By Lupita Franco Peimbert
The world is learning more about Nasrin Sotoudeh, the fearless attorney whose fight for women and human rights, and for the rights of imprisoned activists in Irán has placed her behind bars since June 2018.
She was sentenced to 38 years in prison and 148 lashes by Iranian authorities, in a ruling that sounds as if that country is living in a distant past. Lashing a person is an act of violence as much as it is a display of barbarism.
Nasrin has been questioning archaic laws and judicial procedures in her country that unjustly affect women and children, and by which minors and arguably innocent people are sentenced with the death penalty. “Nasrin,” a documentary produced by Jeff Kaufman and Marcia Ross, shows Nasrin Sotoudeh’s life and saga leading to her arrest in June 2018.
The videographers who followed her activities in Irán remain anonymous for fear of represalies and even imprisonment.
As a documentary, “Nasrin,” has an end, but her story continuos unfolding, with filmmakers and allies round the world hoping it won’t become a tragedy.
Is it False Imprisonment?
Some of the charges against Nasrin are “espionage,” and “dissemination of propaganda.” The consensus is that Iranian authorities have imprisoned Nasrin Sotoudeh under false accusations to stop and intimidate the human rights attorney.
Like other women and men questioning obsolete rules in Iran, she ended up first at the Evin prison near Tehran, where she was sent to solitary confinement and was subject to what many consider psychological torture.
The Evin Prison has been nicknamed a “university,” because a good number of intellectuals, journalists and other professionals end up there, after questioning old-fashion and oppressive laws and rules currently in Irán. No prison is a place for a picnic, but the Evin Prison is known as one of the worst.
In October 2020, Nasrin was transferred to Qarchak Prison in Tehran, which is a prison for women; it is also known as a place where people are tortured and where living conditions can be inhumane for some prisoners, if not all.
Pressure and Punishment
Just to name a few:
- On July 28, 2020, Nasrin’s bank accounts were frozen.
- On August 17, 2020, her daughter Mehraveh Khandan was arrested.
- Nasrin was temporarily released from Qarchak in November 7, 2020, and returned in December 2, 2020, as she tested positive for COVD 19.
- In February 2021, Nasrin’s husband Keza Khandan’s bank accounts were frozen.
A Documentary to Raise Awareness
For director Jeff Kaufman and producer Marcia Ross, the documentary about Nasrin Sotoudeh is more than a creative project. “We feel a tremendous moral obligation, this is way more than making a film,” the filmmakers said.
“We have a long term personal commitment to making sure that her name stays out there, that we do what it is in our capabilities to help get her out and that we continue to tell her story and keep in front of people, so that there is a chance that something can change,” they emphasized.
Fortunately for Nasrin, her group of supporters keeps growing, and her story is raising awareness. President Biden and Canada Primer Minister Justin Trudeau have expressed their support. Amnesty International and other human rights organizations continue asking for her liberation.
Nasrin’s husband Reza Khandan and their two children have shown incredible resilience throughout the whole ordeal; they are her most important source of strength.
Now the call is for the person reading this article. Help free Nasrin by watching her documentary and sharing the story with your family and friends. The Nasrin documentary will be on Hulu beginning on June 15. It is also on Youtube and other platforms.
The film is narrated by Academy Award Winner Olivia Colman, with an original song by Tony Award-winning composers Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty, performed by 4-time Grammy winner Angélique Kidjo.
Nasrin’s health condition is deteriorating; the world must insist to the Iranian government to liberate her from prison, and respect her right to work and be with her family. The world desperately needs people like Nasrin.