The Martin Ennals Award 2009 goes again to a Human Rights Defender from Iran
Today the Jury of the Martin Ennals Award for Human Rights Defenders (MEA) announces as the 2009 Laureate.
Emad Baghi, a leading Iranian human rights defender based in Tehran. He founded the Society for the Defense of Prisoners’ Rights, and has been a vigorous and outspoken opponent of the death penalty in Iran. His campaigning includes a scholarly examination of Islamic law (shari`a) on the subject, in which he demonstrates the absence of any doctrinal requirement for maintaining capital punishment. In addition, Baghi’s inventory of death row prisoners in Iran, including juvenile offenders, has been an important resource for UN human rights bodies as well as human rights groups outside the country. Baghi has spent four years in prison over the past decade for his campaigning against the death penalty and other rights activities. Currently out of jail, he still faces charges relating to his work for the defense of prisoners rights. Baghi suffers from serious heart and kidney ailments; in August 2008 prison physicians declared his condition critical.
The Chairman of the Jury of the MEA, Hans Thoolen, describes the laureate as “an exceptionally brave man defending human rights despite imprisonment and poor health”.
The Ceremony of the Martin Ennals Award will take place in Geneva in November 2009.
MEA: the main award of the human rights movement. The Martin Ennals Award for Human Rights Defenders (MEA) is a unique collaboration among ten of the world’s leading human rights organizations to give protection to human rights defenders worldwide. The Jury is composed of the following NGOs: Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, Human Rights First, International Federation for Human Rights, World Organisation Against Torture, Front Line, International Commission of Jurists, German Diakonie, International Service for Human Rights and HURIDOCS.
Previous laureates : Mutabar Tadjibaeva, Uzbekistan (2008); Pierre Claver Mbonimpa, Burundi and Rajan Hoole-Kopalasingham Sritharan, Sri Lanka; Akbar Ganji, Iran and Arnold Tsunga, Zimbabwe; Aktham Naisse, Syria; Lida Yusupova, Russia; Alirio Uribe Muñoz, Colombia; Jacqueline Moudeina, Chad; Peace Brigades International; Immaculée Birhaheka, DR Congo; Natasha Kandic, Yugoslavia; Eyad El Sarraj, Palestine; Samuel Ruiz, Mexico; Clement Nwankwo, Nigeria; Asma Jahangir, Pakistan; Harry Wu, China.
Emadeddin Baghi is a human rights defender, a theologian, a writer and journalist, based in Tehran, who has been involved in peaceful efforts to improve the human rights situation in Iran since the 1980s. He is the founder and President of the Society for the Defense of Prisoners’ Rights, member of the Central Council of the Society for Defending Press Freedom, and board member of the Pacifist Association. He has been a vigorous and outspoken opponent of the death penalty in Iran. His campaigning to abolish the use of the death penalty includes a scholarly examination of Islamic law (shari`a) on the subject, in which he demonstrates the absence of any doctrinal requirement for maintaining capital punishment. In addition, Baghi has been collecting information about all executions since the Islamic Revolution in 1979 (more than 10,000 by Baghi’s estimate, including juvenile offenders). This inventory has been an important resource for UN human rights bodies as well as the whole human rights movement. He has published numerous articles and books about a variety of topics, including: democratic interpretations of Islam, the killing of dissident intellectuals in the late 1990s, the death penalty and executions.
Emadeddin Baghi (born in 1962) began his social and political activism in the late 1970s. After the revolution, he studied theology in Qom and sociology in Tehran. He started his journalistic career in 1983 by writing for various newspapers and magazines, including reformist newspapers in the late 1990s. Baghi was chief editor of the Fath newspaper. In 2005 he created the newspaper Jomhuriyat with sections on human rights, trade unions and civil society, but it is currently banned. He also published some 20 books (of which 6 are currently banned – see Annex).
Baghi has spent several years in prison over the past decade for his campaigning against the death penalty and other human rights activities (in 2000 Baghi was sentenced to 7,5 years imprisonment for blasphemy, but was released in 2003). His latest arrest and conviction were in 2007. Currently out of jail, he still faces charges relating to his work. Baghi suffers from serious heart and kidney ailments; in August 2008 prison physicians declared his condition critical. In his journalistic, NGO and other human rights work, Baghi and his family have had to cope with serious and serial harassment in the form of an extraordinary number of interventions from the police and the judiciary. Since 1995, Mr. Baghi has been ordered to appear in court or summoned to the intelligence ministry 55 times. If one adds the two interrogations while he was in solitary confinement and the 9 interrogations in 2000, the total is 66. If one adds the summons, interrogations and trials of Mr. Baghi’s spouse, daughters and son in law, the total rises to 78! (see: www.emadbaghi.com)
Baghi’s space to be seen and heard in Iran is becoming more and more limited, which is dramatic as his clinical and thorough assessment of Islamic precepts and how they can be used against the use of the death penalty are innovative and would greatly assist the human rights debate in the Muslim world.
Human rights defenders in Iran are recently under a lot of pressure. Even the 2003 Nobel Peace Prize winner, Shirin Ebadi, saw her NGO summarily closed in December 2008 and had her own offices ransacked on 1 January 2009. Emad Baghi received awards which he could not accept in person due to travel restrictions and imprisonment: the Civil Courage Prize of Northcote Parkinson Fund (2004), the human rights award from France (2005), and the British Press Award (2008).
On 20 May 2009 he became the laureate of the main prize of the international human right movement: the Martin Ennals Award for Human Rights Defenders. The question is whether he will finally be allowed to continue his work without harassment and to receive the award in person in Geneva in November 2009.
