PEN International © 2017
Terms & Conditions | Privacy Statement

Iran: Call for immediate release of Nasrin Sotoudeh, human rights lawyer and activist, who is gravely ill while on hunger strike

Tuesday 22 September 2020 - 5:28pm

Human Rights Lawyer And Activist Nasrin Sotoudeh

Update - 24 September 2020

PEN International is alarmed by an update from Nasrin's husband, Reza Khandan, stating that Nasrin has been removed from hospital and returned to prison without necessary medical intervention. Reza states that this "act has no meaning other putting her life in danger".

Update - 1 October 2020

On 26 September, Nasrin Sotoudeh’s husband, Reza Khandan reported on social media that she had ended her hunger strike because of her deteriorating health. A day earlier, on 25 September, 16 UN experts had denounced Sotoudeh’s imprisonment in a joint statement as ‘unfathomable’ and in retaliation for her human rights activism. She has just been awarded the Right Livelihood Award, which honors people who toiled to improve our world. PEN International reiterates its call for her immediate release and to be allowed home to receive medical attention of her choice.

PEN International is gravely concerned over the health and wellbeing of prominent Iranian writer, lawyer and human rights activist, Nasrin Sotoudeh, who has been on hunger strike in protest against the dire prison conditions that political detainees in Iran continue to face during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Nasrin Sotoudeh, who herself is unjustly incarcerated in Evin prison for 38 years in retaliation for her work as legal representative for human rights victims, has been on hunger strike since 11 August in protest against the disgraceful treatment of political detainees in prison throughout the country. While Iranian authorities have belatedly released some prisoners in recognition of the threat posed by COVID-19 on detainees already enduring harrowing prison conditions, many political prisoners remain incarcerated. Several other detainees, including Rezvaneh Ahmad Khanbeigi, have joined Nasrin on hunger strike.

This is the second hunger strike to have been undertaken by Nasrin Sotoudeh this year in support of the release of political prisoners during the COVID-19 pandemic. In response to her selfless activism, Iranian authorities have continually harassed her family, arbitrarily arresting Nasrin’s daughter, Mehraveh Khandan, on politically motivated charges on 17 August. In response to the targeting of her daughter by Iranian security services, Nasrin has given up her visitation rights. Despite the bravery Nasrin has shown in the face of repression by Iranian authorities, her health has continued to severely deteriorate while on hunger strike, with her husband reporting that she has been taken to the cardiac unit of Talefani hospital on 19 September due to heart problems and other health issues. PEN International has also received shocking reports that the security team overseeing her treatment in hospital have assaulted her while she was confined to her wheelchair.

PEN International joins our Centres, including PEN America and Swedish PEN, in their call for the immediate and unconditional release of Nasrin Sotoudeh, urging that she receives vital medical care free from intimidation. All acts of harassment against Nasrin and her family must be ceased at once, and the charges against her quashed, bringing an end to the use of the judiciary as a tool of repression and coercion against those seeking to better the lives of Iranian citizens. We also join the Office of the United Nations Office High Commissioner for Human Rights in its call for Iranian authorities to immediately release all political detainees, whom are frequently targeted for expressing critical views and incarcerated without sufficient legal basis.

TAKE ACTION! Share on Facebook, Twitter and other social media

Please send appeals to the authorities of the Islamic Republic of Iran:

  • Expressing alarm over Nasrin Sotoudeh’s condition and treatment by the Iranian security services while she is gravely ill;
  • Calling for her immediate pardoning and release from detainment by the Iranian security services;
  • Calling for the immediate cessation of any harassment of her family;
  • Urging for the release of all political prisoners who remain unjustly detained and are at great risk of exposure to COVID-19 while incarcerated.

Send appeals to:

Supreme Leader of the Islamic Republic of Iran

Grand Ayatollah Sayed ‘Ali Khamenei

Address: The Office of the Supreme Leader, Islamic Republic Street, End of Shahid Keshvar Doust Street, Tehran, Islamic Republic of Iran.


Twitter: @khamenei_ir (English), @Khamenei_ar (Arabic), @Khamenei_es (Spanish).

Head of the Judiciary

Mr Ebrahim Raisi

Address: c/o Permanent Mission of Iran to the UN, Chemin du Petit-Saconnex 28, 1209 Geneva, Switzerland


Twitter: @Iran_UN (English)

President of the Islamic Republic of Iran

Hassan Rouhani

Address: The Presidency, Pasteur Street, Pasteur Square Tehran, Islamic Republic of Iran


Twitter: @HassanRouhani (English) and @Rouhani_ir (Persian)

Send copies to the Embassy of Iran in your country:

** Please send appeals immediately. Check with PEN International if sending appeals after 31 October 2020 **


PEN members are encouraged to:

  • Publish articles and opinion pieces in your national or local press highlighting the case of Nasrin Sotoudeh and freedom of expression in Iran;
  • Share information about Nasrin Sotoudeh and your campaigning activities via social media calling for the quashing of her sentence and immediate, unconditional release.

** Please keep PEN International informed of any action you take in regard to Nasrin Sotoudeh’s case, including any responses you receive from the authorities **


For previous actions by PEN International on Iran, click here.

PEN International is alarmed about the large number of writers and activists in Iran who have been detained or imprisoned solely for exercising their right to freedom of expression. Lawyers such as Nasrin Sotoudeh are doing invaluable human rights work by representing suppressed voices in a time of veiled judicial crackdown on civil society in Iran. She is a symbol of civil courage to many around the world. A mother of two, she was previously arrested in 2010 and sentenced to 11 years of in prison 2011 on similar charges. She was released in 2013 after increasing international condemnation. Since the revolution of 1979, Iran’s powerful clergy establishment have remained in control of the state. Arrests, tortures and enforced disappearances of dissidents have become a pattern in Iran in recent years.

PEN International’s 2019 Case List includes a number of writers in prison and on trial in Iran. This is in violation of the Islamic Republic of Iran’s obligations under international human rights law, mainly through restricting the rights to freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly. PEN International’s concerns for these imprisoned writers is made more acute considering the health threat posed by the COVID-19 pandemic and reports of violence in prisons.

For more information, please contact Sara Whyatt, MENA Programme Coordinator, at PEN International, Koops Mill Mews, Unit A, 162-164 Abbey St, London, SE1 2AN, Tel.+ 44 (0) 20 7405 0338, email: