UPDATE: According to a recent UN report, Atena has been subject to torture, sexual harassment and degrading detention conditions in prison. Furthermore, she was reportedly forced to take virginity and pregnancy tests, and held in prolonged solitary confinement for 20 days.
Iranian cartoonist Atena Farghadani was first jailed in Tehran in August of 2014 after publishing a cartoon in protest of proposed legislation that would restrict birth control and women’s rights in Iran.
Twelve officers, believed to belong to the Revolutionary Guards, searched her house and confiscated her personal belongings including her books, laptop, tablet and mobile phone before they put her in a car, blindfolded her and took her to Evin Prison.
She was then held for the first five days in solitary confinement before being transferred to a cell shared with another detainee, Ghoncheh Ghavami, in Section 2A of Evin Prison. She was held for another 10 days in solitary confinement after she started a hunger strike in protest of her detention.
She said that her interrogators questioned her about meeting with families of those killed during the protests that followed the disputed 2009 presidential election. She was also questioned about a cartoon that she had drawn and posted on her Facebook page.
The authorities also brought the charge of “gathering and colluding with anti-revolutionary individuals and deviant sects” against Atena Farghadani for her art exhibition, named “Parandegan-e Khak” ("Birds of Earth") which referred to those killed in the aftermath of the 2009 disputed election and was attended by relatives of political prisoners as well as members of the Baha’i community.
Atena Farghadani started a “wet” hunger strike on October 1, 2014, after she discovered that the authorities intended to continue her detention despite the end of early investigations. After 11 days of hunger strike, she stopped taking water in addition to food (“dry” hunger strike). Atena Farghadani was released on November 6, 2014 on a high bail.
On 28 December 2014, Atena Farghadani posted a YouTube video recounting her beatings and mistreatment while in prison. In anticipation of her trial on charges that included “spreading propaganda against the system,” Farghadani wrote a defiant open letter to Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei.
As a result of that letter and her YouTube posting, Farghadani was returned to prison in January 2015. In May, she was tried and found guilty of “insulting members of Parliament through paintings” and “insulting the Iranian supreme leader.” Atena Farghadani was sentenced to 12 years, nine months in prison.
In September 2015, Farghadani was charged with an 'illegitimate sexual relationship short of adultery' and 'indecent conduct' after shaking the hand of her lawyer Mohammad Moghimi, who visited her in prison after her trial. He was also charged.
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Imprisoned 12 years in Iran for drawing a cartoon