Volume 74, Number 27 | November 10 - 16, 2004

Honoring women in human rights

At Human Rights First’s Human Rights Award Dinner at Pier 60 at Chelsea Piers on Oct. 28, the honorees were Mehrangiz Kar, left, and Helen Mack, right, seen above with Michael Posner, Human Rights First’s executive director. Kar, a lawyer and writer, was sentenced to four years in prison in Iran for advocating change in that country at an academic conference in Berlin in 2000 attended by many of Iran’s leading reformists. Kar was finally allowed to leave Iran for urgent medical treatment while her case was under appeal. The case remains open and she could face imprisonment if she returns home. After her departure from Iran, her husband, Siamak Pourzand, was arrested for his own writing and, it is thought, as punishment for Kar’s continuing calls for reform. Pourzand is extremely ill and in a hospital while serving an 11-year prison term. Mack has led the fight for justice for her sister, Guatemalan anthropologist Myrna Mack, who was assassinated — stabbed more than 25 times — in 1990 for exposing the murder of the country’s indigenous peoples by state forces. Despite death threats and intimidation of judges and witnesses, Mack won the conviction of a low-ranking official for her sister’s murder. But Mack believed responsibility went higher, and in 2003 a colonel was found guilty of ordering Myrna Mack’s killing. The highest-ranking Guatemalan officer ever to be convicted, he fled; his whereabouts remain unknown.

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