December 10 is Human Rights Day, the anniversary of the creation of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights by the United Nations in 1948.
For Nasrin Sotoudeh, who has worked hard for the human rights of others, but whose own human rights have been severely violated, it’s just another day in prison.
Imprisoned For Standing Up For Human Rights
Nasrin Sotoudeh is a 47-year-old mother of two young children, and a lawyer who is a passionate defender of human rights, and particularly women’s rights. She has fought bravely against great odds in Iran, her native country, and for this she has been imprisoned.
Sotoudeh passed the bar exam to become a lawyer in 1995, but the Iranian authorities did not permit her to practice law for another 8 years. When she was finally granted a law license in 2003, she specialized in women’s and children’s rights.
Her clients have included women’s rights activists, among them the organizers of the grassroots, door-to-door One Million Signatures Campaign; journalists such as Isa Sharkhiz; politicians such as Hashmat Tabarzadi, head of Iran’s banned opposition group the Democratic Front; and legal colleagues such as Nobel Peace Prize laureate Shirin Ebadi.
She has also represented prisoners sentenced to death for crimes committed when they were minors and many Iranian opposition activists arrested in the crackdown following the June 12, 2009 presidential elections. In other words, she has worked tirelessly using her knowledge as a lawyer to get her clients the rights to which they are legally entitled.
Arrested In September, 2010
On August 29, 2010, security officers raided Sotoudeh’s home and office, confiscating several of her files and documents. Authorities also froze her assets. On September 4, 2010, she was summoned to the special court in Evin prison and arrested. She was denied access to her lawyer and had only restricted family visits for the first several months of her detention.
Finally, on January 9, 2011, Sotoudeh was sentenced to a total of 11 years in prison—one year for “spreading lies against the state,” five years for “acting against national security,” and another five years for “cooperating with the Center for Human Rights Defenders.” The court also banned her from practicing law and from traveling outside the country for 20 years, a term that begins after her release from prison and that for all intents and purposes confines her to Iran and bars her from her profession for life.
Sentence Reduced To 6 Years
In mid-September, this sentence was reduced to 6 years, and the 20-year ban reduced to 10 years.
Sotoudeh has gone on several hunger strikes since her arrest, refusing even water during one 11-day stretch, to protest her detention and ill-treatment inside Evin Prison. She has reportedly lost a considerable amount of weight, is in poor health, and has spent much of the time in solitary confinement.
Please click here to sign our petition demanding the immediate and unconditional release of this remarkable woman.
And for a more complete look at Ms. Sotoudeh, watch the video below, created by PEN when she was honored with their Barbara Goldsmith Freedom To Write Award earlier this year:
Photo Credit: diegophotographed