Iran: Appeal to the authorities to #FreeNasrin Sotoudeh and all human rights defenders
The Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR) calls for the release of Nasrin Sotoudeh, a lawyer, writer and woman human rights defender who has been on hunger strike in Tehran’s notorious Evin Prison for a full month since 11 August 2020. She is protesting the continued imprisonment of human rights defenders and prisoners of conscience who are being held in poor conditions in crowded Iranian prisons, where detainees are at risk of COVID-19. Join the worldwide appeals to #FreeNasrin.
Sotoudeh’s health has suffered greatly and she has lost a lot of weight. She also suffers from low blood pressure, and her blood sugar levels are fluctuating. According to the Facebook page of Sotoudeh’s husband, human rights defender Reza Khandan, who reported on 31 August 2020 that “Nasrin has become extremely weak and her physical condition is not well. The prison clinic staff say she needs an injection of serum but Nasrin hasn’t agreed to it and refuses to take it.”
Previously, as COVID-19 spread in Iran, Sotoudeh carried out a hunger strike for several weeks, starting on 17 March 2020, to protest that human rights defenders were not released among the 70,000 prisoners who were granted temporary furlough due to the pandemic.
In an apparent reprisal against Sotoudeh’s hunger strike, on 18 August 2020, her daughter, Mehraveh Khandan, was arrested at home by five security officers who took her to the court in Evin Prison. She was not told why she was being arrested but was subsequently charged with physically assaulting a female security officer, before being released on bail.
In a report submitted to the UN General Assembly’s 75th session on 21 July, the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Islamic Republic of Iran, Javaid Rehman, mentioned Sotoudeh’s March 2020 hunger strike and called on the Iranian authorities: “To ensure that human rights defenders, including women human rights defenders, lawyers, journalists, environmentalists and dual and foreign nationals, are not threatened with or subjected to intimidation, harassment, arbitrary arrests, deprivation of liberty or other arbitrary sanctions; release all those detained in connection with their work; and extend the policy for the temporary release of prisoners in the context of COVID-19 to those individuals, as well as other detainees who pose no threat to public safety.”
On 11 March 2019 Sotoudeh was sentenced to 148 lashes and 38 years in prison, in two cases related to her work against the death penalty, and in support of the movement against the compulsory hijab. She received the European Union’s Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought in 2012, and was recently awarded a human rights prize by the German Judges Association, calling her “a symbol of the Iranian civil rights movement.”
Many other human rights defenders, including women’s rights defenders, are serving decades in prison in Iran for their activism. They include Narges Mohammadi, who was showing symptoms of COVID-19 in July 2020, and Atena Daemi, who was no longer eligible for furlough in July 2020, as expected, after the authorities added new charges against her. A number of women who participated in the #WhiteWednesdays campaign against compulsory veiling laws, such as Saba Kordafshari, Yasaman Aryani, Monireh Arabshahi and Mojgan Keshavarz, also remain in prison.
GCHR urges the authorities in Iran to:
- Immediately and unconditionally release Nasrin Sotoudeh, Narges Mohammadi, Atena Daemi, Saba Kordafshari, Yasaman Aryani, Monireh Arabshahi and Mojgan Keshavarz, along with all human rights defenders and activists in Iran.
- Stop arbitrarily arresting human rights defenders and their family members as a result of their participation in peaceful human rights activities, including women’s rights advocacy; and
- Guarantee in all circumstances that all 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.
Take Action Now!
Send your tweet with the hashtag #FreeNasrin to the following contacts:
● President Hassan Rouhani, Islamic Republic of Iran,
@HassanRouhani (English) and @Rouhani_ir (Persian).
● Permanent Mission of the Islamic Republic of Iran to the United Nations,
● UN Special Procedures, @UN_SPExperts
● Diplomatic representations of Iran in your respective countries.