Soltani sent his greetings to Nuremberg on the phone


Published in “Nürnberger Zeitung”, October 5, 2009

Soltani could not accept award in person


NÜRNBERG – «From a distance I shake your hand,” he said loudly and clearly, and many of the 900 people in the audience at the Opera House – citizens of Nuremberg and local and international guests of honor – in that moment felt that he was really among them. It’s not just his wife, Masoumeh Dehgan, who is feeling very close to her husband at that moment. However, Dr. Abdolfattah Soltani right now is quite far away – after all, 4000 kilometers, or five hours on the airplane.

For the 55-year-old has been prevented last-minute from boarding his flight to Nuremberg at Tehran Airport – with the exit stamp already in his passport. “I was in the waiting area, when security officials confiscated my passport, thus preventing me from leaving the country,” Soltani said on the phone. His message had been recorded by the human rights office and is now, in best quality, delivered to the audience in the Opera House

A photo, projected to the huge screen, shows the attorney, elegantly dressed in shirt and tie, sitting at his office desk with the phone in his hand. A sympathetic appearance he is, on this and the other pictures that show him in his office, even though he is not present in person. It is hardly noticeable that he has lost 7 kilos during his latest detention in Tehran’s Evin prison, says his wife in a press conference later that afternoon. She continues to tell about the terrible time she, her children and relatives of the family went through when Soltani, during the protests against the apparently rigged presidential election, was first abducted and then detained in Evin.

Her blond hair is covered with a black shawl

The Islamic moral guards in Iran would have no reason to complain about the small, elegant and strong-minded woman. Again and again she adjusts her black scarf, so nothing is revealed of her blond hair. Instead, the fine threads of silver woven into the fine black cloth sparkle in the spotlights. Her stockings are opaque. Her arms are also fully covered. Like her husband, Abdolfattah Soltani, she as well makes it no secret that Islam is her religion, and she sticks to her beliefs also when abroad.

The small green ribbon of sympathy for the opposition movement, which countless Iranians – whether religious, secular or irreligious – currently wear wherever they go, is visible for just a short moment when she leaves the room and greets Iranian friends who also attend the ceremony. Only when one of them pats her shoulder, praising her for her courageous speech, a smile lights up Dehgan’s face.

As she accepts the award for her husband, the expression on her face remains grave throughout her speech, which in light of the situation is understandable. She points out that she trusts in God and hopes for his help: “I thank God that so many people have come here”, she says, “and I wish that all people in this world stand up for peace and freedom”. She all the more regrets that Iran, which claims to be a theocratic state, is a place where happen “deeds that have nothing to do with God”. For peace, freedom, and human rights, in her opinion, “every human being should be fighting, for we all are part of one body, and if one body part hurts, all other parts have to suffer”.

These words are spoken from the laureate’s heart, who sent this message to the citizens of Nuremberg: “Let us strive hand in hand to heal this common suffering.” Because the violation of basic human rights, detention of innocents and the torture of prisoners taking place in his country are “painful and regrettable for all inhabitants of Europe. America, Africa, and Australia.”

That this is true remains undoubted also by the politicians who speak at the ceremony. Be it Guenter Gloser of the Social-Democratic Party (SPD), Minister of State at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, or Bavaria’s Interior Minister Joachim Hermann (Christian Social Union Party/CSU): disregarding their political differences, all political parties unanimously condemn the behavior of the Iranian government.

And if Ulrich Maly (SPD), lord mayor of the city of Nuremberg, could not have his wish fulfilled to shake hands with the laureate in person, he at least achieved his second goal: “We shall make this ceremony and the subsequent dinner for peace a demonstration for freedom,” he announced.

Spontaneously, the renowned Israeli sculptor and designer of the Street of Human Rights in Nuremberg, speaks up: “I call on all artists in this world to commit to the cause of human rights.” He continues: “For me personally, this was the most moving ceremony of the Nuremberg Human Rights Award so far – precisely because the laureate was not present. We have to do everything to prevent something like this from ever happening again.”

In the end, he gives Nobel Peace Price laureate Shirin Ebadi and Massoumeh Dehgan a brief hug – and this symbol of Iranian-Israeli friendship could mark an entirely new start.
By Stephanie Rupp


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