You know when you do research on something and you suddenly take a personal interest in it. That happened to me with Atena’s case. I’ve worked at Amnesty for 8 years now, and been involved as an activist for a few more than that… so I’ve seen a lot of cases come and go.
In fact, you get a bit jaded after being involved for so long. You start to feel that stuff doesn’t change, it doesn’t get better.
I felt like that when reading about Atena’s case a while ago. I was writing a communications piece about Free Speech, and it really included Atena in the follow-up piece. I read about how she drew a picture, and as a result was sentenced to over 12 years in prison. She was denied access to a lawyer or even her own family. To deal with all this, she used paper cups and flowers to keep making art, it made her feel human in an inhuman system. The guards retaliated by beating her and subjecting her to degrading body searches.
How is this the world that we live in?
We did get the awesome news that she was released this week. The appeal court reduced her 12 year sentence to 18 months, but suspended a 3 year sentence, meaning that if she dares speaks out again, she will go straight back to jail. By imposing a suspended sentence, Iran is creating a climate of fear, coercing activists into silence or self-censorship.
My colleague, Magdalena Mughrabi said it the best:
“While this is a time for celebration, it is vital that the world doesn’t forget that Atena Farghadani should never have been imprisoned in the first place and that many others like her continue to languish in cells or have the threat of prison hanging over their head for peacefully exercising their rights.”
We can celebrate, but we should ask ourselves, what kind of a world imprisons someone for drawing a cartoon?