(WNN) Iran: For the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence Campaign the Nobel Women’s Initiative highlighted the plight of Iranian lawyer and human rights advocate Nasrin Sotoudeh who still remains under incarceration in spite of international campaigns for her release.

Sotoudeh has also suffered from a number of prolonged hunger strikes while incarcerated at Evin Prison in Tehran, Iran. As a human rights attorney, Sotoudeh has defended women activists with the One Million Signatures Campaign Iran, as well as Iranian journalists and democracy (green) activists inside the country. Nasrin has also acted as defense attorney for juveniles facing the death penalty as well as defending prisoners of conscience inside Iran. She also defended numerous internationally well known human rights campaigners including Nobel Peace Prize Laureate – Shirin Ebadi.

Sotoudeh was arrested under the charge of  spreading propaganda and conspiring to harm state security on 4 September, 2010. Today she is serving a six years detention sentence with a ten year probation that prohibits her from practicing law in Iran.


“My daughter, I hope you never think that I was not thinking of you or that it was my actions that deserved such punishment. Everything I have done is legal and within the framework of the law.” – Nasrin Sotoudeh, in a letter to her daughter from Evin Prison in Iran.



In her career, Nasrin has defended many women’s rights activists who were imprisoned for demanding justice in Iran.  But her effectiveness as a legal advocate also made her a threat to Iranian authorities. In January 2011, the Iranian Revolutionary Court sentenced her to 11 years in prison and barred her from practicing law or leaving the country for 20 years. In September 2011 an appeals court reduced Sotoudeh’s sentence from 11 years to six and her ban from working a lawyer from 20 to 10.

Nasrin’s challenges started soon after she finished law school. Nasrin passed the bar exam in 1995, and yet was not permitted to practice law for eight years.  So Nasrin turned her attention to writing for reformist newspapers in Iran.

Once she was finally granted a law license in 2003, Nasrin focused on women’s and children’s rights. Her list of clients included women’s rights activists (including organizers of the 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. 

Nasrin is respected for taking on tough cases that other lawyers would avoid, such as defending Iranian activists arrested in the crackdown following the June 2009 presidential elections. She also bravely took on cases involving juvenile executions.  Iran is one of the few countries in the world where children are sentenced to death. Nasrin says her two children—12-year old daughter Mehraveh and four-year old son Nima—are her main motivation: “It was my desire to protect the rights of many, particularly the rights of my children and [their] future, that led me to represent such cases in court.”

In September 2010 Nasrin was conducting a routine visit to a client, a political prisoner in Tehran’s notorious Evin Prison, when Iranian authorities arrested her on charges of “spreading lies against the state,” “cooperating with the Center of Human Rights Defenders,” and “conspiracy to disturb order.” Nasrin is currently being held in Ward 209 of Evin Prison, where she has spent much of her time in solitary confinement. Her case is representative of the tragic impact the political repression has had on the families – and especially children – of human rights defenders. Nasrin is frequently denied from having visitations with her family, and the few visits they did have were traumatic.

Still, Nasrin maintains that the pain her family and others in Iran have had to endure is not in vain: “Justice arrives exactly at a time when most have given up hope. It arrives when we least expect it. I am certain of it.”

“Let us ensure that these efforts are indeed not in vain by supporting Nasrin’s work and calling for her immediate release,” says the Nobel Women’s Initiative.


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