Iranian human rights defender and renowned lawyer Nasrin Sotoudeh was arrested during the funeral of 17-year-old Armita Garawand in Tehran. Armita Garawand had tragically passed away after nearly a month in intensive care following a controversial incident on the Tehran metro. Sotoudeh, a recipient of the European Parliament’s 2012 Sakharov Prize for her unwavering commitment to human rights, has faced multiple arrests in recent years.
The arrest took place on Sunday, and Sotoudeh’s husband, Reza Khandan, has reported that she was “violently beaten” during the arrest, sparking international concern. Armita Garawand’s case, who had been in a coma since the metro incident, has raised significant questions, with conflicting narratives surrounding the circumstances of her injury.
This event comes slightly over a year after the tragic death of Mahsa Amini, a young Iranian Kurd who died while in custody. Amini’s arrest by the morality police, allegedly for breaching Iran’s strict women’s dress code, had ignited widespread protests.
The Fars news agency has claimed that Nasrin Sotoudeh was arrested and handed over to judicial authorities for two charges, “not wearing a headscarf” and “disturbing the society’s mental security.” In Iran, it has been mandatory for women to cover their neck and head in public since 1983, a regulation implemented following the 1979 Islamic revolution.
Women in Iran have been increasingly pushing the boundaries of the Islamic Republic’s strict dress code. This trend began with the massive demonstrations that erupted in September of the previous year following the death of Mahsa Amini while in custody for her dress code violation.
Nasrin Sotoudeh has had her share of run-ins with the authorities. She was previously imprisoned in 2018 for defending a woman arrested for protesting against the compulsory headscarf in Iran. In 2019, she received a 12-year prison sentence on charges of “encouraging corruption and debauchery.”
Armita Garawand’s case came to the public’s attention on October 3, initially reported by the Kurdish-focused rights group Hengaw. The group asserted that the teenager had been critically wounded during an incident involving Iran’s morality police on the Tehran metro. However, the Iranian authorities denied any “physical or verbal altercations” had taken place and suggested that her condition was due to a sudden drop in blood pressure.
Metro surveillance footage, which was broadcast on state television, showed the young girl being evacuated without her headscarf after fainting in a metro carriage, further emphasizing the challenges Iranian women face in adhering to the strict dress code.
The international community has voiced its concern over Nasrin Sotoudeh’s arrest during this sensitive time, and her husband’s report of her being “violently beaten” adds to the urgency of the situation. Sotoudeh’s work in advocating for human rights, particularly women’s rights in Iran, has made her a symbol of resilience in the face of adversity.
As the world watches the developments in Iran, questions linger about the circumstances surrounding Armita Garawand’s tragic fate and the ongoing struggles faced by human rights defenders like Nasrin Sotoudeh.