‘They nonetheless need a regime change.’ Iranian human rights lawyer Nasrin Sotoudeh says the anger behind Iran’s protests stays | CNN


A distinguished Iranian human rights lawyer has informed CNN that whereas a brutal state crackdown has succeeded in quieting the demonstrations that gripped the nation for months, many Iranians nonetheless need regime change.

In an unique interview Wednesday from her dwelling in Tehran, Nasrin Sotoudeh informed CNN’s Chief Worldwide Anchor Christiane Amanpour that, “the protests have considerably died down, however that doesn’t imply that the individuals are now not indignant … they consistently need and nonetheless need a regime change. They need a referendum.”

Sotoudeh, famend around the globe for advocating for the rights of ladies, kids and activists in Iran, is at the moment on medical furlough from jail, after being sentenced to 38 years in jail and 148 lashes in March 2019.

Nationwide protests rocked Iran final fall, as many years of bitterness over the regime’s remedy of ladies and different points boiled over after the demise of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini whereas within the custody of the nation’s so-called morality police.

Authorities violently repressed the months-long motion, which had posed one of many greatest home threats to Iran’s ruling clerical regime in additional than a decade.

Nonetheless, Sotoudeh emphasizes that the protest motion endures. “Official authorities try to flex their muscle groups extra, they’re attempting to point out their power much more than earlier than, however civil disobedience continues and many ladies courageously take to the streets.”

Figures like Sotoudeh, who’ve battled in opposition to Iran’s obligatory hijab sporting for girls, have been beneath elevated authorities scrutiny because the rebellion.

The protests exploded right into a full-fledged ladies’s rights motion in opposition to the nation’s scarf legal guidelines after the demise of Amini, a Kurdish Iranian lady who was detained for allegedly sporting her hijab improperly.

Sotoudeh in contrast Iran’s obligatory hijab legal guidelines to these utilized by different authoritarian regimes in international locations together with Afghanistan, the place the Taliban banned ladies attending universities and dealing with non-governmental organizations.

“This difficulty actually harm the collective conscience of the Iranian individuals, as a result of for a few years the Iranian individuals had suffered, and one of many primary sufferings was that half the inhabitants was consistently being harassed due to their gender, due to their physique,” she stated.

“I do consider that each in Iran and in Taliban-controlled Afghanistan, hijab is getting used as a method of exerting violence and meting out violence in opposition to ladies, bruising and hurting ladies, after which overlaying them in a veil to cover all of the bruises and the harm.”

The Islamic Republic of Iran has lengthy ranked among the many world’s high executioners. However with a number of latest demise sentences handed all the way down to protesters, critics say the regime has taken capital punishment to a brand new degree.

Reviews have additionally emerged of compelled detentions and bodily abuse getting used to focus on the nation’s Kurdish minority group. A CNN investigation with covert testimony revealed sexual violence in opposition to protesters, together with boys, in Iran’s detention facilities because the begin of the unrest.

Imprisoned Iranian activist Farhad Meysami, who is reported to have gone on a hunger strike, is seen at Rajai Shahr prison in Karaj, Iran, in this social media image released on February 2, 2023.

Final week, concern mounted over the well being of imprisoned Iranian physician and civil rights activist Farhad Meysami, after a number of pictures purporting to point out his frail state emerged on social media.

Sotoudeh, who’s pals with Meysami, stated: “I’ve to say how sorry I’m that for a few years, all of the information you hear from Iran is unhealthy information, together with the images of emaciated Farhad Meysami from jail.”

She added that: “(Meysami) stated ‘I’m in opposition to obligatory hijab’ and since he had written (that) on a placard … they imprisoned him.”

The textual content of a letter allegedly written by Meysami and supplied to CNN by a human rights lawyer who claims to symbolize him, Mohammad Moghimi, confirmed that the activist began the starvation strike to protest the execution of prisoners, to name for the discharge of a number of protesters and to cease hijab legislation enforcements. CNN couldn’t confirm the authenticity of the letter.

Photos on social media confirmed Meysami’s bones protruding and his head shaved. CNN has not been in a position to affirm when the images had been taken. CNN reached out to the Iranian Ministry of International Affairs for remark.

“For a few years, Farhad has been a really lively member of our civil society, however for the previous ten years, [his] activism has change into increasingly open. And he has been particularly supporting the ladies of their protest motion,” Sotoudeh added.

Meysami was jailed in 2018 after voicing his help for girls protesting the hijab legislation. He was charged with “meeting and collusion to behave in opposition to nationwide safety” and of “propaganda in opposition to the regime,” in response to a bunch targeted on Iran, Human Rights Activists.

After the pictures of Meysami circulated on-line, state affiliated media on Friday denied the activist is at the moment on starvation strike, and stated that he’s in “good situation.”

“Farhad’s calls for are additionally the calls for of all Iranians, and I hope that as quickly as doable, these calls for will probably be realized in order that we are able to save Farhad’s life, and we are able to save all of us,” Sotoudeh informed Amanpour.

Final week, Iran’s Supreme Chief Ayatollah Ali Khamenei permitted a proposal to pardon or commute the sentences of numerous prisoners as a part of an annual amnesty, state media reported.

Nevertheless, humanitarian organizations dismissed the transfer as “propaganda” and a “PR stunt” forward of the forty fourth anniversary of the “victory of the Islamic Revolution,” marked on February 11. It’s customary for Khamenei to grant amnesty to some prisoners to mark this event.

“It is a state of affairs that’s repeated yearly. And I don’t need to give myself any false hopes that they will launch individuals. I need to have the hope that they’ll launch both one or 10,000 political prisoners, any launch I’d be very pleased with, and that’s my hope,” Sotoudeh stated of the announcement.

Wanting forward, the Iranian lawyer stated that whereas she is petrified of talking out in opposition to the federal government, she is dedicated to releasing future generations from the grip of the regime.

“We don’t know what’s going to be the exact end result, we don’t know that. However individuals’s calls for have gotten increasingly clear, extra vociferous,” she added.

Requested if she feared for her personal security, Sotoudeh responded: “Sure … understanding that my household, my kids are being threatened, as a mom, as a result of I do know it will probably curb their schooling, it will probably curb their progress… sure I’m fearful due to that.”

But these issues received’t cease her struggle, she informed Amanpour.

“However however, I’m additionally frightened that if I don’t do something, if I keep passive, that will result in worsening of the scenario,” Sotoudeh added.

“Regardless of my worry, I try to do what’s going to be extra useful for releasing the nation and releasing our individuals.”