French President Invites Nasrin Sotoudeh to G7 Gender Equality Advisory Council
Seat for Imprisoned Lawyer Was Left Empty at the Council’s Meeting Last Month
The husband of imprisoned human rights attorney Nasrin Sotoudeh has received a letter from French President Emmanuel Macron inviting Sotoudeh to be part of an advisory council created to advise the Group of 7 (G7) countries on gender equality issues.
Sotoudeh’s husband, Reza Khandan, received the letter the day after news spread that his wife, a prominent lawyer and human rights defender who is now in Iran’s Evin Prison, had been convicted of “national security” charges in Iran.
“Today [March 7] a legal representative from the French Embassy in Tehran gave me a letter from French President Emanuel Macron and the Group of Seven (G7),” Khandan said in an interview with CHRI.
“The letter, signed by Macron, invites Nasrin to join the G7 Gender Equality Advisory Council as a member and participate in their meetings. According to the representative, the transcript of this announcement has been sent to Iran’s Foreign Ministry and the National Bar Association,” Khandan added.
The letter, a copy of which was obtained by the Center for Human Rights in Iran (CHRI), said “This council, composed mainly of civil society personalities, will help the French G7 presidency identify the most favorable laws for women in the world.”
“I am pleased to invite you to this initiative to advance real equality between women and men around the world,” President Macron wrote to Nasrin Sotoudeh.
The 35-member council includes three Nobel Peace Prize winners: Tunisian businesswoman Wided Bouchamaoui, Congolese gynecologist Denis Mukwege and Yazidi activist Nadia Murad. Other high-profile women’s rights advocates, such as the actress Emma Watson, who is a United Nations goodwill ambassador on gender equality issues, are also part of the council.
The letter, sent via the French Embassy in Tehran to Sotoudeh’s home in the Iranian capital, was dated February 13, 2019, but Sotoudeh’s husband, who is also facing a six-year prison sentence, only received it on March 7, the day after news of Sotoudeh’s conviction made international headlines.
A seat was left empty for Sotoudeh at a meeting of the council at the Elysee Palace in Paris with Macron on February 19, 2019.
The council is focused on three main topics: combating violence against women, promoting girls’ education and women’s entrepreneurship.
According to Macron’s letter, the council will deliver a “legislative package” to the G7 countries (France, Canada, the US, Japan, Germany, Italy and the UK) and other states to advance the role of women and promote gender equality in participating nations and around the world.
The next G7 Summit will take place in the French coastal city of Biarritz in August 2019. It is not clear whether Sotoudeh, who is facing many years in prison for her work in Iran defending human rights, will be able to attend.