Iran News ...


10/23/10

For Nasrin Sotoudeh: When we are all called upon to "Defend" the "Defenders" of Human Rights

Translated by: Azita Eraani Iranian Feminist School

Feminist school: It has been nearly one month since the beginning of Nasrin Sotoudeh's hunger strike. Throughout this time, many scholars, lawyers, politicians, social activists, women's rights activists, as well as Sotoudeh's own lawyers, through published statements, interviews and various reports; have condemned the continued detention of this loyal human rights lawyer, and demanded her immediate release. For more than a month, her two toddler children (Mehraveh and Nima) have been restlessly awaiting their mother, while every wall, every household object, every corner of the house is a sore reminder of her absence in their minds.

For more than a month, her life partner, Reza Khandaan, has been trying to make a telephone contact with her, albeit for a brief and fleeting few moments - yes, moments. For more than a month, we have been receiving various news of her condition: her nightly screams, her hunger strike, the sound of her weak voice in the less-than-a-minute phone call... We have no choice but to hear these news, write about them and then ask the questions: Whom are these events happening to? Is Nasrin truly guilty? What is her crime? How is it that a lawyer has become a defendant? Why isn't a mother allowed to visit her toddler children even once in over a month? Do these children understand the meaning of prison, fence and hunger strike? Alongside the word "mother"; are we now adding to their vocabulary, new words such as "Prison", "Strike", and "Protest"? So soon, have they entered the world of angry and ugly adult words! Are Mehraveh and Nima any more than little children missing their mother's lullaby? Has Nasrin's husband found a way to explain to their young children where their mother really is and under what conditions, that they can not even hear her voice?

It is still unclear what Nasrin is exactly charged with, so as to warrant a complete news blackout about her, for one month, and a ban on even the briefest of phone calls! Why has all legal terminology lost its meaning in our country and in our judicial system? Why can't we trust any legal description any more? How did politics and law and justice get so tangled up together? Why are lawyers ending up in the same place as their clients? If Nasrin Sotoudeh is a lawyer; why is she in prison amongst her clients? If she is a defendant, why then is she denied contact with her lawyer? And if she is innocent, why don't they release her? If she is guilty, why is her punishment so disproportionate to her crime - solitary confinement and no family visitation rights? See, how all legal concepts of law, but lost their place? Where in the world, do they treat women's rights activists in this manner; without due process or solid evidence, to hold them in contempt and their children deprived of any news or the voice of their mother?

Nasrin Sotoudeh is but a responsible and committed lawyer, who for years has tirelessly strived to defend her clients. No one in the world could have ever imagined that such a high profile and deeply committed lawyer - whose sole mission has always been to restore the rights of her countrymen - would one day end up in a dark prison cell, forced to resort to hunger strike in a fight for her most basic rights! Why do her prison mates hear her cries? How could a society remain apathetic about such news, and for how long? How could the prison wardens who are keeping Nasrin locked up in solitary, not hear the outcry of the academics and social activists? Silence is their only reaction to Nasrin's hunger strike! But are the prison officials of the country truly so cavalier about hunger strikes, to the point of indifference and even preventing the prisoner from seeing her young children?

We must ask; for all her nonstop and tireless efforts, and for her unwavering commitment to her job and ultimately to defending the rights of her clients in the court of law, does she not deserve a reward? Does she deserve pain, loneliness, isolation, and cries in prison, and no rights and a hunger strike? Does our country's judicial system reward years of tireless service, with such painful conditions as Nasrin is subject to? These are the questions in my mind and in the minds of 1000's of others like me who oppose Nasrin's imprisonment and the terrible conditions that have lead to her hunger strike. Nasrin's pain is 'Our' common pain. In fact, we all know that she is on a strike because of the extremely difficult prison conditions and her inability to see her children. Yet, the inherent message therein - for the rest of us - is to not choose silence in the face of all that injustice and unlawful behavior of prison officials. We must not abandon Nasrin!

Nasrin is in her present conditions, for defending her many clients, most of whom still languishing in prison; for human beings; for the lives and livelihood of women and children of her country; for the future generation; and for YOUR children. Writing about her and her work, her dynamic life; writing about her painful days in solitary confinement, is certainly not easy. Writing about someone with that sweet and innocent smile, who is shrinking and getting weaker by the day, is not easy. What we can write is: for those who see her once smiling face that, afflicted with hunger strike, has now turned pale and cold; remember this: Nasrin is NOT a criminal. She is but a human being with strong convictions and commitment to her beliefs and hopes for freedom, who has never opted for silence when witnessing the infringement of her clients' rights.

If not worthy of a huge reward for her activism - which she is; such unacceptable treatment of her, is only testament to the weakness of the judicial system in dealing with lawyers; as Nasrin has for years been practicing law inside this very system of judiciary, functioned within the court system, worked closely with the judges involved in her cases, and she has defended her clients with utmost honesty and legal competence. Sotoudeh has therefore, only performed her human duty as a representative of law in the court of justice. Our society and our judicial system, regardless of circumstances or political and religious climate, after all, needs committed and competent lawyers, as such lawyers are invaluable and undeniable assets when it comes to defending our citizens who irrespective of the reason, have been deprived of their basic rights and in need of help. Nasrin Sotoudeh must be released, as the absence of selfless, loyal and responsible individuals such as her, shall render the meaning of justice and responsibility, utterly distorted and useless.

... Payvand News - 10/23/10 ... --



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