Saturday, November 28, 2009

Only One Regime Matches Iran’s for Vindictiveness

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The Times

Since 1901 the Nobel Peace Prize has been awarded 90 times to 120 laureates but Iran holds the unique distinction of being the only regime to confiscate a winner’s medal. Aung San Sui Kyi, the Burmese opposition leader, was unable to collect her prize in 1991 because she was under house arrest. The Soviet authorities refused to let Andrei Sakharov, the dissident nuclear physicist, collect his prize in 1975. Lech Walesa, the Polish trade union leader, declined to collect his in 1983, fearing that his country’s communist rulers would not let him return.

The only regime that matches Iran’s for sheer vindictiveness was that of Adolf Hitler. The Nobel Foundation infuriated the Führer in 1935 by awarding the prize to Carl von Ossietzky, a German writer locked in a concentration camp. Hitler responded by banning German citizens from accepting any further Nobel prizes.

His decree prevented three Germans from accepting the prize: Gerhard Domagk, winner of the 1939 Nobel Prize for Physiology, Richard Kuhn, winner of the 1938 Nobel Prize for Chemistry, and Adolf Butenandt, winner of the 1939 Nobel Prize for Chemistry. It is not hard to see why the Nobel prize should be anathema to Iran’s savage rulers. Alfred Nobel stipulated that it should be awarded to the person who had done the “most or the best work for fraternity between nations, for the abolition or reduction of standing armies and for the holding and promotion of peace congresses”. Hardly their priorities.