“Iran is a country where violations of women’s rights are systemic…On this day, I am thinking about the years that have passed. The years of our silence and captivity; years of protest, bondage and the walls behind which we are trapped. However, I also am thinking about this year — a year of tragedy and illness for Iranian people. It’s the consequence of hostility and enmity coming back around to us. I keep looking back and reviewing the path we’ve taken. Where did we go wrong? Why didn’t we succeed? Why couldn’t our government govern properly? Why didn’t we know how to resist effectively and peacefully? As a deadly virus sickens my country, I throw my hands down and as a citizen, in a gentle voice, I ask the government to end their animosity with the world, to look at the world through the eyes of peace and to trust life and human beings. I ask human right activists to help us in our peaceful endeavor. I specifically extend my hand to American citizens. Our governments have been rivals for years, with little regards for us. On this day of March 8, I also ask every Iranian around the world to help us in our pursuit of peace, this fundamental aspect of survival.”
— Nasrin Sotoudeh, from Evin Prision
What do human rights look like under a dictatorship?
What happens to those who advocate for human rights under authoritarian regimes?
Can human rights exist when the people are not free?
Iranian Human Rights Lawyer Nasrin Sotoudeh is a human rights advocate and defender, women’s rights champion, and symbol of hope against tyranny. Currently, Soutoudeh sits in Evin Prison, Iran’s most notorious prison. According to Haleh Esfandiari, Sotoudeh is “not only the pride of Iran, but she is the moral voice of Iran. Imprisoned since March of 2019 on an array of charges, including the following: “propaganda against the state, advocating against the death sentence, membership in a human rights organization, appearing in public without the hijab, disturbing public order,” and “encouraging corruption and prostitution.” Let these charges haunt you, and fully grasp the danger in the aforementioned being classified as crimes.”
PROPAGANDA AGAINST THE STATE
Now, let’s unpack “propaganda against the state” charge. Hundreds of human rights lawyers and activists are forcibly taken to Iranian prisons because they spoke negatively about the government. The broadness of this charge results in a wide variety of individuals being sentenced on the basis of propaganda against the state. For example, on June 30, 2020, seven Christians were sentenced to death because former Muslims converted to Christianity. Converting to a different faith and bringing light to the cruel and inhumane treatment of prisoners all fall under a single charge. In turn, this makes it easy to charge anyone who criticizes the government at any capacity.
Take the case of Sohail Arabi, who was imprisoned for speaking out against the inhumane conditions faced by prisoners in Iranian prisons. In fact, Arabi’s mother, Farangis Mazloum was also arrested by the Iranian government because she released a video detailing the harassment, assault, and repeated harassment in said prisons.
APPERARING IN PUBLIC WITHOUT THE HIJAB AND ENCOURAGING PROSTITUTION
Sotoudeh was charged with encouraging prostitution because of her defending women who peacefully protested in the hijab. In Iran, it is mandatory for all women to wear a headscarf in public. According to Amnesty International, “the punishment for being seen in public without a headscarf includes arrest, a prison sentence, flogging or a fine.” Iran’s population of forty million women and girls live under the constant surveillance of the so-called Morality Police. They harass women on the street, examining and degrading women and girls because of their clothing and appearance.
As of 2019, Sotoudeh was sentenced to one hundred and forty lashes and a total of thirty-eight years. After an unfair trial, she was sentenced in absentia, as an act of resistance because she could only pick a lawyer from a list provided by the Iranian judiciary. As COVID-19 spreads across Iran as one of the world’s epicenters, they also infect those in inhumane Iranian prisons. She tested positive for COVID-19, has developed a heart condition and has been on a hunger strike since August 2020.
This is how Iran treats its human rights activists.
Solidarity to the Iranian people in their pursuit of a free world.
FREE NASRIN SOTOUDEH