CHRI – Narges Mohammadi, a prominent human rights activist serving a 16-year prison sentence for her peaceful advocacy efforts, is publicly urging newly re-elected President Hassan Rouhani to build the foundations for civil society in Iran.
In an open letter from the Women’s Ward of Evin Prison in Tehran published on June 21, 2017, Mohammadi explained why she and other prisoners of conscience voted for Rouhani in the presidential elections on May 19.
“As a citizen who voted for you, I should and will be insistent on seeking my demands,” she wrote. “I am an imprisoned civil rights activist, but I am not asking you to free me. I want to see [the dream for] a civil society come true. That is my demand.”
Mohammadi, the former vice president of the Defenders of Human Rights Center headed by Nobel Peace laureate Shirin Ebadi, said she voted “despite being charged by Your Excellency’s Intelligence Ministry and unjustly, unlawfully and inhumanly condemned by the judiciary” to 16 years in prison.
“We have not retreated from our principles by voting,” she added. “If need be, we will pay a price higher than incarceration.”
In 2011 Mohammadi, 45, was sentenced to six years in prison, but was released on medical furlough in 2013.
Two years later, the mother of two was arrested again for her continued peaceful activism, notably after meeting with the European Union’s foreign policy chief, Catherine Ashton, at the Austrian Embassy in Tehran.
“Popular participation is not a slogan that goes away after voting,” she wrote in her letter to Rouhani. “Our rights go further than that.”
“We have the right to have civil institutions, media outlets and lawful assemblies to actively and independently engage with the government without being accused of conspiring against national security,” she added.
Responding to criticism that voting in the election legitimizes the state’s continuing human rights’ violations, Mohammadi wrote: “For many reasons I do not share the government’s aspirations, but those of us who voted did so based on our country’s recent history and our reformist views.”
“We draw the line at violent behavior that threatens peace,” she added. “That’s why we voted for you.”