Acceptance Speech Shima Babaei

A year has passed since the murder of Jina Mahsa Amini.

One year ago, on these very days, Mahsa, a 22-year-old woman, was brutally murdered by the Islamic Republic’s Guidance Patrol, simply because she was a woman and because of her choice of clothes. This tragic event marked the beginning of the women’s revolution for life and freedom.
A movement that ignited the collective spirit of Iranians and brought people to the streets from all corners of Iran, and indeed from all over the world, galvanizing the world with this magnificent revolution.

A revolution that emerged in the heart of a religiously-dominated Middle East, that firmly opposed gender discrimination and that was based on three fundamental slogans vehemently opposed by the dictatorial government of the Islamic Republic.
I would like to thank you for having considered me worthy of receiving this award.

But above all, I must say that we should never forget those who take cameras to document acts of bravery and atrocities.
I see this award as a recognition of my fellow citizens who, despite the most severe repression, censorship and filtering, took to the streets with their mobile phones, their only weapons, to capture both the people’s protest and the government’s brutal repression making it history.
People like Ghazaleh Cheheltan and Shirin Alizadeh, who captured demonstrations and the repression of people in the streets on film, and whose last image captured by their camera was the impact of bullets on their own heads.

I dedicate this award to Niloufar Hamidi and Elaheh Mohammadi, two journalists who were arrested for covering the murder of Mahsa Amini and who remain in prison to this day. I would also like to dedicate this award to Nazila Moezofian, a young journalist who was recently sentenced to imprisonment and a fine for interviewing Mahsa Amini’s father and for having broken the requirement to wear the hijab. She is currently on hunger strike in prison.

Today I am here to tell you that our revolution, the women’s revolution for life and freedom, has not stopped. Many women are sending us the message, by removing the compulsory hijab and engaging in civil disobedience using their own hair, a message to the effect that we will not return to darkness.
It is worth knowing that this revolution will continue until the day of victory and the fall of the anti-woman, anti-life and anti-freedom dictatorship of the Islamic Republic.
According to statistics, at least five hundred people, including sixty children, have been killed since the movement began.
At least 20,000 people have been arrested and handed down harsh sentences.

Dozens of people have been sentenced to death and, to date, seven of them – Majid Rezavand, Mohsen Shokari, Mohammad Hosseini, Mohammad Mehdi Karami, Majid Kazemi, Saleh Mirhashemi and Saeed Yaghoubi – have been executed. All these people were severely tortured to obtain false confessions and were sentenced to death in unfair trials.
Musicians such as Tomaj Salehi, Saman Yasin and Mehdi Yarahi, who sang songs in support of the people, were arrested and are still in prison as of today.
Actresses who removed their hijab in support of the women’s movement for life and freedom were arrested and sentenced to prison with additional restrictions such as a ban on using mobile phones and visiting psychologists. They are not allowed to engage in artistic activities.

The doctors who treated the injured demonstrators were arrested and sacked.
The repressive forces used pellet guns and paintball guns to blind and injure the demonstrators. They also used ambulances to transport their forces inside the demonstrations and fire engines to disperse the demonstrators.

Schools and universities were important centres of this revolution, which is why protesting students and teachers were either arrested or expelled. The authorities even used poison gas in girls’ schools to poison protesting children.
The families of the demonstrators who were killed are being held for demanding justice, simply because they are the fathers, mothers, sisters or brothers of the victims. Many of these families are currently in prison. They are even prevented from holding memorial ceremonies at the graves of their loved ones. Several of them have been brutally arrested for attempting to visit the graves of the deceased.

The Islamic Republic may think it can put an end to dissent and demonstrations by arrest and repression, but as someone who has been detained five times for defending human rights and opposing the compulsory wearing of the hijab, I have to say that each time I became more determined to fight harder and more vigorously.
Together with my husband, Daryoush, who is also present in this room today, we took part in the demonstrations in Tehran in December 2017. The security forces assaulted my husband in front of me, they also physically attacked me, pepper-sprayed my face, and then took him away with them.

A few days after my husband’s release, just as we were planning to celebrate our wedding, the security forces attacked our house. This time they arrested us both.
On the evening I was supposed to wear my wedding dress, I found myself in an isolation cell, dressed as a prisoner, while my husband was in a similar situation in another wing nearby.
Ultimately, we were both sentenced to six years in prison.
We continued our activism despite being denied the right to education, employment opportunities and being subject to travel bans.
However, the accumulated pressure and the reopening of cases with charges such as espionage, which carry the possibility of a death sentence, left us no choice but to leave the country we love so much.

We managed to escape from Iran in the dark of night, through mountainous terrain and on foot, while being constantly shot at by Iranian border guards.
At that moment, I promised myself that I would fight wholeheartedly for freedom and democracy in my country and return to a free Iran, of the mullahs.
Although the Islamic Republic has detained my father for 633 days, subjecting me and my family to mental torment without knowing what has become of him for days and months, I am here today to tell the Islamic Republic that my struggle is not over. I am here today to tell the Islamic Republic that my fight is not over. You are now facing a woman who defies you and who will not let your torture and crimes stop her.

Moreover, today, as a member of the Iranian diaspora, I feel a heavier duty on my shoulders, and I know that I must be the voice of my compatriots, the voice of a people who, subjected to the greatest pressure, have become more determined than ever over the past year and have nothing more to say to the Islamic Republic except one word: “No”.
The Islamic Republic’s crimes are so numerous that it would take days, months or even years to describe them in detail.

But I have a request to make to you, and to all the freedom-loving peoples of the world who are listening to what I have to say.
Instead of expressing superficial sympathy and issuing condemnations from your governments and parliaments, I urge you to withdraw all forms of financial and moral support, as well as all commercial and political cooperation, with the regime in Tehran. Put the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) on the list of terrorist organisations and understand that the future Iranian government, after overthrowing the mullahs, will be the best friend of Germany and other democratic and free countries.
Throughout history, dictators have always been consigned to ruin, and the people have always emerged victorious. Stand on the right side of history, alongside the victorious people of Iran.
Listen to our voice. This voice represents the most progressive and democratic revolution in the Middle East.

I would like to dedicate the remaining time to a woman who is one of my heroes. A courageous woman who took to the streets for freedom and was shot in the eye. She is one of at least 500 people who have lost their eyesight as a result of the systematic and deliberate firing of bullets into their eyes by the repressive forces, and she has become one of the living witnesses to this crime.
Her name is Mersedeh Shahinkar.