(New York, NY) — As Nasrin Sotoudeh approaches 40 days on hunger strike in Iran, and ahead of the opening of the 75th UN General Assembly meeting next week, PEN America issued an urgent call for her release and for the release of other political prisoners whose health is at risk due to the spread of COVID-19 inside Iran’s jails.

“Nasrin’s condition is critical and her life hangs in the balance, but her spirit remains unbroken and her calls for justice are reverberating around the world,” said Karin Deutsch Karlekar, PEN America’s director of free expression at risk programs. “We call on President Rouhani to free Nasrin from Evin prison and reunite with her family, as well as release other unjustly incarcerated political prisoners during the COVID-19 pandemic.”

Sotoudeh—a prominent activist, human rights lawyer, writer, and crucial voice of conscience known as Iran’s Mandela—is a key face and heart of Iran’s women’s movement, and was PEN America’s 2011 Freedom to Write honoree. She was rearrested in 2018 and is currently serving a 38-year sentence to punish her activism, expression, and determination to fight for women’s rights.

PEN America has initiated a petition to President Rouhani signed by more than 4,500 people, including dozens of luminaries such as Ayad Akhtar, Kwame Anthony Appiah, Nazanin Boniadi, Hillary Clinton, Geralyn Dreyfous, Khaled Hosseini, Kweku Mandela, Azar Nafisi, Lynn Nottage, Samantha Power, Marjane Satrapi, and Gloria Steinem, among others. PEN is working with Amir Soltani—former PEN Center USA board member, film producer, and author of the graphic novel Zahra’s Paradise—on the campaign, as well as the filmmaker Jeff Kaufman, whose documentary profiling Nasrin and her struggle will be released early in October.

An online event to discuss Nasrin’s case will be held on Monday, September 21 at 1pm ET/10am PT. The event’s speakers include Irwin Cotler, former Canadian justice minister and president of the Raoul Wallenberg Centre for Human Rights; Karin Deutsch Karlekar, director of Free Expression at Risk Programs at PEN America; Amir Soltani, Iranian-American writer and filmmaker, and author of Zahra’s Paradise; Roya Boroumand, executive director, Abdorrahman Boroumand Center for Human Rights in Iran; Ladan Boroumand, co-founder and senior fellow at the Abdorrahman Boroumand Center; and Sherman Teichman, senior fellow of the Raoul Wallenberg Centre, and founding president of The Trebuchet.