MEA, Geneva May 2009
1. Understanding Qaedin-e Zaman Party (1983). This is a historical work about Hojjatiyeh society. Baghi has completely re-written this book but has not been able to publish it. It was reprinted many times when it was originally published and sold more than 85,000 copies.
2. An Investigation of the Clergy (1985). This is a work about the history of the institution of clergy in Persia which has been banned and its new version has not been granted publication permit.
3. Analysis of the Persian Revolution (1991). This is historical work about Iran’s Islamic revolution that includes a short contemporary history. It was re-edited and republished in 2003. Tehran, Iran: Saraee’s publishing. ISNB: 964-7362-29-3
4. Oral History of the Islamic Revolution (1994). Tehran, Iran: Tafakkor’s publishing. An investigation of the history of Iran’s Islamic revolution as narrated by BBC and the foreign media.
5. Revolution and Survival of Existence (1997). An investigation of the occupation of the U.S. embassy in Tehran, along with documents associated with the action of students following the Imam line.
6. An Introduction to the Historiography of the Revolution (1991). Tehran, Iran: Mazamir publishing. ISBN: 646-6267-64-5. A roundtable with Emadeddin Baghi, Assadollah Badamchian, Hatam Qaderi, and Sadeq Zibakalam about methods and lessons of the historiography of the revolution.
7. Iran’s Student Movement (1997). A book about the history of the student movement in Iran from the beginning until the Islamic revolution. This book was re-edited and re-printed in 2000. Tehran, Iran: Iranian Society publishing. ISNB: 964-5925-03-7
8. The Contemporary History of Persia (1999). This book was written with two other people for instruction in the second year of high school. It was banned after a short period of instruction.
9. The Oppressors and the Oppressed (2000). Baghi’s memoirs about the events and years leading to the victory of the Islamic revolution.
10. Sociology of Imam Hussein’s Rebellion and People of Kufa (2000). A scientific and theoretical analysis of the Ashura rebellion and behaviour of the Iraqi people which has also been translated into Arabic in Lebanon.
11. Tragedy of Democracy in Iran in two volumes (1998-9). An event-oriented work about the serial murders in Iran which was unique in its time. The first volume is a collection of Baghi’s articles in the press. Both of these books are now banned. Tehran, Iran: Nay’s publishing. Volume I. ISNB: 964-312-490-8. Tehran, Iran: Nay’s publishing. Volume II. ISNB: 964-312-507-6.
12. For History (2000). Collection of articles about the Intelligence Ministry and attempted assassination of Saeed Hajjarian, including an interview with Hajjarian about the Intelligence Ministry and serial murders. Tehran, Iran: Nay’s publishing. ISNB: 964-312-500-9.
13. The Rights of Dissidents (2002). An analytical work which includes Baghi’s articles in the reformist press about freedom and rights of dissidents. Tehran, Iran: Saraee’s Publishing. ISNB: 964-7362-01-3.
14. The Spring of the Fourth Estate (2002). Collection of articles, speeches, and interviews by Baghi regarding the rights of the press and writers and also his experience as a writer and editor in the reformist press. Tehran, Iran: Saraee’s publishing. ISBN: 964-7362-22-6.
15. Place of Worship in Traditional and Modernity (2002). An encyclopaedic work about the sociology of religion which was edited and supervised by Baghi.
16. Capital Punishment and Retribution (2002). Baghi’s defense in the court regarding his article about capital punishment and retribution and religious views on the subject. The second volume of this book entails an analytical and juridical investigation of the subject but has not been granted publication permit by the Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance.
17. Contemporary Religious Discourses (2003). Collection of articles and talks about religion and challenges posed by transformations in religious thought. Tehran, Iran: Saraee’s publishing. ISNB: 964-7362-30-7
18. Birth of a Revolution (2003). A sociological analysis of how revolutions occur. Tehran, Iran: Saraee’s publishing. ISNB: 964-7362-29-7.
19. The Clergy and Power (2003). A sociological and religious discussion of the relationship between religion, politics, clergy, and government which has not been granted reprinting (3rd print) permission.
20. The American Judiciary (2003). Done in cooperation with Mohammad Hossein Baghi about the American criminal system. The book was translated and edited during Baghi’s prison sentence.
21. The Democratic Reform Movement in Iran (2004). Collection of articles about political reform in Iran which were published in the Iranian press between 1997 and 2004, examining concepts of reform and revolution. Tehran, Iran: Saraee’s publishing. ISNB: 964 -7362-31-5
22. The Khomeini Experience. Collection of articles about Ayatollah Khomeini.
23. Lessons about Human Rights. Historical and philosophical regarding the evolution of theories of human rights.
24. The Right to Life. A discussion of the possibility of banning capital punishment in Shari’a and Iranian laws as well as a report and analysis of capital punishment in Iran.
25. Secularism. A book about the relationship between religion and politics as well sacred and profane.
26. The Modern City. A book about urban life, impact of industrialization, growth and development of urban life on individuals and society.
27. Religion and Human Rights. Extensive discussion of areas of conflict between Islam and human rights as well as paths and views regarding their compatibility.
28. Execution of Minors in Iran. A discussion of the roots of as well as cultural and juridical solutions for the execution of children under 18 in Iran. The book also offers a report of the execution sentences handed out between 1997 and 2007.
The last 6 items (numbers 23 to 28) have not been granted permission to be published during Ahmadinejad’s presidency.
Articles in the Encyclopaedia of Shi’ism
Articles in the Great Islamic Encyclopaedia
Descriptive Research on Worldwide References to Ayatollah Khomeini
Analytical Biography of Ayatollah Khomeini
Iranian Contemporary History
Evaluative Surveys on Religion in Iranian Society