Writer and Lawyer Nasrin Sotoudeh Jailed in Iran
Iranian writer, lawyer, and human rights activist Nasrin Sotoudeh has first-hand experience dealing with threats to freedom of expression. The 47-year-old mother currently waits in Evin Prison’s solitary confinement to hear the verdict of court appeals regarding her recent 11-year jail sentence. In protest of the poor treatment she’s experienced in jail, Sotoudeh has gone on hunger strikes and reportedly lost an unhealthy amount of weight. One strike lasted eleven days, during which she refused both food and water.
Why is Sotoudeh in jail? According to the Iranian government, she was arrested for “spreading lies against the state,” “cooperating with the Center for Human Rights Defenders,” and, the classic charge against dissidents, “conspiracy to disturb order.” Before her arrest however, Sotoudeh was a journalist and lawyer who actively defended writers, women’s rights activists, and prisoners sentenced to death for crimes they committed as minors.
Socially outspoken, Sotoudeh gave interviews to foreign media in which she defended many of her clients. These interviews got the attention of local authorities and in August 2010, Iranian security officers froze her assets and raided her home, confiscating many of her documents and files. Two months later she defended Heshmat Tabarzadi, head of Iran’s banned opposition group, the Democratic Front, in an appeal that brought his prison sentence of 9 years and 74 lashes down to a sentence of 8 years. Sotoudeh and two other members of the defense team were arrested and sentenced shortly after the trial.
When her jail sentence ends in 2022, Sotoudeh will be banned from traveling outside the country for another 20 years. Like many female writers in Iran, she is currently up against a government that takes extreme measures to suppress its creative voices.
This video, shown at the 2011 PEN American Center Literary Gala in New York City on April 26, 2011, introduces Nasrin Sotoudeh, recipient of the 2011 PEN/Barbara Goldsmith Freedom to Write Award.:
Help free Nasrin Sotoudeh by signing a letter on her behalf through the PEN American Center.
Read Shahla Talebi’s memories of imprisonment in Iran.