Shiva Nazarahari, imprisoned member of Committee of Human Rights Reporters, was nominated by Reporters Without Borders for the 2013 Netizen of the Year, which has been awarded on March 12th every year to commemorate World Day Against Cyber-Censorship. Since 2008, this prize has been awarded to journalists, bloggers and other netizens for their distinguished contribution to the advancement of freedom of expression on the Internet. Shiva Nazar Ahari is one of 9 netizens worldwide who has been nominated for this award in 2013.
Shiva Nazarahari is a human rights activist, blogger, journalist, women’s rights activist and member of Committee of Human Rights Reporters, the One Million Signature Campaign, Right to Education Campaign, and Society for Defending Street and Working Children.
Shiva was born on June 10, 1984 and attended Islamic Azad University with a B.A. in Civil Engineering. A determined advocate for the rights of child laborers and women’s rights, Shiva was prevented from attending graduate school for her M.A. after receiving her engineering license because she received a “star” from the regime for her humans rights work.
Shiva has been arrested several times because of her commitment to human rights and online reporting. She was first arrested at the young age of 18 on September 11, 2002 after she had lit candles across Tehran University with others to commemorate the victims of the 9/11 attacks. She was held in Evin prison’s Ward 240 and endured 40 days of solitary confinement before being released on bail.
Shiva was arrested again on August 17, 2004 while she was taking part in a peaceful protest in front on the United Nations office in Tehran. The protest was to bring attention to the plight of political prisoners and the group was distributing pamphlets regarding prison conditions. Shiva was released on bail after enduring 20 days behind bars in Evin prison’s ward 209 controlled by the Ministry of Intelligence and she was later sentenced to one year in prison.
With a passion for the welfare of minors, Shiva began her volunteer work with children’s rights years ago. She stood up for the rights of child laborers and was a soldier for immigrant children mostly from Afghanistan, who were abused and forgotten. Working in a hostile climate, she and her friends managed to keep the Society for Defending Working and Street Children open even after the country’s security apparatus shut it down.
On June 14, 2009, days after the contested presidential election results, Shiva was arrested again. She spent 36 days in solitary confinement in Evin’s ward 209 before being transferred to the general ward. She was released on bail on September 24th. While in prison, Shiva befriended Atefeh Nabavi, another student-activist who had taken part in demonstrations. After Shiva was released she characteristically organized a campaign for the release of her friends despite the dangers it posed to herself.
On December 20, 2009, Shiva was arrested again while she was on a bus with other activists intending to attend the funeral of the late dissident cleric Ayatollah Montazeri. Kouhyar Goudarzi, Mahboubeh Abbasgholizadeh and Saeed Haeri were also among the arrested. Shiva immediately launched a dry hunger strike to protest her incarceration and was transferred to the infirmary at Evin prison due to her deteriorating health. She endured 2 months of solitary confinement and was released on bail after 9 months of detention in September 2010.
She was later handed a 4-year prison sentence and 74 lashes on the charges of “moharebeh” (enmity with God), “propaganda against the regime,” and “illegal gathering with the intent of disturbing national security.” On September 8, 2012 Shiva turned herself in at Evin prison where she is now serving her prison term.
Despite her many arrests and ceaseless harassment, Shiva never backed down from her conviction in standing up for human rights and her belief that no one should be discriminated against based on gender, ethnicity, religion or social class. She is a founding member of Committee of Human Rights Reporters formed in 2005 and later served as the group’s spokesperson. The organization was formed with the purpose of improving the human rights situation in Iran with a commitment to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The group seeks to through online reporting, inform the public of abuses and violations while demanding that human rights be granted in all aspects of daily life.
Today three members of CHRR – Shiva Nazar Ahari, Saeed Jalalifar, Saeed Haeri, and one former member of the group, Navid Khanjani, are serving prison terms. The former head of the group, twice-imprisoned Kouhyar Goudarzi was handed a 5-year prison sentence in exile.
In a letter to another prisoner Shiva who has been at the forefront of the struggle for justice in a democratic Iran, described her compassion and yearning for the good of all her fellow beings. “When your heart trembles for the rights of another human, that is when you begin to slip; that is when the interrogations begin. When your heart trembles for another prisoner, a woman, a child laborer – that is when you become the accused. When you find faith in people and believe in humanity and nothing else, that is when you commit your first crime.”
On March 11, 2011, Shiva Nazarahari was awarded the Theodor Haecker prize for “courageous internet reporting on human rights violations”. The prize is named after Theodor Haecker, a philosopher, writer and anti-Nazi cultural critic. At age 28, Shiva Nazar Ahari is serving her 5-year prison sentence stemming from her human rights efforts, online journalism, and standing up for the rights of women, the under privileged, minorities and children.
Shiva Nazarahari is nominated for the 2013 Netizen award, which will be cast by the Internet public for the first time this year. Internet users can vote until March 5 on the RSF YouTube channel. The winner will be announced on March 7.