On August 5, 2021, several human rights organizations sent a joint submission to the U.N. Commission on the Status of Women warning about the increasing persecution and prosecution of women human rights defenders in Iran. The Raoul Wallenberg Centre for Human Rights (RWCHR), International Bar Association’s Human Rights Institute (IBAHRI), Iran Human Rights Documentation Centre, Center for Human Rights in Iran (CHRI), Abdorrahman Boroumand Center for Human Rights (ABC) in Iran and PEN America produced a report shedding light on the dire situation of women human rights defenders in Iran that include “arbitrary prison sentences, torture in detention, banishment to harsher prisons far from their families, and added sentences on the verge of release.”
According to these organizations, more than 500 women human rights defenders, including lawyers, journalists, educators, among others, are unjustly imprisoned in Iran today. Who are these women human rights defenders?
Among them there are human rights lawyers, including Nasrin Sotoudeh and Soheila Hejab. Nasrin Sotoudeh is a tireless defender of human rights and of those most persecuted in Iran, including religious minorities and opposition leaders. This work resulted in her being arbitrarily detained and sentenced on several occasions.
For example, on March 11, 2019, she was sentenced to 33 years in prison and 148 lashes on seven charges, in addition to another five-year sentence in absentia. The charges included membership in a group peacefully advocating against the death penalty, interviews with foreign media, participating in peaceful gatherings, giving a speech outside of a U.N. office, and appearing in public without the hijab.
In 2020, this sentence was reduced to 27 years and no lashes. Soheila Hejab was sentenced for her political and women’s rights activism, most recently in March 2020 for “propaganda against the state,” “forming a group for women’s rights,” and “demanding a referendum for changing the constitution.” She received 18 years in prison for advocating for human right.