Nasrin Sotoudeh (Iran)

Imprisoned Iranian lawyer Nasrin Sotoudeh receives 2020 Right Livelihood Award

Iranian human rights lawyer Nasrin Sotoudeh, who is currently imprisoned for her activism, is one of the recipients of the 2020 Right Livelihood Award, widely known as the “Alternative Nobel Prize,” for promoting political freedoms and the rule of law in Iran, the Right Livelihood Foundation said on Thursday.

The Swedish Right Livelihood Award is an internationally renowned prize honouring courageous changemakers since 1980. By recognizing the actions of brave visionaries and building impactful connections around the world, the Award aims to boost urgent and long-term social change.

Sotoudeh has long advocated for the rights of political prisoners, opposition activists, women and children in the face of Iran’s repressive regime. She is currently serving a long prison sentence for standing up against the country’s draconian legal system. She has just ended an over-40-day-long hunger strike to protest the continued arbitrary detention of political prisoners and the abysmal conditions in Iranian prisons amid the Covid-19 pandemic.

Despite her imprisonment and constant threats to her family, Sotoudeh remains a defiant advocate for human rights and the rule of law.

She is receiving the distinction “for her fearless activism, at great personal risk, to promote political freedoms and human rights in Iran.”

She is the first Iranian Laureate to receive the Right Livelihood Award.

Reza Khandan, Sotoudeh’s husband, said:

“Many thanks to the Swedish Right Livelihood Foundation for giving its annual award to Nasrin and three other human rights activists.

Our family is going through difficult times. Actions by the Iranian government towards Nasrin and our family are in some cases beyond imagination. They have blocked Nasrin’s bank accounts, detained our daughter Mehraveh, detained me, sentenced Nasrin to a staggering 38.5 years in jail and lashes. The Iranian government thinks they can ruin our family by imposing heavier attacks on us. They have targeted the pressures towards our whole family in the hope that they can achieve their goals. I am so worried about Nasrin’s condition that I am beginning to think of the worst-case scenario, which I never thought of before.

It would be impossible to tolerate these pressures without local and international support. The speed and strength of this support seems to outweigh the government’s pressures.”

“Nasrin Sotoudeh is a symbol of the struggle for freedom and justice in Iran,” said Ole von Uexkull, Executive Director of the Right Livelihood Foundation. “Despite being harassed and thrown into prison on trumped-up charges, she has refused to be silenced by the Iranian regime. We demand the immediate release of this extraordinary human rights defender, whose determination is a humbling and inspiring testament to the strength of the human spirit.”

Sotoudeh will receive a prize money of 1 million SEK to support her work. As in previous years, the 2020 Laureates were nominated in an open process where anyone could submit individuals and organisations for consideration. The Laureates will be honoured during a virtual Award Presentation on December 3, 2020.


The other 2020 Right Livelihood Laureates are:


  • Find more information on the other Laureates here.
  • Photos and videos of the new Laureates can be found here.


Short biography of Nasrin Sotoudeh

Under Iran’s oppressive leadership, human rights and political opposition are heavily restricted. Women face especially harsh oppression and limitations due to the country’s strict interpretation of Islamic law. Despite pro-democracy protests in recent years and heavy international criticism for its human rights record, Iran remains one of the most repressive regimes worldwide.

Sotoudeh rose to prominence in the aftermath of the 2009 anti-government protests, the so-called “Green Revolution” following the country’s presidential elections. Sotoudeh defended several activists arrested during the government’s aggressive crackdown on the demonstrations, including Heshmat Tabarzadi, the head of the banned opposition group Democratic Front of Iran. Sotoudeh also represented Iranian human rights activist and Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Shirin Ebadi. As a member of the organisation called “Step by Step to Stop the Death Penalty” (LEGAM), Sotoudeh has fought to abolish the death penalty in Iran. Most recently, she defended some of the women who in 2018 protested Iran’s draconian law requiring hijabs by taking off their headscarves on the streets. Sotoudeh has also campaigned against the death penalty for minors convicted of crimes committed under the age of 18.

Because of her unrelenting commitment to justice, Sotoudeh has been frequently imprisoned, including in solitary confinement, since 2010. In March 2019, she was sentenced to a total of 38 years in prison and 148 lashes on made-up charges including stoking “corruption and prostitution.” During the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020, Sotoudeh went on hunger strikes to protest the continued arbitrary detention of political prisoners amid abysmal conditions in Iranian prisons.

Sotoudeh’s insistence on the rule of law and her unrelenting fight against oppression has made her a symbol of the struggle for justice in Iran.


Biographical Information

Place of Birth: Tehran, Iran

Date of Birth: May 29, 1963

Education: Shahid Beheshti University (Masters Degree in International Law)

Media contacts

International media: Emoke Bebiak,, +41 78 333 84 84

German media: Julia Naumann and Nina Tesenfitz,,

+49 (0)170 5763 663

Spanish media: Nayla Azzinnari,, +54 9 11 5460 9860

Swedish media: Johannes Mosskin,, +46 70 437 11 48


About the Right Livelihood Award

Established in 1980, the Right Livelihood Award aims to nurture the human courage needed to achieve peace, justice and sustainability for all. By recognizing the actions of brave visionaries and building impactful connections around the world, the Award aims to boost urgent and long-term social change.

182 Laureates from 72 countries have received the distinction to date.

The Stockholm-based Right Livelihood Foundation presenting the Award sees its role as being a megaphone and shield for the Laureates, providing them with long-term support. The Foundation’s main aims are to raise the profile of the Laureates and their work, provide protection when Laureates’ lives and liberty are in danger, and educate people on the innovative solutions presented by Laureates. The Foundation has Special Consultative Status with the UN Economic and Social Council.

A particular feature of the Award is that anyone can nominate individuals and organisations for consideration. An international Jury selects the Laureates after careful investigation by the Foundation’s research team. Unlike most other international prizes, the Right Livelihood Award has no categories. It recognises that in striving to meet the challenges of today’s world, the most inspiring and remarkable work often defies any standard classification.


Press releases

Media contacts

Emoke Bebiak

English, French & International Media

Phone: +41 (0)78 333 84 84

Marina Shupac

Eastern European Media

Phone: + 373 799 74 628

Mikaela Fredrikson

Multimedia & Copyright

Phone: +46 (0)70 407 0325

Nayla Azzinnari

Spanish Media

Phone: +54 9 11 5460 9860

Nina Tesenfitz

German Media

Phone: +49 (0)170 5763 663

Johannes Mosskin

Swedish Media

Phone: +46 (0)70 437 11 48