Statement by Ahmad Zeidabadi, laureate of the 2011 UNESCO/Guillermo Cano World Press Freedom Prize
I would like to greet the honourable Director General of UNESCO, as well as the members of the Prize Jury for their efforts and for the honour they have bestowed upon me with the award of the UNESCO/Guillermo Cano World Press Freedom Prize.
I feel sad and apologetic for not being able to draft a message worthy of the occasion and your gathering. As you may be aware, the Revolutionary Court in addition to sentencing me to six years' imprisonment, five years of exile and a lifetime ban on political, social and journalistic activity has also banned me forever from any writing and speaking. Therefore, any message by me would add to my suffering and that of my family.
Despite that restriction, I would like to make it clear that in the performance of my profession, I had no means but my pen and my speech and that in using those means, I never went beyond the narrow and limited confines of the Iranian government's laws and regulations. But, in violation of their own laws and regulations, they have imposed pain and suffering beyond my endurance -- pain and suffering resembling those of a person who is crucified for weeks or buried alive.
While in prison, I constantly strive to forgive, but I cannot forget.
Finally, in accepting this Prize which is in reality a recognition of all prisoners of opinion in my country and my imprisoned or exiled colleagues, I dedicate it to my family and in particular to my wife and children. In addition to the psychological pains of these two years, they have for the past ten years had to live with the dread of an expected "knock on the door." With every unexpected knock on the door, their fragile and innocent hearts were agitated.
I also dedicate this Prize to the mother of Sohrab Arabi* and all other heartbroken mothers whose sons never returned home. I dedicate it to all tearful mothers, sisters, daughters and the children who live with the pain of having their loved ones in prison.
For remembering us, God will remember and reward you.
* On 12 July 2009, Iran's authorities informed the family of 19-year-old Sohrab Arabi that he had died of gunshot wounds to his heart -- 26 days after he had disappeared during a demonstration on 15 June. His mother, a member of the Mothers for Peace organization, had made numerous attempts to ascertain his whereabouts. The family was finally summoned to identify Sohrab among several photographs of bodies. Family members said it transpired that his body had arrived at the coroner's office five days after he first disappeared. It is still unclear if he died in detention or during the demonstration. The delay in releasing the information on his unexplained death raised questions about the fates of dozens of others who had disappeared then. The case accordingly became a cause célèbre.