Queen’s to award Iranian political prisoner an honorary degree

Decision follows open letter petitioning award for Nasrin Sotoudeh

Queen's to award honorary degree to Nasrin Sotoudeh.
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Queen’s will award human rights activist and lawyer Nasrin Sotoudeh with an honorary doctorate this spring following the circulation of an open letter that garnered more than 500 signatures last year.

Sotoudeh, an Iranian political prisoner who is currently serving a 38-year sentence, will be awarded the degree in absentia.

Former Queen’s students Daniel Power, Daniel Hornstein, and Jeremy Wiener petitioned the University to grant Sotoudeh the degree as an act of solidarity. The three are the founders of Students for Political Prisoners (SPP), a group dedicated to engaging student voices in the world of politics.

“As an organization dedicated to raising awareness of the pain and plight of political prisoners, we knew SPP had to choose someone who embodied the unwavering courage and spirit of all political prisoners. Nasrin is that person,” Hornstein said in a written statement to The Journal.

The open letter calling for Queen’s to award Sotoudeh with the degree first began circulating in early October of 2018, and was submitted to the University last March.

“We spent months reaching out to students and faculty members, speaking in lectures, and meeting with professors,” Power said. “It was a means of demonstrating our support and solidarity with Nasrin and the Iranian people she represents.”

They were thrilled when Queen’s announced it would award Sotoudeh the degree, Wiener added.

“We were delighted. It affirmed our belief in the power of students—that when students unite, our voices can be heard the world over,” Wiener said.

He also said other Canadian universities should follow Queen’s steps and also grant Sotoudeh an honorary degree.

“Universities in Canada and elsewhere should follow Queen’s lead, honouring not only Ms. Sotoudeh but other imprisoned human rights heroes the world over, such as Saudi blogger Raif Badawi and imprisoned Phillipine Senator Leila de Lima,” Wiener continued.

Power also said students are capable of enacting change.

“Through the power of collective action students can create meaningful change,” Power stated. “We hope the honorary doctorate bestowed upon Nasrin inspires other Canadian students to mobilize. We hope this will encourage further international outcry regarding Nasrin’s imprisonment.”

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