As Nasrin Sotoudeh began her seventh day of hunger strike alongside fellow detainees in Evin Prison, security agents raided her family home and arrested her daughter.
Sotoudeh, a prominent human rights lawyer in Iran, has been sentenced to a total of 38 years behind bars for her defence of women’s rights and political prisoners in the country. Her husband, Reza Khandan, has also previously been targeted by the authorities.
On Monday, August 17, the authorities detained their 20-year-old daughter Mehraveh Khandan and took her to Evin Security Court. She was charged with assaulting a female officer during an altercation at Evin Prison’s visitation hall.
Mehraveh was subsequently released on bail. Her father says no fewer than five security agents had pulled up outside in two cars to take Mehraveh away, without a female officer present.
“Mehraveh was told by the prosecutor's office that she had been in a fight with an officer and had beaten her,” he told IranWire. “Even if we imagine that she really had been involved in such a thing, why come with two cars and five huge men to take away this 45kg child? And where to? To the Security Court, not even the general court, though she has had no previous summons."
"We know the lady [they refer to]. She is four times the size of Mehraveh. She has been trained to control prisoners so that, for example, if five prisoners escape, she can capture them and throw them into solitary confinement. And Mehraveh was told that she had beaten this prison officer!"
In the circumstances it seems highly likely that this arrest was to put pressure on Nasrin Sotoudeh to give up the hunger strike she and others have embarked on at Evin, through which they are demanding the release of “political and ideological prisoners”.
"Of course, these accusations have been made on paper,” Reza Khandan said, “and in reality, Nasrin is on a hunger strike and they want to harass her in various ways: both her and our family. One day they freeze our bank accounts, the next they arrest me, and now they’ve come for our daughter. They try different methods to exert pressure."
Summoning, detaining, torturing and even issuing harsh sentences to dissidents’ family members is a tried-and-tested method of coercion in Iran that dates back to the foundation of the Islamic Republic. On July 15 this year it was announced that Alireza Alinejad, the brother of imprisoned journalist Masih Alinejad, had been sentenced to eight years in prison.
Soft pressure is also applied to families through harassment, asset freezes and the suspension of their legal rights. Taqi Rahmani, the husband of imprisoned activist Narges Mohammadi, posted a video on social media on July 20 lamenting the fact that their two children, Kiana and Ali, had not been allowed to speak to their mother for 11 months. The online outrage sparked by the video led to Mohammadi finally being permitted to speak to her son. Lawyers believe that the maltreatment of prisoners’ families can be construed as a form of torture, which is itself a crime against humanity.