On October 17, Iranian lawyer Nasrin Sotoudeh began an indefinite hunger strike. Her simple request, for which she was prepared to give her life, was for the government to allow her family the right to visit her in prison and for her 12 year old daughter to be able to leave the country. After 49 days, the authorities relented, and she ended her fast on December 4th.
For people of conscience everywhere, Nasrin serves as a powerful example. A nonviolent critic of Iranian authorities and a tireless activist on behalf of children and victims of abuse, she was arrested and sentenced to 6 years in prison for her writings and statements.
Havaar members gathered in Union Square shortly after Nasrin ended her hunger strike to spread word of her struggle and stand in solidarity. In the same vein, the members came to raise awareness about the impact that American threats of war and continuing economic sanctions are having on activists like Nasrin and Iranians in general.
Contrary to the stated logic of the Obama administration, sanctions do little to empower Iranians to stand up for their rights. The threat of war, similarly, has created a state of emergency in the country and an environment where criticizing Iranian state repression is far more perilous.
For a number of New Yorkers, whether Iranian or not, seeing Nasrin’s picture and her message on display was an important chance to engage, spread awareness and build a solidarity rooted in the genuine common struggle of American and Iranian people for a more just, representative and humane political order.