Nasrin Sotoudeh, a distinguished human rights lawyer, writer, and PEN America’s 2011 Freedom to Write honoree, is currently jailed in Iran’s Qarchak prison. In late 2020, she undertook a grueling 46-day hunger strike to protest the conditions facing political prisoners, including a heightened risk of contracting COVID-19. She was returned to Qarchak against the advice of medical professionals after a brief furlough in December, and continues to advocate for prisoners’ basic human rights.

Nasrin has asked PEN America to release and circulate the following letter on her behalf, to appeal to the international community to speak out regarding the current spate of prisoner executions in Iran.


To The Honorable Secretary-General of the United Nations, 

I write to you from Qarchak, one of Iran’s most notorious prisons, so that my voice might, in some way, boost the efforts of the United Nations. My hope is that, in the not too distant future, we can realize even some small part of the great dreams for humanity enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. As you may be aware, in the past few months, many of our religious and ethnic minority compatriots in Iran have been executed amid the media’s silence. At dawn on Wednesday, February 17, Zahra Esmaeli, an inmate at our prison, and eight other prisoners were taken to the gallows and hanged.

You know well what predictable mistakes are often made in these numerous executions. As someone who has been closely involved in Zahra Esmaeili’s case, I am certain that she did not commit murder. I ask you, the international community, and human rights activists to please pay close attention to the issue of executions in Iranian society, especially that of religious, ethnic minorities, and women, and take necessary measures to prevent such extensive executions.

With deep respect,

Nasrin Sotoudeh
Qarchak Women’s Prison
February 2021