Do you have a child in prison?
"I miss you, my dearest" - the letters from Nasrin Sotoudeh to her children in prison
Heartbreaking letters from prison from Iranian lawyer and women's rights activist Nasrin Sotoudeh reveal the trauma the government inflicts on families and claims to protect them in the process.
Nasrin Sotoudeh is a lawyer who is never afraid to do the right thing in Iran. In her long and impressive career, she has exposed the injustices of the death penalty and advocated children's rights. Most recently, she defied humiliating laws that force girls aged nine and over to wear a hijab, go to jail, receive a beating or pay a fine. Nasrin was sentenced to a total of 38 years and 148 lashes after two unfair trials for demanding a decision on behalf of women and girls. She will have to serve 17 years of this sentence.
Nasrin Sotoudeh is also the mother of two children. The Iranian authorities use their commitment to justice and equality for their clients against them. They threw her in jail twice: once in 2010 and now again in 2018. Both times, Nasrin was ripped off by her beloved children - and her children by her brave and loving mother. During this time, she wrote a series of letters from prison to her now 11-year-old son Nima and her now 19-year-old daughter Mehraveh. As these snippets show, Nasrin's fear of being who she is - someone who must defend the right thing at all costs - makes her question her own decisions as a mother. It's an unjust situation, shaped not by their choices, but by an oppressive government determined to break them. Many agree that Nasrin is the best mother she can be by showing her children that truth and justice are principles worth fighting for - and that being a good mother doesn't mean between To choose your values and your children.
Hello my dearest Nima,
Writing a letter to you is very difficult. How can I tell you where I am when you are so innocent and too young to understand the real meanings of words like prison, arrest, judgment, trial and injustice?
Last week you asked me, "Mom, are you coming home with us today?" And I was forced to tell the security agents clearly, "My work will take a while, so I'll be home later." Then you nodded, as if you were saying you understand and took my hand and gave it a sweet, childlike kiss with the little lips.
How do I explain that it is not up to me to come home, that I cannot come back to you when I know that you told your father to ask me to finish my job so that I can come home can? How do I explain to you that no “work” could ever keep me that far away from you?
My dearest Nima, in the last six months I have cried uncontrollably twice. The first time was when my father died and I was deprived of grief and unable to attend his funeral. The second time was the day you asked me to come home and I couldn't come home with you.
My dearest Nima, in custody cases the courts have repeatedly ruled that a three-year-old child is not allowed to stay with his father for 24 consecutive hours with regard to visiting rights. This is because the courts believe that young children should not be separated from their mother for 24 hours and that such separation would cause psychological harm to a child.
However, the same judiciary ignores the rights of a three-year-old child on the pretext that his mother "wants to crack down on the country's national security".
It goes without saying that I did not want to "go against national security" in any way and that my only goal as a lawyer has always been to legally defend my clients.
I want you to know that, as a woman, I am proud of the severe sentence sentenced against me, and I have the honor of defending many human rights defenders. The tireless efforts of women have finally proven that whether we support or dislike them, we can no longer be ignored.
Hoping for better days
My dear Mehraveh, my daughter, my pride and my joy
It has been six months since I was taken from you my beloved children. We were only allowed to see each other a few times during those six months, and even then in the presence of security agents. During this time I was never allowed to write for a picture or even to meet you freely without security restrictions. My dear Mehraveh, you understand more than anyone else the sadness in my heart and the conditions under which we were allowed to meet. Every time, after every visit and every single day, I have difficulty imagining whether I have considered and respected the rights of my own children. More than anything, I needed to be sure that you, my beloved daughter, in whose wisdom I strongly believe, did not accuse me of violating the rights of my own children.
I once told you, "My daughter, I hope you never think that I haven't thought of you or that my actions deserve such punishment ... Everything I've done is legal and within the law." It was in this situation that you lovingly caressed my face with your little hands and replied, "I know, Mummy ... I know ..." That day I was freed from the nightmare of being judged by my own daughter to become.
My dearest Mehraveh, just as I could never disregard your rights and always tried to protect them in full, I could never disregard the rights of my clients.
How could I leave the scene once I was summoned by the authorities knowing my clients were behind bars? How could I give them up when they had hired me as their legal counsel and were waiting for their trial?
My desire to protect the rights of many people, especially the rights of my children and your future, has led me to take such cases to court. I believe that the pain our families and my clients' families have had over the past few years is not in vain. Justice comes exactly at the point when most have given up hope.
I miss you my love and I send you a hundred kisses
Hello my dearest Nima,
I don't know how to begin this letter. How can I forget that this year you had to go to school without me and even without your dad by your side, and just tell you that this year is a normal year like any other year? How can I ask you to get to school on time, do homework, study well, and be a good boy until we come back?
I would hate to say such words to you as a mother because I know that in your young life you had to experience the constant trauma of visiting me in prison, being banned from visiting me and the fear of injustice.
As a mother, I cannot ask you to forget my existence and to think to yourself that you have no mother at all, just so that I can go about my work with a clear conscience and fight for human rights. May I never be so cruel to you.
My job as a lawyer, which is constantly being attacked in Iran, draws me - and this time your father too - into the storm of injustice and cowardice that is destroying the community of Iranian lawyers.
Today I keep thinking of you, how lonely you must feel, and of our dear Mehraveh, who made us proud and is now forced to take care of you and be your mother and father at the same time.
I send you my tears of love in the hope that they will make the injustices of our time a little more bearable for you.
I'm sending you thousands of kisses because I haven't seen you in too long.
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