The Iranian artist Atena Farghadani, who was sentenced to 12 years and nine months in prison last June for her satirical cartoon of members of the Iranian government, was released yesterday (3 May), according to Amnesty International. Her freedom comes following a successful appeal in April to have her sentence reduced to 18 months.
Farghadani was arrested in August 2014 for depicting Iranian parliamentarians as monkeys and goats in protest against two bills that will outlaw voluntary sterilisation and restrict access to contraception. Last June, a Tehran court found the artist guilty of “spreading propaganda against the system”, “insulting members of the parliament through paintings” and “gathering and colluding against national security”. She was acquitted of the charges of compromising national security in a recent trial.
Members of the Revolutionary Guard arrested Farghadani following her exhibition, Birds of Earth, which included works dedicated to demonstrators killed in the aftermath of the disputed 2009 election when Mahmoud Ahmadinejad became president. Items including her books and laptop were confiscated and the artist was held in Evin Prison in Tehran for almost two months.
Farghadani was freed in November 2014 but was rearrested in January 2015 after posting a video message on YouTube in which she says she was allegedly beaten by guards at Evin. The artist has been subjected to weeks of solitary confinement and in February 2015 went on hunger strike, which resulted in a heart attack.
A UN report recently confirmed Farghadani was forced to undergo virginity and pregnancy tests, allegedly to investigate “illegitimate sexual relations” with her lawyer who shook her hand after her trial. The pair was charged with “an illegitimate sexual relationship short of adultery” and indecent conduct, but was acquitted in October.
Speaking to the Cartoonists Rights Network International, Farghadani said she was thankful to the cartoonists, activists and organisations who have supported her, but also expressed concern for those who are still imprisoned and largely silenced. Farghadani says she intends to remain in Iran and continue her work as an artist.
Felix Jakens, a campaign manager for Amnesty International UK, says: “While today is a day for celebration for Atena Farghadani and her family, it’s vital that the world doesn’t forget that Atena should never have been in prison in the first place and that many others like her continue to languish in cells in Iran at acute risk of torture and ill-treatment.”