September 5, 2015 — CRNI’s Courage in Editorial Cartooning award was presented, in absentia, to Atena Farghadani at a gathering of the Association of American Editorial Cartoonists in Columbus, Ohio. Ms. Farghadani is presently in prison in Iran, facing a 12 year 9 month sentence for posting a cartoon on her Facebook page. Washington Post cartoonist and animator Ann Telnaes accepted the award on Ms. Farghadani’s behalf.
From Ann Telnaes’ speech on behalf of Atena Farghadani
“Atena Farghadani was first arrested in August of 2014. She was arrested for this cartoon ridiculing members of the Iranian parliament over a law restricting birth control which would set women’s rights in Iran back decades. She was speaking out for the women of Iran.
“She was imprisoned but she still had such strength of spirit. While she was in prison, she took paper cups . . . and she drew on them. As you can see, she was still trying to make a statement, to show the world she was there.
“She was released on bail in December of 2014, but she didn’t stay silent. I think that most people would have just basically gone home and kept low for a while. She posted that video that you just watched on YouTube, and she talked about the treatment she had just suffered in prison. She was beaten. She was interrogated nine hours at a time. She was subjected to surveillance cameras mounted in the shower, where male guards would watch the women prisoners.
“Because of that video you just saw, Atena was rearrested in January of this year. She was brought to trial in front of the same judge as from her first trial, Judge Salavati. Judge Salavati has close ties with the intelligence arm of the Revolutionary Guard and is known for harsh sentences. He is the same judge who is presiding over the Washington Post reporter Jason Rezaian’s trial.
“Atena was sentenced to 12 years, 9 months. She’s awaiting appeal but no trial date has been set. Cartoonists from around the world in solidarity have created cartoons exposing the treatment of Atena. The response has really been amazing.
“You know, I think that we talk a lot about courage in our business, and we like to think that we would have the courage to stand for our principals regardless of what happens to our personal safety. I don’t know if I could do what she has done. After the first arrest, I don’t know if I would have been able to do that video. I think it’s quite amazing, actually, what this young woman has done . . .
“So, on behalf of Atena Farghadani, I accept the Cartoonist Rights Network International Courage in Cartooning award. Thank you.”
At the end of the award ceremony, CRNI founder Robert Russell asked everyone in the audience to sign an open letter to the Supreme Leader of the Islamic Republic of Iran, Ayatollah Sayyid Ali Khamenei, and to Iran’s President, Hassan Rouhani. The letter petitions their good offices to ensure that Atena Farghadani will be granted a pardon and released from prison.