The 2012 Sakharov prize was awarded to two Iranian political prisoners currently residing in Evin prison, Nasrin Sotoudeh and Jafar Panahi (AP).
Ms. Sotoudeh is serving an 11 year prison sentence for representing political prisoners in Iranian courts and is a known women's rights activist, and Mr. Panahi is an award winning film director imprisoned for his unapologetic cinematic portrayal of the suffering of the poor, women, and children in the Islamic republic of Iran. The image presented in his movies showing real life suffering was apparently not in line with the ideal image of Iran the regime wants the world to see like the columns of Persepolis, Persian rugs, the Cyrus cylinder, Persian CATS, the American made Iranian F-14s, the photogenic Ahmadinejad, and the tie free poorly shaven Iranian diplomats, etc.
The Andrei Sakharov (Андрей Сахаров) prize was established in 1988 by the European parliament in honor of Andre Sakharov, a brilliant Soviet nuclear scientist turned activist, who bravely spoke out against the soviet regime's policies and paid for that with his career and personal freedom.
The prize was established to honor individuals and organizations who have dedicated their lives to the defense of human rights and freedom of thought, and it comes with a monetary component of £50,000 this year. The first recipient of the prize was Nelson Mandela.
Mr. Gorbachov personally called Mr. Sakharov in 1986 to tell him that his exile in Gorky was over and that he can return to Moscow.
Andrei Sakharov's statue (above) now stands in St. Petersburg showing him with his hands tied behind his back; he came a long way from being labeled a "traitor" to being a "hero".
His statements about the Soviet Union government attitudes and tyranny may mean more to contemporary Iranians, which makes today's award of the Sakharov prize to two Iranian dissidents doubly significant.
Mr. Sakharov said of the regime "it took years to understand how much substitution, deceit, and lack of correspondence with reality there was".
He also said "our state is similar to a cancer cell—with its messianism and expansionism, its totalitarian suppression of dissent, the authoritarian structure of power, with a total absence of public control in the most important decisions in domestic and foreign policy, a closed society that does not inform its citizens of anything substantial, closed to the outside world, without freedom of travel or the exchange of information." (1)
A point of clarification, Sakharov was saying that about the Soviet Union and not the Islamic Republic of Iran, but you could be forgiven for thinking he was.
Photo credit: RIA Novosti archive, netmassimo.com, PBS.org, Tehran times