It is good news that Nasrin Sotoudeh has been released. It is difficult to know what it is exactly that this presages.
It is said that there is the possibility that President Hassan Rouhani is going to meet, however fleetingly, Obama next week. If so, this may be the only reason that he has released Nasrin. There have been a few more prisoners released but not many.
Up until a few weeks before the election in Iran, Rouhani had been quite well known as a hardliner. But he seems, rather suddenly, to have become a moderate. It certainly looks, at least to me, that he may be doing this to ingratiate himself with President Obama. But I could be wrong. People do change. If there is a genuine change in Iranian policy, in particular with regard to human rights, then, in fact, it is more likely to be because of the Supreme Leader, the so-called Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Khamenei has had some kind of change of heart.
This will in time become apparent. But unless there is a general emptying of prisons in Iran, it isn’t safe to assume that there is a general change in policy. We have to be careful of too much optimism. In the meantime, we can hope.
Nasrin Sotoudeh is a noble woman, a very brave woman, a wonderful human being & a very good lawyer. She has risked her life. She has risked her freedom. She has come close to losing her life, as a result. She has defended amongst others, Zahra Bahrami , the Dutch lady who protested loudly against the repression of the people by the authorities after the thought to be fraudulent elections of 2009 when she was in Iran on a family visit. She was eventually executed for what are believed to be trumped up charges of drug trafficking. Her real crime was to change nationality.
In prison she was tortured, she went on hunger strike because her 12 year old daughter was been persecuted because of her, her case became a cause célèbre. She was awarded the Sakharov Prize, named after Andrei Sakharov, the Soviet scientist & dissident, who was imprisoned by the authorities for his outspoken views.
Now that she has been released, we must all hope that the event presages better things to come, maybe even a secular state, one with an independant judiciary, freedom of speech & religion, freedom of assembly & such freedoms as the right to belong to a non-government trade union.
The freedom to not be a muslim is very important. The demographics of Iran are such it is in fact a country of mainly young people run by old men in beards.
The country is a theocracy. It can work, as in Tibet before the Chinese invaded but normally it doesn’t. In Iran it has been a disaster.
Nasrin says she is going to continue her human rights work.