You are an outspoken female lawyer who courageously defends human rights and women’s rights in Iran. You actively challenge the Iranian political system in a fight for freedom, reform and change. Sadly, you are most likely in prison or on your way to prison.
The above account specifically describes the case of Nasrin Sotoudeh: an Iranian mother, wife, lawyer, human rights defender and justice activist who is currently serving a reduced six year sentence in Iran’s infamous prison, Evin. In addition to her six year prison term, Sotoudeh has been banned from practicing law for 10 years.
Why is Nasrin in prison? Because she is a brave, outspoken human rights lawyer in Iran who publicly and fearlessly fights for freedom of expression and justice in Iran. Enough said. Her remarkable service and efforts towards human rights has angered and threatened the Iranian government enough to put her behind bars.
Sotoudeh’s baseless charges include “acting against national security, congregation and collusion with intent to disrupt national security, and cooperation with the Center for Human Rights Defenders.” Sotoudeh has not committed any of these crimes but as a prominent human rights and women’s rights activist, Sotoudeh poses a viable threat to the Iranian state, thus her current imprisonment.
Her punishment is an unjustifiable and unlawful crime, but Nasrin is not alone. Top lawyers, opposition leaders, bloggers, journalists, and political protesters are some of the 5000 political prisoners in Iran since the 2009 elections. Bear in mind, obtaining official numbers of prisoners in Iran is nearly impossible as such information is neither disclosed nor accessible. And unfortunately, the grave injustice and torture facing these prisoners is only reported post prison release.
The aggressive actions of the state have made the legal profession one of the most dangerous in Iran. Lawyers, like Sotoudeh, are unable to defend their clients as their job description directly intimidates the government. These lawyers risk their lives to advance the cause of democracy and fight for a free Iran. This power battle leaves the innocent with no chance of justice and the state with increased control. By confining the most powerful and intellectual representatives behind bars, the state has left its ordinary citizens powerless. Their tactic is to criminalize the wise and empower the ignorant.
The only criminal here is the government itself. “In the most free country in the world,” as claimed by ignorant President Ahmadinejad, freedom is the farthest thing from reality in Iran. Freedom comes with a steep price of bloodshed.
The seemingly unpromising situation becomes our responsibility, the people outside Iranian borders. As these innocent prisoners have stood by their values and principles to protect their country, it is now time for us to stand by them and demand their justice.
How can you help?
The International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran, based in Washington, recently launched the “Free Sotoudeh” project “to help build support for the release of imprisoned human rights lawyer Nasrin Sotoudeh and highlight the tragic situation of Iranian prisoners of conscience.”
With enough signatures, enough voices, and enough pressure, change is possible.
Watch this video to learn more:
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