While western feminists fret on social media over an errant brushstroke, an Iranian woman faces jail time over an alleged handshake.

Atena Farghadani, a 29-year-old painter and activist, is charged with having an “illegitimate sexual relationship short of adultery” following allegations that she and her lawyer, Mohammad Moghimi, shook hands during a prison visit.

Handshakes between men and women are illegal in Iran.

Farghadani previously served three months in Evin Prison in Tehran for satirical cartoons she drew lampooning several prominent Iranian government officials.

She was rearrested in January this year after publishing a video to Youtube that gave details of abuses she suffered during her brief stay in prison.

She is currently serving the first of a 12-year sentence, awaiting trial. Moghimi, who was arrested in June, is currently out on bail, also awaiting trial.

Amnesty International has started a petition for Farghadani’s immediate release. From the website:

Beaten in detention, punished for speaking out

Last August, 12 members of the Revolutionary Guards came to Atena’s house. They confiscated her personal belongings, blindfolded her and took her to Tehran’s notorious Evin Prison.

Atena was released in November last year, but rearrested just six weeks later. In the time that she was released, she gave media interviews and posted a video on youtube describing how the prison guards had interrogated her for 9 hours every day for six weeks. She said that female prison guards had beaten her and subjected her to degrading body searches.

Just weeks after posting her youtube video, Atena was once again arrested – possibly as reprisal for speaking out.

Hunger strike in protest at prison conditions

Atena was kept in solitary confinement for over two weeks when she was detained last year in Tehran’s notorious Evin prison. During that time she was denied access to her lawyer or family. After her release from detention, she said that she’d been beaten by prison guards.

Three weeks after she was rearrested in January this year, Atena went on hunger strike to protest that she was being held in extremely poor prison conditions, in a jail that does not have a section for political prisoners. Atena’s health suffered considerably as a result; her lawyer told us that Atena had suffered a heart attack and briefly lost consciousness in late February as a result of her hunger strike.

Call on Iran to release Atena and reunite her with her family immediately: she has committed no crime.

Sign the petition to free Atena Farghadani here


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