Nasrin Sotoudeh has always been a reputable Iranian Human Rights lawyer repeatedly attracting great international mobilization and support on several occasions when she faced severe repression from Iranian authorities. Throughout the decade, she endured two unfair trials after protesting against Iran’s degrading veiling laws; she put her life at risk by representing women arrested for removing their headscarves. Today, Sotoudeh faces 38 years in prison and 148 lashes, according to her family. She was also a political prisoner in 2010 after being wrongly sentenced to six years in Evin Prison in Tehran for spreading propaganda and conspiring to harm state security. She was banned from practising law and separated from her husband and children.
As a result, numerous rights groups have fiercely criticised the “shocking” an unjust sentence against Sotoudeh. Moreover, there are conflicting reports over the length of her sentence, however, her family clearly stated that she was given 38 years and 148 lashes for false allegations of spreading information against the state, insulting Iran’s supreme leader and spying. Therefore, several non-governmental organizations including Amnesty are calling on Iranian authorities for the fast overrun of the sentence in addition to her immediate and unconditional release.
It is key to note that this is one of the harshest sentences that has been seen in Iran against a human rights defender in recent years. Sotoudeh is a well-respected human right lawyer in Iran; her clients have regularly included children facing execution, peaceful protestors and civil rights activists. This, therefore, suggests that Sotoudeh appears not to be a criminal but simply a human right defender facing injustice in Iran.
Historically, it is crucial to remind ourselves that women and girls in Iran are not allowed to leave their homes unless they have covered their hair with a headscarf and covered up their arms and legs with loose clothing. Recently, in 2017, a movement against the compulsory hijab erupted when one woman staged a solo act of resistance as she removed her headscarf and silently waved it on the end of a stick. This was a true act of bravery and countless women across the country joined her, staging their own protests. Following this, they become known as the “Girls of Revolution Street.” The hypothesis that Nasrin defended some of these women and is now paying the price could be valid and her days in prison actually account for saying that women should be allowed to wear what they want and unfortunately, this remains an endless deadly topic in the region.
At the end of 2020, Sotoudeh was briefly released from prison on temporary leave due to contracting COVID-19, however she had to return on the 2nd December 2020 against the recommendation of health professionals who said she remained infectious with the disease. Indeed, with confirmed cases of COVID-19 in prisons across Iran, Nasrin’s life could be at risk.
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