Lawyer and human rights defender Nasrin Sotoudeh, serving a six-year sentence, explains in a letter --- published on her husband Reza Khandan's Facebook page --- why she went on hunger strike for 49 days, ending it earlier this month:
My fellow countrymen,
Is penalizing family members (families of the political prisoners) an accidental occurrence?
I was on a hunger strike for 49 days to protest a variety of issues including punishment of my family. During this time much concerns were generated, all of which arose out of grace and love for a common demand, and that was a big “No” to penalising the families.
It is my duty to extend my gratitude and appreciation to all the people that with their benevolence and kindness paid attention to this matter.
To public and social groups, specifically the Mourning Mothers that have lost their children in the 2009 Movement (I had the honor of representing few of them), to the Mothers for Peace and the women’s rights activists, from the political prisoners that I have the honor of having endured imprisonment with them, to my dear cellmates that endured the hardships associated with my hunger strike, and of course, my husband and my young daughter who endured great sufferings.
To the human rights activists across the world, from the Iranian Diaspora that, after the 2009 Movement, have shown how important their presence is in restoring the human rights and democracy in Iran.
To those who used their individual rights and freedom to stand with us and support the demands that, on the surface, seemed to be limited only to my small family.
To those courageous people that personally decided to participate in my hunger strike, and of course caused me to share the experience of being worried for hunger strikers. They caused me to understand how one person’s hunger strike can create and cause others to worry and be concerned.
Their action brought much heavier responsibility for me, for they had decided to launch a hunger strike in my support.
To the human rights activists across the globe that assisted me in my resistance and standing. And every time I think to myself of what noble human beings are in the other side of the oceans, that support and are sympathetic to my cause and pave the way for me and my family to endure this burden.
I know you were worried about my hunger strike. I would like for all to know that I also was worried for everyone’s worries and concern.
But why I was not willing to halt my hunger strike?
I, along with my clients and tens of political prisoners who are in prison merely because of their noble actions, spend difficult but valuable days in prison.
I now proudly endure imprisonment amongst the civil activists, political activists, prisoners of conscience, and our fellow Baha’i countrymen and Christians that I have had the honor to represent few of them. Those who received unfair sentences for simply living based on their beliefs.
After all the injustices, the regime have even resorted to punishment of the families. First they pursued my husband and then they pressed new charges against him.
After the detention of my family and children for hours, even though for only few hours, they pressed new charges on my 12-year-old daughter. Then in a rush to judgement, they placed a ban on her foreign travel.
My daughter, like every other child at this age. and not more than other children, has the right to live without the fear of threats and punishment.
Previously, I have had the honor of defending the children of my country. Punishing the children is absolutely prohibited, much less for political charges on account of their parents.
But of course, this sort of punishment has not been only limited to my family. To explain the wide scope of this unjust treatment, it is enough to remember that among the 36 female prisoners incarcerated in the political prisoner’s ward, the immediate family of 13 of them are either imprisoned or are under judicial pursuit.
This figure represents one third of the female political prisoners. Among this group there are some that have more than one family member either imprisoned or under Judicial pursuit.
To protest the punishment of the families (the punishment of my family was an example of this sort of treatment), I launched a hunger strike.
It is my hope that the punishment of families is removed from the policy of threats and pressure.
Once again, I would like to extend my sincere gratitude and appreciation to all those whose constant support did not leave me in this endeavor and to declare my confidence in the path that certainly will result in justice, rule of law and democracy.
With hopes of liberty and freedom,