Human Rights Attorney Bryan Stevenson Voices Support for Nasrin Sotoudeh, “Extraordinary Lawyer and Advocate”

Feminists and human rights activists are calling on the Iranian government to release human rights attorney Nasrin Sotoudeh and affirm her right to advocate for others.

(Image courtesy of NASRIN film)

Iranian human rights attorney Nasrin Sotoudeh has proven time and time again that she is committed to standing up for other’s human rights. And now, her own are under attack.

Sotoudeh is a human rights lawyer in Iran who has represented political prisoners, religious minorities, children and women punished for not wearing hijabs. Her incredible—and tragic—story is documented in NASRIN, directed, produced and written by filmmaker Jeff Kaufman.

In 2018, Sotoudeh was arrested and imprisoned for standing up for women’s rights. In January, she was transferred to Qarchak women’s prison, one of the worst prisons in the world. (“Qarchak is worse than you can imagine,” a former political prisoner told Ms.’s Pardis Mahdavi.)

Almost immediately, she was infected with COVID-19, made even more dangerous due to a heart condition Sotoudeh developed after a 46-day hunger strike.

Now, feminists and human rights activists are calling on the Iranian government to release Sotoudeh and affirm her right to advocate for others. Bryan Stevenson, founder and executive director of the Equal Justice Initiative released a video Friday honoring Sotoudeh and calling for her release. Stevenson and Sotoudeh are co-laureates of the 2020 Right Livelihood Award, which honors “courageous people solving global problems.”

Watch and share the video, or read the transcript of the video below:

“Hi. My name is Bryan Stevenson and I’m a human rights attorney in Montgomery, Alabama. For the last thirty-five years, I have represented the poor, the condemned, the wrongly convicted and unfairly sentenced in America’s jails and prisons. In my country, we have horrific problems of inequality and injustice. The United States has the highest rate of incarceration in the world and so it has been necessary for advocates [and] lawyers to challenge inequality.

I am the product of civil rights activism. My great grandparents were enslaved in this country and slavery was followed by lynching and racial terror, then segregation and racial hierarchy. And we were required to fight and all across the world it is necessary that we affirm the value, virtue and promise of human rights. That’s how every society gets to a better place.

I am speaking today because a few months ago I had the great privilege of being honored with [The Right Livelihood Award along with] the extraordinary lawyer and advocate, Nasrin Sotoudeh. She is an amazing human being who believes as I do that every society thrives, every society gets closer to its full potential when we protect the basic right and dignity of every human being; when we eliminate bigotry and bias.

As a lawyer, she is required to sometimes stand even when people say to sit down; to sometimes speak even when people say be quiet. In response to that, some want to silence her, some want to put her away. But, our strength as a human community will only be achieved when we recognize that is not the way to proceed.

Today, I like to ask the Iranian government to please allow Nasrin to be the advocate that we all need her to be; to fight for human rights in a way that upholds the values and commitment to justice that I hope we all embrace. I stand in solidarity with Nasrin because I believe as she does that justice is essential; humanity and dignity for all is essential; equality is essential in every society on the planet.

I support you Nasrin and wish you all the very best.”

For a Farsi translation of the video transcript, head here. (And thanks to Parisa Saranj for this translation!)

Katie Fleischer contributed editorial assistance with this article.

You may also like:

If you found this article helpful, please consider supporting our independent reporting and truth-telling for as little as $5 per month.


Roxy Szal is the digital editor at Ms. and a producer on the Ms. podcast On the Issues With Michele Goodwin. She is also a mentor editor for The OpEd Project. Before becoming a journalist, she was a Texas public school English teacher. She is based in Austin, Texas. Find her on Twitter @roxyszal.