Iran: End repeated sentencing of Narges Mohammadi and other women human rights defenders


Iran must stop repeatedly sentencing and imprisoning women human rights defenders in a revolving prison door that will never let them be free, says the Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR). Woman human rights defender Narges Mohammadi was taken back to Qarchak Prison on 12 April 2022 after being released on medical furlough following heart surgery in February 2022. Since then, she has been taken to court and handed additional sentences. 

GCHR welcomed Mohammadi’s release from prison on 08 October 2020 after a 10-year sentence was commuted due to health concerns. Mohammadi is the vice president of the Centre for Human Rights Defenders in Iran and worked with the Campaign for Step-by-Step Abolition of the Death Penalty (known as Legam). She was in prison since 05 May 2015, after being sentenced in 2012 to six years in prison for her human rights work. 

However, in May 2021, Branch 1188 of Criminal Court Two in Tehran sentenced Mohammadi to two-and-a-half years in prison, 80 lashes and two separate fines for charges that include “spreading propaganda against the system.” She was arbitrarily arrested on 16 November 2021 by Ministry of Intelligence agents who beat her before taking her away to Evin Prison.

On 12 January 2022, following a five-minute trial with no lawyer, Mohammadi was sentenced to an additional eight years and two months in prison, and 74 lashes on charges of “assembly and collusion to act against national security” and “acting against national security and disrupting public order.”, Mohammadi was sentenced to an additional eight years and two months in prison, and 74 lashes. 

She was also sentenced to internal exile, a ban on giving statements to the media, using social media platforms, or participating in political groups. She was then transferred from Evin Prison to Qarchak Prison, but returned home after heart surgery in February 2022.

During her medical furlough from prison, on 17 March 2022, Mohammadi wrote on Instagram: “I do not recognise the system of religious totalitarianism, anti-justice courts, anti-human rights laws, and repressive court rulings. I use any means of #civil_disobedience. I have been sentenced to imprisonment and flogging in the last two courts. In the first case, because of the protest against the shameless attacks of the religious government officials on my body, and in the second case, because of my emphasis on the right of association and the right to organise, both of which are among the most fundamental human rights.”

Mohammadi's husband, prominent writer Taghi Rahmani, reported that at least seven Ministry of Intelligence agents raided the family's home on 12 April 2022 to arrest Mohammadi and photojournalist Alieh Motalebzadeh, who is vice president of the Association for the Defense of the Press Freedom of Iran. Motalebzadeh was also released on medical furlough. According to Rahmani, Mohammadi was prepared to return to prison so that her house would not be seized and her high bail of around USD$120,000 would not be forfeited, but she was ill-treated by the agents who came to arrest her.

On 23 April 2022, Rahmani tweeted, “Alieh said in a call from prison today; According to a statement from the Prisons Organization, Alieh was suspended for six months and Narges for three months. He also announced that a new case had been opened against them and that they would be summoned to court on Tuesday 26 April 2022.”

Mohammadi continues to face punitive measures in prison. On 05 May 2022, Rahmani wrote on social media: “Since April 17, Narges Mohammadi's request to call her children has not been answered.” Rahmani and their two children live in exile.

Other women human rights defenders who have been in and out of prison are Right Livelihood laureate Nasrin Sotoudeh, a prominent human rights lawyer. On 05 December 2020, Sotoudeh was returned to prison while she was weak and ill from the effects of COVID-19 and a hunger strike protest. The authorities cruelly returned her to prison on the eve of the Right Livelihood Awards.

Sotoudeh was arrested on 13 June 2018, but had been in and out of prison since 2010. On 11 March 2019, she was sentenced to combined penalties of 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. 

In April 2021, two imprisoned women human rights defenders, Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe and Golrokh Ebrahimi Iraee, were sentenced to an additional one year in prison, on top of previous sentences. Iraee was sentenced in absentia by Branch 26 of the Revolutionary Court of Tehran on the charge of "propaganda against the state." 

Iraee and her husband, activist Arash Sadeghi, were arrested at home on 24 October 2016 and sentenced to prison. She was released and then rearrested in 2019 and has been serving a prison term of three years and seven months. On 01 May 2021, Sadeghi was released after nearly six years in prison. 

On 16 March 2022, Zaghari-Ratcliffe was finally freed from prison and returned to her family in the United Kingdom, along with another British-Iranian, Anoosheh Ashoori.

On 24 January 2022, woman human rights defender Atena Daemi was released from Lakan prison, in Rasht. In June 2020, Daemi, who was serving seven years in prison, was charged with “disturbing order” after being accused of chanting anti-government slogans on the anniversary of Iran’s 1979 revolution. She was sentenced to five years in prison in 2016 and in September 2019, a court added two years and one month to her sentence for “insulting” and “disseminating anti-government propaganda” after she wrote an open letter from prison criticising the execution of political prisoners. In April 2022, she gave an interview to the Centre for Human Rights in Iran, in which she said, “I spent seven years of my life in prison. My family suffered a lot. They were threatened and assaulted…. Nevertheless, I shouldn’t be talking about my own problems. I should be the voice of other prisoners–now that I’m out of prison.”

GCHR urges the authorities in Iran to:

  1. Immediately and unconditionally release Narges Mohammadi, Nasrin Sotoudeh, Golrokh Ebrahimi Iraee, and Alieh Motalebzadeh along with all human rights defenders, journalists and activists in Iran.
  2. Stop arbitrarily arresting human rights defenders as a result of their participation in peaceful human rights activities, including women’s rights advocacy.
  3. End the absurd lengthy sentences, systematic targeting and ill-treatment of women human rights defenders, along with all restrictions and the practice of internal exile for promoting basic rights to freedom of expressions and assembly. 
  4. 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!

GCHR further calls on supporters to tweet in support of detained women human rights defenders in Iran.

Send your tweet with the hashtag #FreeNarges #FreeGolrokh #FreeNasrin #StandUp4Nasrin 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, @Iran_UN 

●      UN Special Procedures, @UN_SPExperts

●      Diplomatic representatives of Iran in your respective countries.