Paris-Geneva, November 13, 2023 – Despite recent international praise and recognition, prominent Iranian women human rights defenders Nasrin Sotoudeh and Narges Mohammadi continue to be subjected to harassment by the authorities. Facing great health risk, both defenders are currently detained arbitrarily, and Ms. Sotoudeh is on a hunger strike to protest her detention conditions. The Observatory (FIDH-OMCT) and the League for the Defence of Human Rights in Iran (LDDHI) call for their immediate and unconditional release.
On October 29, 2023, human rights lawyer Nasrin Sotoudeh was violently rearrested while she was attending the funeral of Armita Garavand, a 16-year-old girl who died after being in a coma for 28 days after allegedly being beaten by Iran’s morality police for failing to comply with the Iranian hijab laws. Ms Sotoudeh was taken to a police station in Shahr-e Rey, south of Tehran, and then transferred to Qarchak prison. On November 7, 2023, the prosecutor at Branch 29 of Tehran Islamic Revolution Court rejected Ms Sotoudeh’s request for bail.
The Observatory and LDDHI recall that Ms Sotoudeh was arbitrarily arrested on June 30, 2018, and sentenced on December 30, 2018, to 38.5 years in prison and 148 lashes. At the time of her latest arrest, she had been on medical leave since July 2021. The authorities are likely to revoke her medical leave, which could lead to a serious deterioration of her health in detention, given her pre-existing health conditions. There have been indications in media reports that she might face new charges. In addition, Ms Sotoudeh has been on a hunger strike since her latest arrest to protest her arbitrary detention, which further increases the risk of her health deteriorating drastically.
Furthermore, the journalist and spokesperson of Defenders of Human Rights Centre (DHRC) Narges Mohammadi, arbitrarily detained in Evin prison since November 2021, has been recently denied medical appointments in a hospital twice for cardiac examination by the prison authorities because she refused to wear a headscarf to attend the appointments. To protest this infringement on her rights and those of other inmates, Ms Mohammadi went on a hunger strike on November 6, 2023, putting her health at great risk. The authorities finally sent her to the hospital for a few hours on November 8 wearing normal dress without a headscarf and the long mandatory cloak. She ended her hunger strike upon returning to prison on the same day.
The Observatory and LDDHI express their utmost concern over the great risk of deterioration of Nasrin Sotoudeh’s and Narges Mohammadi’s health due to the deplorable sanitary conditions in Qarchak and Evin prisons, where they are respectively detained, and to Nasrin Sotoudeh’s ongoing hunger strike.
The international community recently highlighted the fight of women human rights defenders in Iran. On October 6, 2023, Narges Mohammadi was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. On October 19, 2023, the European Parliament awarded the 2023 Sakharov Prize for freedom of thought to Mahsa Amini and the Iranian women protest movement. Nasrin Sotoudeh won the Sakharov Prize in 2012. These awards are an invaluable recognition of the essential work carried out by women human rights defenders in Iran to ensure that fundamental rights and freedoms are respected amid brutal repression.
The Observatory and LDDHI urge the Iranian authorities to immediately and unconditionally release Nasrin Sotoudeh and Narges Mohammadi, as well as all other imprisoned human rights defenders, including women human rights defenders, who are deprived of their liberty solely because of their legitimate and peaceful human rights activities. The signatories further call on the Iranian authorities to provide Mses Sotoudeh and Mohammadi with timely and adequate medical care while they remain detained.
The League for the Defence of Human Rights in Iran (LDDHI) was founded in Paris in March 1983, following the forced closure of the “Iranian Association for the Defence of Human Rights and Liberties” (established in 1977) in 1981, and the departure of its leaders into exile. Since its establishment, LDDHI has consistently reported and campaigned against human rights violations in Iran, concentrating on the abolition of the death penalty in Iran, women’s rights, freedom of political prisoners, rights of religious and ethnic minorities, freedoms of expression, assembly and association among others. LDDHI has been a member of FIDH since 1986.