Prominent Iranian Lawyer and Human Rights Defender Arrested at Funeral
Iranian authorities have arrested Nasrin Sotoudeh, a prominent lawyer and human rights defender, during the funeral of a teenage girl who died after a disputed incident on the metro. Sotoudeh, who has been arrested multiple times in recent years, was attending the funeral of 17-year-old Armita Garawand when she was taken into custody. Her husband, Reza Khandan, reported that she was violently beaten during the arrest.
Garawand had been in intensive care for nearly a month before her death. She was taken to Tehran’s Fajr Hospital on October 1 after an incident on the metro left her in a coma. There are conflicting accounts of how she sustained her injuries. The arrest of Sotoudeh occurred just over a year after the death of Mahsa Amini, another young Iranian Kurd who died in custody after being arrested for allegedly breaching Iran’s strict women’s dress code.
According to the local Fars news agency, Sotoudeh was arrested for not wearing a headscarf and disturbing the society’s mental security. Since the Islamic revolution in 1979, it has been compulsory for women in Iran to cover their neck and head in public. However, women have been increasingly defying this dress code since mass protests erupted last year following Amini’s death.
Sotoudeh herself has a history of defending women arrested for protesting against the compulsory headscarf. In 2018, she was imprisoned for this reason, and in 2019, she received a 12-year prison sentence for “encouraging corruption and debauchery.” Her work as a human rights defender has earned her recognition, including the European Parliament’s Sakharov prize in 2012.
The case of Garawand was first reported by the Kurdish-focused rights group Hengaw on October 3. The group claimed that she had been critically wounded during an incident on the Tehran metro involving Iran’s morality police. However, authorities deny any physical or verbal altercations took place and attribute her death to a sudden drop in blood pressure.
Surveillance footage from the metro, which was broadcast on state television, showed the teenager being evacuated after apparently fainting in a carriage. The incident has sparked outrage and renewed calls for reform of Iran’s strict dress code and the treatment of women.
The arrest of Sotoudeh and the circumstances surrounding Garawand’s death highlight ongoing human rights concerns in Iran. Critics argue that the government’s crackdown on dissent and its enforcement of strict social codes infringe upon basic human rights and limit freedom of expression.
International human rights organizations have condemned Sotoudeh’s arrest and called for her immediate release. The European Union has expressed deep concern over her detention and urged Iranian authorities to respect human rights and the rule of law.
The situation in Iran continues to be closely monitored by human rights advocates and organizations worldwide. The arrest of Nasrin Sotoudeh serves as a reminder of the challenges faced by those who advocate for human rights in the country. The international community must continue to pressure the Iranian government to uphold its obligations under international law and protect the rights of its citizens.