NICK ARMER WRITES -The Geneva Summit for Human Rights and Democracy announced that the 2015 Women’s Rights Award would be given to Iranian journalist Masih Alinejad. Yet, this victory has not come without severe backlash from Iranian authorities.

On February 24, Alinejad was presented with the award in a public ceremony before a crowd of UN delegates, human rights activists, and journalists.  The 20 NGOs that make up the Geneva Summit wished to honor Alinejad “for giving a voice to the voiceless and stirring the conscience of humanity to support the struggle of Iranian women for basic human rights, freedom and equality.”

The Iranian government has retaliated with a massive smear campaign including billboards and news stories aimed at destroying the reputation of Alinejad.  This is not the first time she has been at odds with ruling powers. In 2005, Alinejad exposed parliamentary corruption and was expelled from the legislature as a result.

Alinejad earned the attention of the public and the disdain of Iranian authorities when she created a Facebook page that allowed Iranian women to upload photos of themselves without the legally-required headscarf, the hijab. The Facebook page is titled “My Stealthy Freedom” and has garnered more than 760,000 likes. In her speech before the Summit, Alinejad pronounced that “my hair was like a hostage in the hands of [the] Iranian government.”

The conference will host many other activists and former political prisoners from Iran, China, and Russia who wish to influence foreign diplomats that are currently gathering across the street for the annual UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC). The testimony of those who have suffered imprisonment and torture first-hand aims to remind the UNHRC delegates to put human rights before politics.