In an effort to increase the nation’s population, in 2014, the Iranian parliament voted to restrict access to contraception, making IUDs, vasectomies, and voluntary sterilizations illegal procedures. In response, 28-year-old artist and activist Atena Farghadani drew an “inflammatory” cartoon that portrayed members of the parliament as animals. Atena posted the image on social media and it went viral. In August, Atena was arrested for “spreading propaganda against the system.” But that’s just the beginning of this story.


Atena spent several months in Tehran’s notorious Evin prison, and was released in November 2014, but rearrested just six weeks later, after giving media interviews and posting a video on YouTube criticizing the treatment she received while in prison.

A few weeks into her second imprisonment, Atena went on a hunger strike to protest prison conditions. Unfortunately, the hunger strike caused Atena to suffer a heart attack. The lack of cause for Atena’s arrest, her subsequent treatment by officials, and concerns for her health, caught the attention of the human rights group, Amnesty International who launched a campaign to #FreeAtena.

Here is an excerpt from Amnesty International’s Urgent Action document:

Atena is a prisoner of conscience – she has committed no real crime. She is being unfairly punished simply for exercising her right to free speech, association and assembly. We’ve been calling on Iran’s Supreme Leader and Head of the Judiciary to release Atena immediately – she has committed no crime. More than 33,000 of you have signed our petition to the Iranian authorities calling for Atena’s release. We are monitoring her case and hope her trial sees Atena released. If not, we’ll continue to fight for her freedom.

Article 9 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), to which Iran is a party, provides that no one shall be subjected to arbitrary arrest or detention. Detention is considered arbitrary when a person is deprived of their liberty because they have exercised the rights and freedoms guaranteed in the ICCPR.

Amnesty International presented the petition at the Iranian embassy in London on Monday. Atena’s trial started yesterday, but it’s not too late to send a message on her behalf. Amnesty International has offered the following message to be shared on social media:  , she is a prisoner of conscience who has been held for her peaceful exercise of her rights to freedom of expression.

As reproductive rights continue to be under assault all over the world, including the United States, Atena’s story reminds us of how much more still needs to be done for both women’s rights and human rights. #FreeAtena!

Follow the FreeAtena Facebook page for updates.