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March 9, 2023

Recognizing courageous women human rights activists inside Iran

This International Women’s Day, we wanted to honor and acknowledge some of the women activists doing incredible work on the ground inside Iran. These women, and many others like them in Iran have shown immense courage and determination in the face of imprisonment, violence, and unyielding repression. Their resolve continues to inspire us, and we hope recognizing them brings you some of that same inspiration.  

Soha Mortezaei

Soha Mortezaei was the Secretary of the Tehran University Central Council of Students during nationwide protests in December 2017 and November 2019, helping organize peace protests and student activism efforts against unjust state policies. She  subsequently received harsh punishment from Iranian authorities for her political activities. This included a prison sentence in 2018 and the Ministry of Information barring her from finishing her Master’s degree. After she led a sit-in in protest of this unjust decision, coinciding with nationwide protests of 2019, she was sentenced to another stint in prison. Mortezaei was most recently arrested during the Women, Life, Freedom protests in November 2022 with Iranian authorities reportedly physically and sexually abusing her during her arrest. She remains unjustly imprisoned in the Qarchak prison for women.

Nasrin Sotoudeh 

Nasrin Sotough is a world-renowned human rights lawyer who, despite being imprisoned and harrassed by the Islamic Republic, has carried out dedicated work as human rights defender representing women’s rights activists, opposition activists, and young prisoners sentenced to death for “crimes” committed when they were minors. She has continued to courageously defend human rights despite the intense risks of such work in Iran. 

Narges Mohammadi 

Narges Mohammadi is an incredibly brave and dedicated human rights defender who has fearlessly fought for the abolition of the death penalty and for the rights of prisoners in Iran. Despite facing multiple imprisonments and experiencing harassment and abuse from authorities, she has continued to speak out and raise her voice in support of the protest movements, human rights,  women’s rights, and the rights of young people and teachers. Her tireless efforts and commitment to justice are truly admirable. 

Shahnaz Akmali 

Shahnaz Akmali’s unwavering dedication to pursuing justice for families of fallen victims of state violence is truly inspiring. After her son was killed by Iranian forces at a street protest in 2009, she has made countless efforts to seek redress for him in Iran’s courts, despite facing repeated threats from the government. Along with other mothers of victims of political violence, Akmali has been a vocal advocate for justice and prisoners, demonstrating immense courage in the face of adversity. Her bravery in seeking accountability for state violence deserves recognition.

We hope the stories and bravery of these incredible women will bring you some inspiration today and in the fights ahead. We look forward to the day when all of these brave women are free and their vital work in advancing human rights are protected. 


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