More than 600,000 sign petition to free prominent Iran rights defender

Middle East World

More than 600,000 have signed a petition calling for the release of prominent Iranian human rights activist and legal counsel, Nasrin Sotoudeh, Amnesty International (AI) reported.

A banner with a giant portrait of jailed Iranian lawyer Nasrin Sotoudeh is seen on the headquarters of the French National Bar Council, demanding her release, in Paris, March 28, 2019

Meanwhile, in a letter dated March 30, Ms. Sotoudeh disclosed that she has been sentenced to a total of 38 years imprisonment, twelve years of it obligatory, and 148 lashes.

Sotoudeh also maintained that she has been sentenced to twelve years for defending the “Girls of the Revolution Street,” and “advocating corruption and prostitution.”

The anti-hijab movement gained more traction in Iran last year as many lone women (aka the Girls of the Revolution Street) dared to remove their headscarves in public places as a show of defiance. Some of them were arrested and prosecuted. Sotoudeh played a pivotal role in defending the women who dared to drop their headscarves in busy streets across Iran.

The new sentence of 33 years in prison brings Nasrin’s total sentence – after two highly questionable trials – to 38 years in prison, says Amnesty International, adding, “Nasrin has dedicated her life to peaceful human rights work, including defending women who peacefully protest against Iran’s degrading forced hijab (veiling) laws.

Since the establishment of the Islamic Republic in Iran (1979) women and young girls are not allowed to leave their homes unless they cover their hair with a headscarf and cover up their arms and legs with loose clothing

Many Iranian women seem not to have accepted the compulsory hijab in the 40 years after the Islamic Revolution. They always loosely hold a scarf over their heads “as if there will be a regime change any minute,” says a veteran journalist.

Ironically, from 1936 till his removal from power by the Allies in 1941, Reza Shah Pahlavi and his government worked hard to get Iranian women free from their traditional hijab so that they would be coopted into social activities like men.

There are more female university students in Iran and more women graduates than men every year from Iranian institutions of higher education. Nevertheless, very few of them are employed as the government and clerics frown at the idea of women as managers, lawyers, engineers and so on.

Referring to Nasrin Sotoudeh’s sentence as the “harshest sentence recorded against a human rights defender in Iran in recent years,” Amnesty International says, “These sentences keep Nasrin separated from her husband and two children and stopped her from being able to carry out her important work as a human rights lawyer.”

In a petition, Amnesty has invited people to call on the Supreme Leader of the Islamic Republic, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, to release Sotoudeh immediately and unconditionally and for her sentences to be quashed without delay.

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