Nasrin Sotoudeh

Imprisoned but never silenced

Nasrin Sotoudeh is an impressively determined human rights lawyer, whose optimism and calm fighting spirit are awe-inspiring. But right now, she is paying an enormous price for her courage, serving a 38-year prison sentence.

‘Do I see a gloomy future or a bright future?’ Nasrin Sotoudeh asked herself in an interview a few years ago. ‘I don’t know. Without any costs, no society has achieved anything. I think it’s essential to keep moving.’

Ever since she started practicing law in 2003, Nasrin Sotoudeh has done everything in her power to do just that. She started with cases of children who were sentenced to death, and soon defended the rights of women, ethnic and religious minorities and many other whose rights were crushed under the Iranian Islamic laws. Despite fierce attacks by the government, she kept a high profile.

Sotoudeh is tireless in spreading the word about the importance of human rights. ‘The claim that “human rights are not compatible with our Iranian culture” is nothing new’, she says in Nasrin, the documentary about her work and life. ‘In truth, the question of human rights is the same all over the world. Human beings everywhere desire the right to a dignified life.’

In 2006 she became one of the faces of the One Million Signatures campaign, to protest discriminatory laws against women. Alongside her was, among others, Mansoureh Shojaee, who now lives in exile in the Netherlands and who will represent Nasrin at the Movies that Matter Festival 2021. In 2010 Sotoudeh was imprisoned for her work, but even in the notorious Evin prison she continued her activism, going on several hunger strikes. While in prison, she was awarded the Sacharov Prize by the European Parliament. Not long after, she was suddenly released, without explanation.

However, she was arrested again in June 2018, after representing women who were tried for removing their headscarves in public. Her sentence: 38 years in prison and 148 lashes. Although she was recently temporarily released on medical grounds, she returned to prison a month later. Worldwide campaigns for her release continue every day. She knows she will not be forgotten.

Nasrin is shown at the Movies that Matter Festival 2021. At the festival, Nasrin Sotoudeh will be represented by her friend, client and fellow human rights defender Mansoureh Shojaee.