Nasrin Sotoudeh (2020 Laureate)

Country: Iran

Current status: Arbitrary detention, judicial harassment, denial of medical care

Nasrin Sotoudeh is a prominent Iranian human rights lawyer and the symbol of the struggle for justice in Iran. Throughout the last 15 years, she has worked in the shadow of an extremely repressive environment to defend political prisoners, opposition activists and journalists persecuted by the Iranian authorities. She has tirelessly advocated for advancing women’s rights, the abolition of the death penalty, and respect for the rule of law. Because of her unrelenting commitment to defend human rights and political freedoms, she has been regularly targeted by the Iranian authorities and imprisoned several times on trumped-up charges. Sotoudeh is currently serving a lengthy prison sentence in retaliation for her peaceful activism.

  • August 28, 2010: Iranian authorities raided Sotoudeh’s office and home, confiscating several documents and files.
  • September 4, 2010: Sotoudeh was arrested on charges of spreading propaganda against the state, and conspiring to harm state security. She was denied access to her lawyer and was restricted from family visits for the first several months of her detention.
  • January 9, 2011: She was sentenced to 11 years in jail on charges of “acting against national security,” “membership of the Centre for Human Rights Defenders,” not wearing hijab during a videotaped message, and “propaganda against the regime,” as well as barred from practising law and from leaving the country for 20 years after completion of her sentence.
  • September 2011: An appeal court reduced her prison sentence to 6 years and her ban from working as a lawyer to 10 years.
  • October 17, 2012: Sotoudeh went on a hunger strike to protest her prison conditions and a travel ban ordered on her 12-year-old daughter. On December 4, she ended her 49-day long hunger strike as her demands were met. She spent 17 days in solitary confinement after she began the protest.
  • September 18, 2013: A few days before President Rouhani’s trip to New York for the UN General Assembly, Sotoudeh was released from Evin prison.
  • October 18, 2014: The Iranian Bar Association banned Sotoudeh from practising law for 3 years, based on a complaint filed by the Islamic Revolutionary Court’s Prosecution Office. She began a sit-in to protest the decision, for which she was arrested and released a few hours later. Her license was reinstated in June 2015.
  • June 13, 2018: Sotoudeh was arrested again on charges of propaganda and assembly, and collusion to act against national security. Her arrest came after she provided legal support to women facing charges for taking off their headscarves in public in protest of Iran’s compulsory hijab law. She also criticised Iranian judicial procedures limiting defendants’ access to lawyers in security-related cases.
  • August 25, 2018: Sotoudeh began a hunger strike in protest against her judicial harassment and the continuing pressure which was being exerted on her family, relatives and friends. A few days before, three agents from Iran’s Intelligence Ministry raid her family’s home while her kids were asleep, as well as the house of her sister-in-law.
  • September 4, 2018: After raising concern over his wife’s situation and human rights violations in Iran, Sotoudeh’s husband, Reza Khandan, was arrested and charged with national security and propaganda-related offences. In December, he was released on bail.
  • December 30, 2018: Sotoudeh was tried in absentia as she refused to appear in court after being denied choosing her own lawyer.
  • March 11, 2019: Sotoudeh was sentenced to a total of 38 years in prison and 148 lashes on charges including “assembly and collusion against national security,” “encouraging corruption and prostitution,” and “appearing at the judiciary without Islamic hijab,” among others. She was denied a copy of the verdict against her.
  • July 27, 2020: Ms. Sotoudeh’s husband reported that their bank accounts have been frozen on orders of the Prosecutor’s Office.
  • August 11, 2020: Sotoudeh began a hunger strike to protest against the dire prison conditions and to demand the release of political prisoners whose health was being severely threatened by the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • August 17, 2020: In an attempt to further pressure Sotoudeh, Mehraveh Khandan, her 20-year-old daughter, was arrested and temporarily released on bail after a few hours.
  • September 19, 2020: Sotoudeh was taken to the hospital following a severe deterioration in her health. Four days later, she was transferred back to Evin prison without receiving further medical care. Her family was denied access to her and to any information on her condition.
  • September 25, 2020: She ended her 46-day-long hunger strike.
  • October 20, 2020: Sotoudeh was transferred to Qarchak prison, where healthcare services and standards for the treatment of prisoners are far worse than in Evin prison.
  • November 7, 2020: Sotoudeh was granted a temporary furlough from Qarchak prison on medical grounds. Once at home, she tested positive for COVID-19, which she had contracted in prison.
  • December 2, 2020: One day before the Right Livelihood Award Presentation, Sotoudeh was ordered back to Qarchak prison against medical experts’ recommendations.
  • January 8, 2021: Sotoudeh was released to continue the medical treatment she had been previously forced to interrupt. On January 20, she was ordered back to prison.

Protection and Advocacy

March 4, 2021: The Right Livelihood Foundation organised a high-level event on the impact of feminist foreign policies on the lives of WHRDs, during which special attention was brought to the case of Sotoudeh.

December 2, 2020: The Right Livelihood Foundation released a statement condemning the decision by the Iranian authorities to bring her back to prison, one day prior to the Right Livelihood Award presentation in Stockholm.

November 12, 2020: The Right Livelihood Foundation coordinated an open letter signed by thirty-eight members of the German Bundestag demanding the unconditional and permanent release of Sotoudeh. On the same day, the Foundation launched the #StandUp4Nasrin social media campaign, to advocate for her permanent release.

October 22, 2020: The Right Livelihood and PEN America sent an urgent appeal to 11 UN Special Procedures’ mandates to urgently call on the Iranian authorities to uphold Sotoudeh’s right to health and immediately release her.