Peace Line Monthly – Shadi Sadr, lawyer, is the Founder and an Executive Director of Justice for Iran (JFI). Ms. Sadr who serves as legal attorney and is a member of Volunteer Lawyers Network, has won at least 6 prestigious awards for her Human Rights activism.
On the 10th anniversary of the Human Rights Activists in Iran (HRAI), we have asked Ms. Sadr about the structural differences that leads to a perpetual existence of human rights organization and its continuous activism. Ms. Sadr by noting that the 10-years survival in the scope of Human Rights regardless of all its ups and downs, is the most important achievement of HRAI, she tells Peace Line Monthly: “The organizations and groups which could possibly survive in this field are the ones that the field is not only their job but it’s a part of their lives.”
– How do you describe HRAI and if it was possible to highlight a positive attribute of the performance of this group, what would it be in your opinion?
– In describing HRAI after 10 years of activism I have to say, in particular your news agency (HRANA) is an established news agency in the field of Human Rights and it is one of the main sources of news in this field; on one hand 10 years of experience and permanence and on the other hand the volume, range and diversity of the news you reflect on daily basis, makes it easy to say we don’t have an example like HRANA; and well, I think that HRAI is tied to HRANA and are somewhat considered as one, in fact we don’t see HRAI separately from HRANA, at least not now and not at this point.
The most important attribute of the organization is its permanence. The 10-years survival in the scope of Human Rights regardless of all the ups and downs is the most important achievement of this organization; we are aware of some of these ups and downs and don’t know about some. Despite all the hardships and difficulties that there have been and there will be, this organization has survived and has continued its main focus which is delivering Human Rights News.
– As you mentioned, for HRAI and overall for the civic society and for any group or organization which is defending human rights in Iran there are many ups and downs and difficulties; this results in many of these groups and organisations not to be able to survive for long. With that being said; what do you think is the structural differences that leads to a perpetual existence of a human rights organization and its continued activism? In this regard, what difference could you mention specifically about HRAI?
– As an outsider I wouldn’t know the exact reason for this survival and permanence. It’s just like an orchard where the trees give great fruits, but I’m not the gardener; I can only see and enjoy the fruits and comment on how tasty and fresh they are; I wouldn’t know why the gardener has succeeded, what kind of soil, fertilizer, water or method of gardening he has used. This is an internal matter and obviously it’s the organization itself which knows the best answer to this question; how it has faced its problem, which difficulties it has overcome and which ones it has failed to overcome.
Having said that, if I was to judge from the outside, however I have never been in contact with all members of HRAI and I don’t know them all, but the few of them that I know, their most important attribute is that they are highly motivated to help others and to continue regardless of all the difficulties, and in my opinion this is more important than anything else; people who have this amount of motivation and commitment to even sacrifices their own life style and sleep, in order to make the voice of victims of human right violations heard by the world and to do something about it.
Without people with this kind of motivations, perhaps no organization could survive. As I mentioned before, this is a very important issue and it’s becoming even more important especially in the scope of human rights and exclusively human rights in Iran. There might be many objections theoretically to this, but practically I have seen the groups and organizations whose core members have not personally experienced serious violations of human rights in Islamic Republic of Iran (IRI), they either have faded or not survived or even left this field. The reason being human rights activism in Iran is not a field one could enter for business purposes; many would enter this field as a business, but they can’t survive as a business in this field. Usually those who have personally experienced human rights violations in Iran and the human rights violations is their personal concern would stay, in other words they are fade up with the human rights violations and want to make the world a better place for those in similar situations. In fact the motivation that I talked about in most cases (of course there are exceptions and we can’t formulate this) and according to my observation of Iranian human rights groups and organizations over the past years especially the years I have been outside of the country, is that the groups and organizations which have been successful and have had a continuous and lasting impact are the ones that Human rights activism is not only their job but it’s a part of their lives. To be this way, people have to have personal concern and personal experience of violations of human rights, and as I mentioned before because of their personal experiences of their rights violations they will stand next to the victims of human rights violations and would not only look at the issues from a higher angel as an expert of human rights.
This is true about the people I know from HRAI, however because I don’t know all the members I can’t base my judgment on all of them.
– Is there anything you would like to tell the members and colleague who have been with HRAI in the past decade?
– First of all, I want to congratulate you all for surviving 10 years in human rights activism; because it’s not easy and we all know retaining a collective work especially in this difficult field is more difficult than starting and forming a new group.
Considering my journalism background let me give a general advice; because I know the news and the importance of fast coverage. It is very important point out that when working at a news station or newspaper, the news need to quickly reach the audience. Hereon, having that in mind, this is human rights activism and it has to do with people’s lives, in my opinion when we are working as human rights activists, unlike journalists we have to always keep in mind speed and accuracy don’t weight the same, accuracy is more important because we are working with people’s lives.
– Thank you for sharing your time with Peace Mark Monthly.