Comment by Raimund Kirch
Translated from German by Anusche Noring

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