Iranian women’s rights activist Narges Mohammadi’s controversial 16 year prison sentence handed down last May was upheld this past week on appeal. Mohammadi, who has been in and out of prison for the past 15 years, was convicted of “spreading propaganda against the system” and “colluding to commit crimes against national security” through her work as Vice President of the Centre of Human Rights Defenders in Iran and her campaign to abolish the death penalty through her organization Legam.
This 16 year sentence cites her meeting with Catherine Ashton, a European Union High Representative of Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, as evidence of jeopardizing national security, despite Iranian officials’ recent attempts to open up dialogue with the European Union. Amnesty International believes that Mohammadi is being “unjustly punished for her steadfast commitment to human rights” and that her conviction shows Iran’s “deep disdain for the basic principles of justice.”
Mohammadi is currently ill and had been released from prison to be hospitalized for 17 days before returning to prison against her doctor’s wishes. She describes the conditions in Tehran’s Evin Prison as “psychological torture.” The harsh prison conditions and repeated refusal of government officials to let her communicate with her family living abroad in France led her to a hunger strike, which led to “eased restrictions” after a social media campaign raised awareness of her protest.
Iranian women’s rights still lag far behind their male counterparts. Married women are subject to tamkin, submission to their husbands’ demands, and, in return, are entitled to financial support. If a woman disobeys a husband’s direct order without a “sufficient excuse,” her husband may legally divorce or abuse her under the Iranian Civil Code. Mohammdi’s unjust imprisonment sends a message of intimidation and fear to Iranian women who dare to speak out against government injustices.