Tuesday, November 25, 2003
On Tuesday, November 25, 2003, under the patronage of Poland's Ambassador to the U.S., Przemyslaw Grudzinki, the Foundation for Moral Courage, founded by Sy Rotter in 1992 to honor acts of courage in public life, is presenting, in cooperation with Amnesty International, its annual Jan Karski Award to two prominent Iranian civil rights proponents, currently imprisoned, at a dinner ceremony at the Polish Embassy in Washington, DC.
This year's recipients in absentia are Professor Hashem Aghajari, who, for his support of civil rights and the separation of church and state, remains in prison, originally under a death sentence that was only lifted after massive student protests; and Abbas AmirEntezam, the longest-serving prisoner of conscience in Iran, who has rejected settlement offers in favor of a fair public trial, and called for an internationally supervised referendum allowing Iranians to choose between a theocracy and a secular regime.
Jan Karski had already been a rising young diplomat when he enlisted in the Polish cavalry and fought during the 1939 invasion by German and Soviet troops, escaped from a Soviet detention camp, joined the underground, was captured and tortured by the Gestapo and rescued, and then took the extraordinary risks of visiting not only the Warsaw Ghetto but also - disguised as a Ukrainian guard - a Nazi death camp, so that he could see with his own eyes what he was then sent to convey to Churchill and Roosevelt: the fact that the Nazis were exterminating the Jews. His reports were ultimately dismissed as unbelievable. For a compelling article written by Michael Kaufman for the New York Times on the occasion of Karski's death at 86 in 2000, visit http://www.holocaustforgotten.com/karski.html
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