Iran: Update: Iran: Cartoonist and women’s rights defender Atena Farghadani freed

03.05.16

On World Press Freedom Day, celebrated internationally on 03 May 2016, the Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR) welcomes the news that Iranian cartoonist and women’s human rights defender Atena Farghadani has been released from prison.

GCHR is taking part in activities to mark World Press Freedom Day in Finland and will put all efforts to protect freedom of the expression and ensure the release of all champions of freedom who are still in prisons across the Gulf region and neighbouring countries.

It was first reported that Farghadani would not be released until 11 May, but the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran and Cartoonists Rights Network International (CRNI) have confirmed she was released today (see photo above.)

Farghadani, 29-years-old, has reportedly been acquitted of charges of undermining national security, and her three-year imprisonment for insulting the Supreme Leader (Ayatollah Ali Khamenei) has been suspended for four years after a court of appeals hearing was held in April 2016. She has suffered from ill health and poor treatment in prison.

In November 2014, Farghadani was arrested on several charges including allegedly “insulting members of parliament,” whom she depicted as animals in a cartoon she drew criticising a draft law which would restrict access to birth control. She was sentenced to 12 years in prison on 01 June 2015, and held in Evin prison since then. Farghadani was able to bravely continue her art in prison by flattening paper cups and using them as surfaces to paint on. She carried out a hunger strike protesting the treatment of prisoners and developed signs of lymphatic disease while in Evin prison.

After being charged with “illegitimate sexual relations” for shaking hands with her lawyer Mohammad Moghimi during a prison visit in June 2015, Farghadani was subjected to a “virginity test” which has been condemned by human rights organisations as a form of violence and discrimination against women and girls in contravention of international law. Both Farghadani and her lawyer could have faced up to 99 lashes for this alleged crime, but they were acquitted.

Farghadani received CRNI’s 2015 Courage in Editorial Cartooning Award and Index on Censorship listed her among its 100 free expression heroes in 2016.

GCHR welcomes the news of Farghadani’s release, however her sentence for insulting the Supreme Leader was suspended and not overturned, which puts Farghadani at risk of being re-arrested if she dares to exercise her right to freedom of expression by making comments critical of the authorities or their policies again.

Therefore, the GCHR urges the government of Iran to:

  1. Immediately overturn all sentences against Atena Farghadani, which were handed down in violation of her right to freedom of expression;
  2. Ensure the physical and psychological integrity of Atena Farghadani and all detained human rights defenders in Iran;
  3. Guarantee the internationally-recognised right to freedom of expression in Iran, including for journalists, cartoonists, and human rights defenders; and
  4. Guarantee in all circumstances that human rights defenders in Iran are able to carry out their legitimate human rights activities without fear of reprisals and free of all restrictions including judicial harassment.

Photo Credit: International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran.