Prominent Rights Activist Narges Mohammadi Rejects Prison Sentence in Stinging Open LetterPublished by International Liberty Association on October 21, 2016
In an open letter from Evin Prison prominent human rights defender Narges Mohammadi has strongly rejected the Appeals Court’s decision upholding her harsh prison sentence, describing it as a “tyrannical” way to silence her activism.
“I am a 44-year-old woman condemned to 22 years in prison by the Islamic Republic of Iran and I know very well that this is not the end of the story,” wrote Mohammadi in a letter published on the reformist Kaleme website on October 7, 2016. “I have no doubt that those who provided the ink for penning such rulings and those who used it to write them, as well as the noble people of my country, all know I have committed no crime or sin to deserve such a harsh punishment. I have faith in the path I have chosen, the actions I have taken, as well as my beliefs. I am determined to make human rights a reality [in Iran] and have no regrets.”
“If those who claim to be spreading justice are firm on their judgment against me, I am also firm on my faith and beliefs. I will not waiver under tyrannical punishments that will limit my freedom to the four walls of the prison cell. I will endure this incarceration, but I will never accept it as lawful, human or moral, and I will always speak out against this injustice.”
In September 2016 Branch 26 of the Tehran Appeals Court upheld Mohammadi’s 16-year prison sentence consisting of 10 years for “membership in the [now banned] Defenders of Human Rights Centre,” five years for “assembly and collusion against national security,” and one year for “propaganda against the state.” She will become eligible for release after serving 10 years in prison.
Mohammadi, who has two young children, must also serve six years of an 11-year prison sentence issued in 2011 for “assembly and collusion against national security,” “membership in the [now banned] Defenders of Human Rights Centre,” and “propaganda against the state.” It remains unclear if she could serve that sentence concurrently with her most recent sentence.
“I have been arrested four times and sentenced three times,” wrote Mohammadi. “This time I have been punished not just for what I have done, but also for what [according to the court] I have not done. In the ruling against me they have said my human rights activities were politically motivated because I organized rallies to protest acid attacks on women instead of caring about homeless women, drug addicts and prostitutes.”
Further down in her letter Mohammadi rebutted the accusation that she had not extended her human rights activism to issues mentioned by the court while discussing women’s rights in Iran: “I have been accused of not visiting homeless women. But in court I mentioned an example… of a young woman we visited with some of my colleagues. Her husband had married other women and abandoned her and their children. She worked as a taxi driver in the summer heat and winter cold to be able to feed her children. But since men are in charge, she was not able to step out of the country because she needed her husband’s permission.”
“In a land where men are legally allowed to marry four women and have unlimited temporary marriages, is it not common to see abandoned homeless women?… The result of such injustice by men, as the legal head and guardian of the family, is nothing but the disintegration of the family, is it not?”
Mohammadi also mentioned the case of a sociology professor who was forced into exile in March 2016 after serving a four-year prison sentence for his peaceful political activism: “Was it right to reward academics such as Saeed Madani with solitary confinement [in Evin Prison] for all his scientific and humanitarian studies about phenomena such as prostitution?”
Mohammadi’s most recent arrest on May 5, 2015, ostensibly on the older charges, was more accurately related to her meeting in Tehran with the European Union’s foreign policy chief in March 2014.