Human Rights Watch's Alison Des Forges Award celebrates the valor of individuals who put their lives on the line to protect the dignity and rights of others. Human Rights Watch collaborates with these courageous activists to create a world in which people live free of violence, discrimination, and oppression.
Sussan Tahmasebi raises public awareness about how discriminatory laws violate the human rights of women in Iran. Tahmasebi is a founding member of the One Million Signatures Campaign, a grassroots effort which promotes broad awareness on women’s rights and collects signatures of Iranians who support an end to gender-biased laws.
She has played a key role in strengthening the capacity of Iranian civil society to effect positive change, including by co-founding the Iran Civil Society Training and Research Center (ICTRC), which did innovative work before it was shut down by security forces in March 2007. Prior to her work in Iran, Tahmasebi worked in the United States to improve access to reproductive and health services for underserved communities.
Tahmasebi has conducted training sessions on leadership and peace-building, developed training materials on women’s and children’s rights, and continues to promote collaboration between Iranian women’s groups and their international counterparts.
In March 2007, Tahmasebi was arrested for organizing a protest in support of women’s rights. She was charged with spreading propaganda against the state, among other things, and sentenced to two years in prison. She appealed the ruling and was freed on bail. The appeals court has not yet ruled on the case. She also has faced other forms of harassment by Iranian authorities, including interrogation by security forces and several travel bans.
Human Rights Watch honors Sussan Tahmasebi for her fearless commitment to promoting civil society and bringing national prominence to women’s rights issues in Iran.