A Mother's Heartbreaking Letter to Her Children

A widely respected Iranian lawyer and a prominent human rights activist, Nasrin Sotoudeh, who is held in notorious Evin Prison for nearly 9 months, has written a letter to her 3 years old son, Nima, using a few pieces of napkins. The letter was written on napkins, as she had no access to any paper. What follows is a translation of Soutoudeh's letter which includes images of the original letters to her children, 11 years old daughter Mehraveh and 3 years old son, Nima.


This is made possible, courtesy of Iranian Feminist School and International Campaign in support of Nasrin Sotoudeh who provided the images of the original letters in Persian and their translations.



Hello my dearest Nima,


Writing a letter to you my dear Nima is so very difficult. How do I tell you where I am when you are so innocent and too young to comprehend the true meaning of words such as prison, arrest, sentence, trial, injustice, censorship, oppression versus liberation, freedom, justice, equality, etc.


A picture of 3 years old Nima alongside his letters


How can I make sure that I am speaking to you in terms that make sense to you today and are not meant to be discussed in the future? How do I explain that coming home is not up to me, that I am not free to rush back to you, when I know that you had told your father to ask me to finish my work so I can come back home? How do I explain to you that no "work" could ever keep me so far away from you? How do I tell you that in reality, no "work" has the right to keep me away from you for so long; that no "work" has the right to so utterly ignore my children's rights? How do I explain that in the past 6 months I have not been afforded the right to see you for even one hour?


What should I tell you my son? Last week you asked me "Mommy are you coming home with us today?" and I was forced to respond in plain view of the security agents: "My work is going to take a while so I"ll come home later." It is then that you nodded as if to say you understand and took my hand, giving it a sweet, childlike kiss with your small lips.


My dear Nima, in the past six months, I found myself crying uncontrollably on two occasions. The first time was when my father passed away and I was deprived of grieving and attending his funeral. The second was the day you asked me to come home and I couldn't come home with you. I returned to my cell and sobbed without control.


My dearest Nima, in child custody cases, the courts have repeatedly voted that when it comes to visitation rights, a three year old child cannot be left with their father for 24 consecutive hours. This legal precedence has been established because the courts believe that young children should not be away from their mothers for 24 hours and that such a separation would result in psychological damage to a child.


This same judiciary, however, is capable of ignoring the rights of a 3 year old child under the pretext that his mother is seeking to act against the national security of the country.


It goes without saying that it pains me to have to explain to you that I was not seeking in any way to act against "their" national security and that as a lawyer, my only objective has always been to defend my clients under the law. Nor do I wish to prove to you for example, that the content of the interviews I gave are available to the public and as a result of my criticism of the judicial rulings, inherent in my role as a lawyer, I have now been considered worthy of 11 years behind bars.


What I want you to know my beloved Nima is this: firstly, although I am not the first person to have received such an unjust sentence, and I know that it is highly unlikely and wishful thinking on my part, I nevertheless hope that I will be the last.


Secondly, I am very pleased and if nothing else more at peace now that I am being held in the same location as many of my clients; clients whom I was unable to defend effectively and now find themselves behind bars as a result of the illegal judicial process.


Thirdly, I want you to know that as a woman, I am proud of the heavy sentence rendered against me and honored to have defended many civil activists and individuals protesting the election results. I am pleased that if nothing else, as their lawyer I have received a heavier sentence than they have.


A picture of 11 years old Mehraveh alongside the letters


The relentless efforts by women has finally proven that regardless of whether we support or appose them, they can no longer be ignored.


I am not sure how to ask this of you my beloved Nima. How do I ask you to pray for the Judge, to pray for my interrogator or the judiciary? Pray my son that they find justice and peace in their hearts so that we too can someday be allowed to live in peace like so many other countries in the world.


My dearest, when it comes to such cases, the final winner is not determined based on whether or not an effective defense has been presented, for in that regard my lawyers did everything in their power to defend me. What is at stake rather, is the oppression of innocent human beings, trampled upon and crushed under the wheels of such strange ideals. It goes without saying that in the game of life those who are innocent will always prevail; and so I ask you my dear Nima, with all your childhood innocence, to pray for the release of not only political prisoners but all innocent prisoners. 


Hoping for better days,

Maman Nasrin
March 2011

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This is so sad! It's amazing when you see someone stand up for human rights even when it means sacrificing their own - the person was locked away in prison away from her family and she knew that it was a possibility in all of her work. Really a moving thing Dustin Food Slicer Store Owner
The translation you posted does not belong either the campaign for Nasrin Sotoudeh, nor the Feminist School. It was done by me. I would appreciate it if you could please make the necessary correction. Thank you. Banooye Sabz

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