Mersedeh Shahinkar, Sakharov Prize winner: “Losing my eye made me more determined. The struggle of the Iranian people will continue to the end » | International

Mersedeh Shahinkar was with her mother at a protest in Tehran in October last year, when she was struck by the brutality of the Iranian regime. Like thousands of women, she attended one of the demonstrations sparked by the death of Masha Amini, the young Iranian who died in police custody for wearing the Islamic veil incorrectly. While he was participating in the march, a security guard fired a projectile and gouged out his eye. Shahinkar’s bloodied face immediately went viral and her case had such an impact on social media that the government deemed her a “threat to the country’s security” and began harassing her. One afternoon, the police entered his house, searched all his belongings and left. After a few days, the regime agents returned with the same threatening behavior. After that, she took her 11-year-old daughter and left the country.

Today, he raises his voice from his exile to ask for Western support to defeat the Islamic Republic. This Tuesday, the European Parliament awarded the Sakharov Prize to Shahinkar and another activist, Afsoon Najafi, as representatives of the movement. Woman, life and liberty, appeared after the death of Amini, to whom the European Parliament also awarded this prize posthumously.

Ask. What do you think about receiving the EU’s highest human rights recognition?

Answer. When I started taking to the streets to protest against the regime, I didn’t imagine that one day I would end up in France to receive the Sakharov Prize. This award makes me feel good, but it is also an indicator that the international community is attentive to what is happening in Iran, to the repression of the theocracy against its people, and this gives us even more determination to continue our path towards one day having a bright future.

Q. After losing your eye, did you ever think that you should not have participated in the protests?

A. Never. There is a symbol of honor on my face and it is my eye. It’s an honor to have him. That day, I fought for the future of my people, of the nation, for the freedom of my country. If I look back, I would do the exact same thing. I would go to the streets and join the protests. After the operations, with my eyes protected, I continued to go out. I never stopped until I left the country.

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Q. Do you think the regime can intensify its violence after awarding an award recognizing Iranian women’s struggle against the system?

A. Iran is repressing its people more than ever, even though in reality they are destroying themselves. It is obvious that this type of international awards will make them angry and they will continue to attack the innocent population, but the struggle of the Iranian people will continue to the end. The authorities thought that after losing my eye, they would lock me in the house, silent. But my reaction was the opposite because what happened to me made me more determined and stronger to continue on my path.

Q. Do you think that the EU, in addition to giving you an award, can help the Iranian people in one way or another?

A. The awards are very important and we appreciate them being given to us. But obviously this is not enough. Specific measures should be taken against the Islamic Republic, such as designating the Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) as a terrorist organization and never again granting them visas to enter the EU. Their children live freely abroad, while the people suffer the repression of a dictatorship. These children of revolutionary forces should not be able to attend the best foreign universities. They should return to Iran and live under the regime led by their parents. The EU should also not invite the Iranian government to international conferences. We must stop them from having a voice.

Q. The Islamic Republic remains intact in power after the largest protests since 1979. What must happen for this regime to be toppled?

A. We live under a system that has learned the worst repressive techniques from other dictatorships. Iran executed at least eight men in connection with the movement Woman, life and freedom. We are fed up, but we choose to fight against the Islamist regime that has been killing us for 44 years because we have the hope of one day living with rights. Today we need external support. I repeat: the EU must designate the IRGC as a terrorist group and prevent the sale of the weapons with which they are killing us. We Iranians were very disappointed when we found that the EU did not approve this request.

Q. What rights are important to you?

A. There are things that are not significant for the West because the population has always had them. But for someone like me, who is not used to freedom, I can feel it here in a tangible way. For example, I can choose what to wear in the street, I can choose if I want to laugh out loud. In a dictatorial regime, you are not allowed to laugh out loud or have fun with your friends. You can’t even ride a bike. Here in Europe I can do it. That’s the difference.

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