The Globe and Mail
“I realize they had arrested me for my work on human rights[…], still, I will not be silenced,” Nasrin Sotoudeh defiantly declared from the depths of Iran’s notorious Evin Prison, where she languishes for defending the dignity of the vulnerable. This past March, Ms. Sotoudeh was sentenced to 38 years in prison – a virtual death sentence for someone who is 56 years old – and 148 lashes.
In response, and in recognition of her fight for freedom, Queen’s University announced that it will award Ms. Sotoudeh an honorary doctorate in absentia. The administration and the students who petitioned on her behalf could not have chosen a more deserving recipient.
Ms. Sotoudeh is a leader in the campaign against child executions in a country that executes more children per capita than any other; an ally of journalists and bloggers in a country that stifles speech and purveys propaganda; a courageous women’s rights activist in a country where the torture and torment of women is state-sanctioned; and an attorney to dissidents and demonstrators, protesters and political prisoners – that is, until becoming a political prisoner herself.
For being “fearless in taking on the cases that other lawyers would carefully avoid,” in the words of Shirin Ebadi, Iranian Nobel Peace Prize laureate and one of Ms. Sotoudeh’s former clients, she has been imprisoned not once or twice, but four times by Iranian officials. Her most recent “crime” was defending members of the Girls of Revolution Street movement who were arrested for waving their headscarves as flags of freedom in courageous defiance of the compulsory hijab dress code (she faced charges that included “insulting Iran’s Supreme Leader”). Her most recent act of courage was using the limited tools available to her from her cell and joining former high school teacher Farhad Meysami, in a hunger strike to protest against his and many others’ unjust imprisonments.
Jeremy Wiener and Daniel Hornstein are the founders of Students for Political Prisoners and the Queen’s Advocacy Coalition