Letters to my children – Iran imprisoned attorney Nasrin Sotoudeh
Winner of the April 2011 Freedom to Write PEN award, attorney and legal advocate Nasrin Sotoudeh will be in Evin prison for nine months in Tehran, Iran on June 5, 2011. The contents of a few letters to her children since her imprisonment have just been released by The Feminist School (Iran). The letters, meant for her three year old son, Nima, and her eleven year old daughter, Mehraveh, are short messages written on the only paper she has been allowed to obtain while in prison, tissue paper.
On charges of actions that were determined by the government to be “against national security,” Sotoudeh was put on a delayed trial in Iran court branch 26 of the Islamic Republic of Iran (IRI) Revolutionary Court on January 9, 2011. In court proceedings she was barred from practicing law in Iran and restricted from leaving the country for twenty years. Her sentence of eleven years imprisonment has been viewed as a measure to stop legal advocates from continuing to work to represent human rights defenders in Iran.
“These charges stem solely from her work as a human rights lawyer. She is a prisoner of conscience who should be released immediately and unconditionally,” said Amnesty International during a special campaign asking for the release of political prisoners.
As a member of the, (now sanctioned) Iranian legal group, Defenders of Human Rights Center (DHRC), she was also sanctioned for her cooperation with the DHRC. In addition, Sotoudeh was fined 50, 000 tomans (approximately $50 USD) for appearing with “improper veiling” during a video clip production in which she appeared.
In October 2010 an international consortium of global advocates asked for the unconditional release of Nasrin Sotoudeh. Asking for her immediate release is Amnesty International, Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Shirin Ebadi, the Campaign for Human Rights in Iran, the Iranian League for the Defence of Human Rights (LDDHI), Human Rights Watch, the International Commission of Jurists, the International Federation for Human Rights, the Union Internationale des Avocats and the World Organisation Against Torture.
A recent translation by The Feminist School (Iran) of Sotoudeh’s messages, addressed to her son Nima, follows:
Hello, my dear Nima.
It is so difficult to write to you. You are so innocent that I’m not able to tell you from where I’m writing this letter. How could I, when you have no idea or concept of prison, arrest, judgment, courts, injustice, censorship, repression, or freedom, justice, and equality? How could I when you have no image of any of these in your innocent mind? How could I talk to you now as a child and not to you as when you are a grown up? How could I tell you that my returning home is out of my hands, otherwise I would fly to be with you. You have told your father to tell me to finish my work and come back home. How can I tell you that no “work” could possibly keep me away from you. Indeed, no “work” has the right to keep me away from you for this long. No “work” has the right to cause me to ignore my children’s rights. No “work” has the right to give me only one hour to visit my children these last 6 months. What can I say, my child? Last week when you asked me, “Mommy, when are you coming home?” I had to respond, right in front of the watching guards, “My work takes more time, I’ll be back later.” Then you shook your head in agreement and took my hands and childishly kissed my hands with your little lips.
My dear Nima,
These past six months I cried hard twice. The first was in mourning for my father; I had been deprived of attending the funeral. The second time was the day I met you and could not come back home with you. When I returned to my cell, I cried out loud.
In child custody court cases, judges frequently deny fathers visitation of children under 3 years old for even 24 straight hours, since no child at that age could withstand the pain of separation from his or her mother without suffering psychological harm. However the same judiciary system could ignore the rights of a child whose mother they claim has acted against national security.
I’m not trying to prove here that I have never been involved, or even intended in the slighted, to oppose “their” nationally security. I have only objected to the unjust charges and sentence issued for my clients as is the duty of any lawyer in keeping her client’s interests in mind and being assured that due process had been done.
I’m not even trying to prove that I have been sentenced to 11 years imprisonment simply for having criticised unjust sentences based on unsubstantiated charges, just as any dutiful and conscientious advocate must. No, it is not necessary; all my statements are present in my file and they testify to my claim that I have done nothing wrong.
However I would like to tell you that I’m not the first person to receive such an unjust sentence, but I hope I will be the last, although, I think this is far from likely.
Also, I should confess that I’m happy to be imprisoned along with my clients whose defense I could not aid in due to the interference of matters unrelated to the judiciary. It certainly pleases and soothes me a great deal to think of this.
Indeed, as a woman, I’m honoured to have defended so many civil activists and protesters against the election. I’m even proud of bearing the burden of such a heavy sentence. As their lawyer, I’m pleased to receive a heavier sentence than any of them.
Now, women’s ceaseless struggle has proven that they cannot be ignored by neither regime nor opposition.
But there is one thing I would particularly like to ask you, the most difficult to articulate. I would like you to pray for my judge, for my interrogator, and for the judiciary system. Pray for them to keep justice in their hearts and minds, that it might bring peace to their souls; so that we may one day live in peace too, like many countries in the world.
My dear, what causes cases such as mine to win ultimately has nothing to do with the quality of the defense, although of course my lawyers absolutely did their best. No, what leads to success is the innocence and vulnerability of the human being that is smashed under such a bizarre machinery of sentences issued here in this country. That innocence is surely the ultimate cause of victory in this game. That is why I would like to ask you, in your childish innocence, to pray for all innocent prisoners, and not just the political ones.
Hoping for better days to come,
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