On 13 June 2018, prominent Iranian attorney Nasrin Sotoudeh, a major figure in the fight for human rights, was arrested and detained. Months later, in March 2019, she was handed a 33-year prison sentence and 148 lashes, following an unfair trial. The charges against her include encouraging prostitution, disturbing public order and “assembly and collusion with intention to commit a crime against national security”. In reality, Nasrin Sotoudeh simply defended human rights, a mission to which she has been committed for years—notably the rights of Iranian women to freely choose how to dress and speak, representing women protesters who removed their headscarves to protest Iran’s mandatory dress code for women.
One year has now passed since Nasrin was detained; today FIDH reflects on this long year of detention. Separated from her two children and her husband, activist Reza Khandan, Nasrin has refused to appeal the ruling in order to protest the unfair trial. This remarkable determination to fight for what is right, at the price of her own freedom and health—she has previously gone on hunger strikes—is at the core of Nasrin’s commitment to human rights.
This is not her first time in prison; she was arrested in 2010 remained in prison until 2013. It was only after intense international mobilization, including the United Nations’ declaring her detention arbitrary and illegal in 2011 and her winning the European Parliament’s 2012 Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought, that she was finally freed in 2013. In 2015 authorities once again punished her for her human rights work, revoking her licence to practice law. In protest, Nasrin picketed the Iranian Bar Association headquarters for nine months.
In April 2019, Nasrine Sotoudeh was made an honorary citizen of Paris.
FIDH remains strongly invested in its support for Nasrin Sotoudeh, mobilizing the United Nations to take action and leading media campaigns to raise awareness about her unjust detention. Upon her release from prison in 2013, a documentary supported by FIDH was dedicated to her. This touching excerpt from the documentary takes place in an Iranian taxi:
FIDH continues to tirelessly demand the inconditional release of Nasrin and of all other human rights defenders imprisoned in Iran.
We extend our thanks to Iranian-French artist A.Z. Kiaray, who graciously offered the use of his art for this article.