Free Nasrin Sotoudeh: The Story of a Brave Lawyer Who Faced Prison
Guest Writer, Tamam Kahn, takes a different approach to an article submission. A powerful piece of poetry that depicts an event you most likely may have never heard about - the sentencing of a lawyer by a judge in Tehran, Iran.
Guest Writer: Tamam Kahn; San Francisco; California
Free Nasrin Sotoudeh
Iran cannot beat or whip
this poem to death,
lash words that shout out for help.
When it gets really bad like this,
I say to myself—tell the story:
You, Nasrin, here are the 148 lashes,
and 38 years of prison time.
Yes, tell it—You—advocate for women’s rights!
You—standing up for each woman
who removed the hijab in public or
wished she had the nerve to.
Directions: A women is flogged fully clothed;
lashed while her feet are chained,
and hands shackled to make it easier for
the one holding the whip.
They've sentenced you because they say:
You Insulted the Supreme Leader.
You disturbed public order.
“The door had 2 holes, one at eye level… and one… for food.
I was perpetually scared of what came next.”
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Nasrin Sotoudeh—May you be free!
You are a woman, a human rights lawyer. You are working for fairness and the rights of others to live a free and reasonable life. You passed the bar exam in 1995 at the age of 32. You have to juggle the ups and downs of restrictive politics—to represent others who have lost their human rights. You have two children, and a husband who fully supports your life and work. You defend abused children, young prisoners sentenced to death, political victims, activists and journalists.
You are arrested in 2010 and held in Evin prison in Tehran in solitary confinement, first sentenced to 11 years, then reduced to 6 years in prison. Early release with no explanation follows in 2013.
Arrested again in 2018, charged with espionage, propaganda, and disparaging the Supreme Leader.
In 2019, while in prison, you are handed a sentence of 38 years and 148 lashes. These are your crimes:
Disparaging the Supreme Leader, assembly and collusion against national security, propaganda, appearing in public without the hijab, publishing falsehoods, disturbing public order.
Just imagine that!
And all this time your imprisonment and harsh treatment is widely condemned in the international community. You are given freedom awards. Nobel Peace Prize laureate, Shirin Ebadi, called for your release: Ms. Sotoudeh is one of the last remaining courageous human rights lawyers who has accepted all risks for defending the victims of human rights violations in Iran. And it’s heating up. In recent months, in Iran, arrests of human rights lawyers and defenders have intensified. Did I mention your long hunger strikes, your support of women removing the head cloth in public?
You give the following sentencing notes to your husband during a recent prison visit.
Nasrin Totoudeh sentenced on March 19, 2019:
• 7.5 years in prison for “assembly and collusion with intention to commit a crime against national security”
• 1.5 years in prison for “propaganda against the state”
• 7.5 years in prison for her membership of the “group against capital punishment’’
• 12 years in prison for “encouraging corruption and prostitution”
• 74 lashes for appearing in public without the hijab
• 3 years in prison and
• 74 lashes for “publishing falsehoods with the intention to disturb public opinion”
• 2 years in prison for the “disturbing public order”
You have received “…the most severe sentence possible on each charge…”
all the people
Living life in peace
You may say that I'm a dreamer
But I'm not the only one
I hope someday you'll join us
And the world will be as one
John Lennon Imagine
Jason Rezaian: Prisoner, My 544 Days In An Iranian Prison, 2019. pp. 25, 92.
About Tamam Kahn:
Tamam Kahn has presented her poetry at conferences in the US, Germany, Ecuador, Costa Rica, Turkey, and Morocco—where she was invited to The Sidi Chiker World Meeting of Tasawwuf Affiliates by the Minister of Islamic affairs. She is the author of Untold: A History of the Wives of Prophet Muhammad (International Book Award 2011) and Fatima’s Touch: Poems and Stories of the Prophet’s Daughter. Tamam also writes and performs spoken word poetry. She lives in the San Francisco area.