Another civil society activist has received a harsh sentence in Iran. Artist Atena Farghadani has been sentenced to twelve and a half years in prison for drawings and other content critical of the government which she posted on Facebook. She was charged with crimes against national security, including “propaganda against the state” and insulting the Supreme Leader and members of parliament.
Amnesty International called the sentencing a “terrible injustice,” and noted that “such harsh and unjust sentences seem to be part of a disturbing trend in Iran, where the cost of voicing peaceful dissent is escalating.”
In May, anti-death penalty activist Atena Daemi was sentenced to 7 years in prison also on national security charges. She had posted critical remarks about executions and human rights violations on-line, and had participated in gatherings outside prisons in solidarity with families of death–row prisoners.
Amnesty International and other human rights monitors consider both Atena Farghadani and Atena Daemi prisoners of conscience, held solely for the peaceful exercise of their right to freedom of expression.
President Barack Obama has said, “Strong, successful countries require strong and vibrant civil societies:”
“Human progress has been propelled not just by famous leaders, not just by states, but by ordinary men and women who believe that change is possible; by citizens who are willing to stand up against incredible odds and great danger not only to protect their own rights, but to extend rights to others.”
Around the world, fundamental freedoms are under threat, said President Obama. And when they are -- when the space for civil society to operate becomes more restricted -- the United States will work to open it up; and speak out for those whose rights have been violated, and whose voices have been silenced.
The United States continues to call on the government of Iran to release all who have been unjustly imprisoned for the peaceful exercise of their fundamental rights and to live up to its own laws as well as its international obligations.