Iran: Ms. Q&A with Nasrin Sotoudeh on Global Solidarity, Her Time in Prison & Being an Optimist

Nasrin Sotoudeh is an Iranian human rights lawyer and activist who has consistently fought for the rights of women, children, religious minorities and others under persecution in Iran. Over the years, Sotoudeh has spent much of her time in prison, having been arrested for protesting Iran’s mandatory hijab law and resisting authoritarian rule. While in custody in 2022, Sotoudeh wrote to Ms. editors detailing the plight of women in Iran and called for global solidarity around women’s rights.

I spoke with Nasrin and her husband Reza Khandan last month over a Zoom call—arranged by Jeff Kaufman and Marcia Ross, producers of the award-winning documentary Nasrin (streaming on YouTube and Prime Video).

A transcript of the interview is below, edited for clarity. 

Kathy Spillar: Thank you for talking with me today, and thank you both, for everything that you’re doing in the fight for women’s fundamental rights in Iran. It’s inspiring, and we are so honored to be able to cover these issues in Ms

Nasrin Sotoudeh: Thank you so much, dear Kathy. I know how extraordinary your solidarity with us has been over the years during my arrests. It’s very meaningful to be in touch with you. I’m deeply cognizant of what Ms. [and the] Feminist Majority Foundation have done for us.

Spillar: The work that you’re doing is so critical and we know the horrific conditions that you suffer through when you’re in prison. I want you to know that in addition to covering the Woman, Life, Freedom revolution in Iran, we are also working with a coalition here in the U.S, with Iranian and Afghan women pushing the U.N. to define gender apartheid as a crime against humanity.

Beyond working with the coalition here in the U.S., how can we be of greater help? 

Sotoudeh: It’s really important to move forward in a systematic way to make gender apartheid a crime against humanity.

But we women in Afghanistan and Iran are profoundly aware that this is a struggle that we need to wage and win at home. And we certainly learn an enormous amount from what you’re doing on the outside, internationally. What’s taking place in Iran right now is an attempt to reverse the clock and take things back to the conditions before Mahsa [Amini].


Iran: Ms. Q&A with Nasrin Sotoudeh on Global Solidarity, Her Time in Prison & Being an Optimist