French Iranian author wins top Spanish prize for graphic novel

Barcelona, Spain — French Iranian artist Marjane Satrapi, whose graphic novel “Persepolis” tells the story of a girl growing up in post-revolutionary Iran, was awarded Spain’s prestigious Princess of Asturias Prize for Communication and Humanity on Tuesday. 

The prize jury praised the 54-year-old as “one of the most prominent names in international comics, author of what is, for many, one of the best graphic novels ever published.” 

“Satrapi is a symbol of civic engagement led by women,” the jury said, calling her “an essential voice in the defense of human rights and freedom.” 

Born in Iran, Satrapi recounts in “Persepolis” her years as an outspoken teenager chafing at the Islamic revolution and its restrictions imposed on women, especially for one from a progressive family like hers. It also tells of the hardships of the Iran-Iraq war. 

At 14, her parents sent her to school in Vienna to avoid arrest over her defiance of the regime. She later returned to Tehran but left for France in 1994, embarking on her career as an author, film director and painter. 

Her animated film adaptation of “Persepolis” won her a nomination at the Academy Awards in 2008. 

Satrapi said it was “a great honor” to win the Spanish prize, which she dedicated to rapper Toomaj Saleh, who was sentenced to death last week in Iran. 

The verdict was seen by activists as retaliation for his music backing nationwide protests that erupted in 2022 following the death in police custody of the young Kurdish woman Mahsa Amini. 

“I take this opportunity to celebrate the fierce fight of my people for human rights and freedom. Today it is all the young people who lost their lives and the ones who continue the combat for liberty in Iran that are celebrated,” she said in a statement. 

Amini had been detained over an alleged breach of the Islamic republic’s strict dress rules for women. The months of unrest following her death on September 16, 2022, saw hundreds of people killed, including dozens of security personnel, and thousands more arrested. 

Satrapi last year coordinated the graphic novel “Woman, Life, Freedom” with a group of artists that illustrated the revolts. 

The 50,000-euro ($54,000) award is one of eight Asturias prizes covering the arts, science and other areas handed out yearly by a foundation named for Spanish Crown Princess Leonor. 

The awards will be handed out at a ceremony hosted by Spain’s King Felipe VI in October. 

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