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Iranian Human Rights Lawyer Vows to Continue Protest

Nasrin Sotoudeh (center, holding flower) demonstrates in front of Iran's Bar Association last month along with a number of supporters.

Well-known Iranian human rights attorney Nasrin Sotoudeh says she's determined to continue protesting a decision to ban her from practicing law.

Sotoudeh started picketing outside the offices of the Iranian Bar Association in Tehran a month ago, holding signs reading "right to work" and "rights of dissenters," after the association, reportedly under official pressure, banned her from working as a lawyer for three years.

"If my sentence is not overturned, I will keep protesting until the end of the three-year ban," Sotoudeh told RFE/RL by telephone on November 26.

She also said the independence of the Iranian Bar Association must be restored.

Sotoudeh was released from jail last year after serving half of a six-year sentence on charges that included acting against Iran's national security and spreading propaganda against the establishment.

Sotoudeh, the co-winner of the European Parliament's Sakharov human rights prize in 2012, said her peaceful protest had received the support of many activists and intellectuals in Iran.

"Every day from 9:30 a.m. until 12 p.m., I protest in front of the Bar Association. I've been joined by many political and social activists and also social figures," she said.

Sotoudeh added that some of those who have joined her picket have been pressured by the authorities and threatened with arrest.

Sotoudeh said intelligence officials detained and interrogated her for several hours on November 25 after she took part in a gathering against acid attacks targeting women in Isfahan.

"I was asked how long I was planning to keep protesting and I also heard some threats that day," she said. "[But] I don't believe that my seven-hour detention on that day was not connected to my ongoing protest in front of the Bar Association."

The rights advocate told RFE/RL that many passersby had also expressed support for her actions.

"Sometimes they even say from a distance, 'We're with you,' and they flash victory signs."

Sotoudeh has gained the respect of many people inside and outside of Iran for her defiance in the face of state repression.

Before her arrest in 2010, Sotoudeh was involved in sensitive political and human rights cases.

During her time in prison, she went on hunger strikes several times to protest her sentence and a travel ban imposed on her daughter.

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    Golnaz Esfandiari

    Golnaz Esfandiari is a senior correspondent for RFE/RL focusing on Iran. She has reported from Afghanistan and Haiti and is one of the authors of The Farda Briefing newsletter. Her work has been cited by The New Yorker, The New York Times, The Washington Post, and other major publications. Born and raised in Tehran, she is fluent in Persian, French, English, and Czech.