Hollywood Unites for Iranian Filmmakers

Paul Haggis hands off Amnesty petition to Iran mission representative on June 8, 2011. © AI

World-renowned Iranian film director and peace activist, Jafar Panahi, and his artistic collaborator, Mohammad Rasoulof continue to face an uncertain future. Both men were charged with “propaganda against the state” in December, 2010, and sentenced to six years in jail.

Their lives have been in limbo for the past five months as each day carries with it the dreaded possibility of starting this lengthy period of incarceration. Panahi also received a 20-year ban on filmmaking, traveling abroad, and speaking with the media, which has been in effect since the sentencing.


Join The Virtual Protest In Iran's Azadi Square

Amnesty activists carry out Azadi Square action

Shortly after the Iranian Revolution in 1979, authorities renamed a large public square in Tehran Meidan-e Azadi, or Azadi Square. This square was the site of large demonstrations in the wake of the disputed 2009 Iranian presidential elections; thousands of peaceful protesters were arrested, beaten and tortured for exercising their right to freedom of expression while dozens were killed by security forces.

And at the same time that the Iranian government publicly declared their support for the democracy activists in Egypt and Tunisia, they denied a permit for a peaceful solidarity demonstration in February, and have only intensified their brutal crackdown on civil society activists. The irony is not lost on most Iranians, who deplore the glaring disparity between the Iranian government’s high-flown rhetoric and its appalling treatment of its citizens.

Amnesty International’s new Azadi Square action will bring attention on the incongruity between the rhetoric and the reality, and to call upon the government to end their repression and fulfill the promise of freedom implied by the name of the most prominent public place in Iran’s capital.


Recognizing Critics, Empowering Dissidents: A Statement of Solidarity with Advocates for Human Rights in Iran

By Nazanin Boniadi and Roxana Saberi

Journalist Roxana Saberi and actress Nazanin Boniadi

Journalist Roxana Saberi and actress Nazanin Boniadi

In June 2009, hundreds of thousands of courageous men and women took to the streets in Iran, demanding their inalienable rights amid the turmoil of the country’s disputed presidential election. News of the deaths of innocent people such as Neda Agha-Soltan and Sohrab Arabi, raids on the dormitory of the University of Tehran, mass show trials, and reports of the torture and rape of political prisoners made the world take notice.

Sadly, the international community has since largely averted its gaze, despite the fact that Iran continues to violate its international obligations as a signatory to the International Covenant for Civil and Political Rights.

Prisoners of conscience are still languishing in jail, and execution by stoning is still allowed, as is the execution of juvenile offenders. The authorities continue to suppress the freedoms of expression, opinion, assembly and religion, while many students are being denied their right to higher education based on a discriminatory system that penalizes them for their political and religious beliefs.

It seems that Iranian authorities are systematically targeting current and future community leaders in what appears to be a relentless crackdown on student and human rights activists.

Amnesty International has included one such case, that of student leader and prisoner of conscience, Majid Tavakkoli, as an urgent action in its global Write-a-thon campaign.


We Can Help Save Nobel Laureate's Lawyer Part II

A great many people have already raised their voices and carried out actions on behalf of imprisoned Iranian human rights lawyer Nasrin Sotoudeh. No one should ever think that even the smallest action they take on behalf of another human being suffering an injustice will go unnoticed. The Iranian government certainly notices when we protest their human rights violations. In my blog posting of yesterday I neglected to clarify one very important thing: Amnesty International does not call for hunger strikes nor does it endorse hunger strikes undertaken by individual members such as myself. This was a personal decision I made as an individual. I regret that I did not make that more clear in the previous posting.

Nasrin Sotoudeh is now on the tenth day of her hunger strike. Several other prominent Iranian prisoners of conscience have undertaken recent hunger strikes as it is one of the few options available to them to protest the conditions of their unjust imprisonment. They resort to this measure as the Iranian authorities fail to uphold the theoretical protections that exist in their own Constitution, not to mention all of the international human rights agreements that Iran has signed such as the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

Nasrin Sotoudeh has two young children, age three and eleven. They were finally permitted to visit her in prison a few days ago. Ms Sotoudeh was so weak she was not even able to hug her children, and their father reported that they were crying after the visit. We have to wonder how any government can tear a mother away from her children solely because of her commitment to carrying out her professional obligations to represent her clients properly. Nasrin Sotoudeh is taking a stand. She has been watching as the Iranian government has been carrying out a systematic and vicious campaign to completely undermine the Iranian legal system by persecuting lawyers. No country can claim to have a functioning legal system or operate under any semblance of a rule of law if its lawyers are put in prison for doing their job. Please write a letter today on behalf of Nasrin Sotoudeh. Please tell all your friends and relatives to do the same. If we can flood the Iranian authorities with appeals I believe we can save Nasrin Sotoudeh and send her back home to her husband and two children. Thank you to everyone who cares so much about this brave woman.

Nobel Laureate's Lawyer is Risking Her Life–Let's Save Her

Nasrin Sotoudeh

Update 11/9/10: See my important follow-up to this post here

We have been watching with horror as the Iranian government stomps on the bravest of the country’s human rights defenders—the lawyers who struggle mightily to do the best they can to represent their clients accused of politically motivated offenses in a hopelessly flawed legal system.

One of the very bravest of this dedicated group is Nasrin Sotoudeh, who was the attorney for Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Shirin Ebadi, as well as other courageous human rights activists and juveniles sentenced to death. Now Nasrin Sotoudeh, a mother of two young children, is sitting in prison on her second hunger strike to protest her detention and this already slight lady is reportedly very frail.

We can’t afford to lose this incredible woman so I urge everyone to join me on a hunger strike to protest this gross injustice. I am not as courageous as Nasrin Sotoudeh but I will try to hold out as long as possible on liquids.  I urge anyone whose health permits it to go on a hunger strike for at least one day and tell everyone about it—put it on your Facebook page, add your name in the comments section to this blog posting—we need to stand up for Ms Sotoudeh and say to the Iranian government that enough is just enough.