Is Nasrin Sotoudeh, the lawyer of Jafar Panahi’s ‘Taxi’, experiencing concerning physical signs?

Fears are growing for the health of detained Iranian human rights lawyer Nasrin Sotoudeh following fresh details of the violent circumstances of her arrest and current physical condition.

Sotoudeh was among several women who were arrested at the funeral in Tehran on Sunday of teenager Armita Geravand, who died after allegedly being assaulted as they arrested her for not wearing Iran’s obligatory veil.

Sotoudeh’s husband, Reza Khandan has revealed that a group of some 50 police and security personnel charged at the mourners gathered at the funeral, beating some and dragging others across gravestones as they were arrested.

Following a subsequent prison visit, Khandan reported that Sotoudeh had said that she was covered in bruises, that the back of her head remained swollen, and that she was experiencing a prolonged headache.

New York-based freedom of expression champion PEN called on the Iranian authorities to transfer Sotoudeh access to hospital without delay.

“Sotoudeh suffers from a pre-existing heart condition, the result of previous prison hunger strikes, and must be transferred immediately from Qarchak, where health services are rudimentary, unsanitary, and there is no specialist doctor, to a specialized care facility,” the body said in a statement released on Thursday.

In the same statement, PEN also noted the plight of recent Noble Laureate Narges Mohammadi who has been denied access to her lawyer and medical care for a heart condition because she refused to wear the veil to leave the women’s section of the jail.

Prominent Iranian human rights lawyer Nasrin Sotoudeh has been arrested while attending the funeral of teenager Armita Geravand, who died after allegedly being assaulted by morality police on the Tehran metro system for not wearing Iran’s obligatory headscarf.

Geravand, 16, was hospitalized on October 1, where she fell into a coma and was announced as having died on October 28.

The incident has drawn parallels with the death of Mahsa Amini in police custody in September 2022, after being arrested for not covering her hair properly, which sparked the ongoing Woman Life Freedom demonstrations.

The protests have ebbed after their initial ferocity amid a tough clampdown by Iran’s hardline Islamist authorities, but there are suggestions that Geravand’s death could become a fresh flashpoint.

In a statement denouncing Sotoudeh’s detention, New York-based freedom of expression champion PEN America said the lawyer was arrested for not wearing a hijab at Geravand’s funeral service.

The body reported she was being held at the Vozara Detention Center, which is used to hold women accused of failing to wear the mandatory hijab and is where Amini was taken before she died.

Sotoudeh has been in and out of jail since 2010 for her human rights work as a lawyer, which has included representing political activists and women who removed the obligatory head scarf.

The lawyer is also known in the cinema world for her appearance in Jafar Panahi’s 2015 Berlinale Golden Bear winner Taxi, in which she boards his vehicle on route to see her then client Ghoncheh Ghavami, a British-Iranian woman who was detained in 2014 for going to see a male volleyball match.

Sotoudeh and Panahi had previously shared the Sakharov Prize of the European Parliament dedicated to people who in different ways have defended human rights.

The lawyer has since been the subject of Jeff Kaufman documentary Nisrin.

In March 2019, Sotoudeh was sentenced to 38 years in prison and 148 lashes, this was later reduced to 10 years. She had been on release from prison since July 2021 for medical reasons.

“Nasrin is one of the most prominent and fearless heroines in the struggle for human rights in Iran,” said said PEN America CEO Suzanne Nossel.

“For Nasrin to be imprisoned once again for expressing solidarity with the family of a teenager who lost her life, apparently for the crime of refusing to cover her hair, is yet another example of the Iranian government’s ruthless indifference to the humanity of its women and girls. We demand Nasrin’s immediate and unconditional release.”

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