Jailed Iranian Rights Defender Nasrin Sotoudeh Unable to Collect Award

The whole world needs to know about Nasrin Sotoudeh, the Iranian rights lawyer who was ultimately sentenced to 6 years in prison after the Islamic Republic convicted her of spreading propaganda and conspiring to harm state security in 2011.

Sotoudeh’s husband Reza Khandan told PBS Newshour in November that his wife’s conviction was politically motivated. “In general, the idea was to prevent the lawyers from going to court and following up on human rights cases,” he said.

On December 5, Sotoudeh ended a 49-day hunger strike after the Iranian authorities agreed to lift a travel ban on her 12-year-old daughter. Sotoudeh was said to have been in deteriorating health at the time of her strike’s end.

Today, Sotoudeh and film-maker Jafar Panahi, another jailed dissident also sentenced to 6 years imprisonment, were unable to collect the EU’s annual Sakharov Prize for freedom of thought. At the award ceremony, Iranian rights activist Shirin Ebadi, who Sotoudeh legally represented when they were both living in Iran, condemned the Iranian government’s suppression of its citizens.

“These two empty chairs are the sign of the Islamic republic regime’s behavior with its own citizens, a regime which for more than 30 years has continued to rule via suppressing the people,” said Ebadi.

In a letter that appeared on her husband’s Facebook page today, Sotoudeh reportedly explained that her protest was not only for her own family’s safety. “My daughter, like every other child at this age and not more than other children, has the right to live without the fear of threats and punishment,” said the letter.

The letter also expressed “hope that the punishment of families is removed from the policy of threats and pressure.”

Sotoudeh’s case has been cited as a violation of human rights by numerous rights-monitoring bodies including Amnesty International and the United Nations. It has also resulted in several campaigns about her struggle.

Jasmin Ramsey

Jasmin Ramsey is a journalist based in Washington, DC.