This year’s Olof Palme Prize has been awarded to an Iranian woman, Parvin Ardalan, a Tehran-based journalist and women’s rights activist. The prestigious Palme prize is named for a former Swedish Prime Minister, and is awarded annually for “outstanding achievement” in the service of humanitarian goals. Past winners include former Czech dissident Vaclav Havel and Burmese pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi.
In a written announcement, the prize committee said that Ms. Ardalan was being honored for “making the demand for equal rights for men and women a central part of the struggle for democracy. . . .Despite persecution, threats, and harassment, Parvin Ardalan has been persistent in her struggle and never compromised her ideals.”
As a journalist, Ms. Ardalan contributes to many publications in Iran, often writing about the issues confronting women in a country where the law discriminates against them, particularly in the areas of marriage, child custody and inheritance. She is also an active member of the “One Million Signatures Campaign”, a peaceful petition drive aimed at changing Iran’s discriminatory laws.
The announcement that Ms. Ardalan was selected as the Palme Prize winner comes at a time when the Iranian government is continuing a crackdown against women’s rights activists. Since the One Million Signatures Campaign started in 2006, and women began celebrating international Women’s Day with peaceful protests, over forty women’s rights activists have been arrested in Iran. Some were charged and given suspended sentences; others are awaiting charges. On February 14th, two more were arrested. Raheleh Asgarzadeh and Nasim Khosravi were detained in a Tehran park while collecting signatures. Like many of the other activists detained, they were accused of spreading propaganda against the Iranian government.
Women like Parvin Ardalan and others are courageously and peacefully working for equal rights in law and practice in Iran. State Department spokesman Sean McCormack says, “The U.S. stands with the women of Iran, who courageously struggle for their universal rights and justice in their country.”