Atena Farghadani
Born (1987-01-29) January 29, 1987 (age 35)
EducationAlzahra University
AwardsCRNI Award for Courage in Editorial Cartooning, Václav Havel Prize for Creative Dissent (2016)

Atena Farghadani (Persian: آتنا فرقدانی; born 29 January 1987) is an Iranian artist and political activist, who was imprisoned for 18 months. Amnesty International considers her a prisoner of conscience.[1] She was released on 3 May 2016.[2]

Arrest and imprisonment

One of her cartoons, in which she criticized a draft law which would outlaw voluntary sterilisation and restrict access to measures of birth control, portrayed Iranian government officials as monkeys and goats. After publishing her artworks on Facebook, she was arrested in August 2014 and jailed for three months in Evin Prison in Tehran on charges of spreading propaganda, insulting members of parliament, and insulting the Supreme Leader of Iran. She was released in November.[3]

Farghadani sent letters of protest over her treatment to Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the supreme leader, Hassan Rouhani, the president, and the head of the prison service, but did not receive a reply. She then posted a video online in which she explained to the public about her experience in Evin prison and that she was being strip-searched, beaten and verbally abused by guards. In January 2015, she was arrested again.[3] Three weeks later, she went on a hunger strike to protest against conditions at the prison. She suffered a heart attack in late February 2015.[4]

On 1 June 2015, judge Abolghassem Salavati of the Tehran court found her guilty on these charges and sentenced her to 12 years and nine months in prison.[5] It is believed that she was held in Gharchak prison.[3]

In June 2015, she smuggled out of prison a note in which she claimed she was subjected to a virginity test and a pregnancy test for shaking the hand of her lawyer, who had visited her in prison after her trial. The claim was later confirmed by prison authorities.[6]

In September 2015, Farghadani was charged with an "illegitimate sexual relationship short of adultery" and "indecent conduct" for shaking the hand of her lawyer Mohammad Moghimi; Moghimi was also charged. She was reported to have gone on a hunger strike in protest.[3]



After an open letter by US-based campaign group Cartoonists Rights Network International,[8] and an appeal by cartoonist Michael Cavna in The Washington Post,[9] the artists and cartoonists around the world began sharing their cartoons across social media to help raise awareness of her case. The #draw4atena hashtag was created in social networks such as Facebook and Twitter. The Guardian has accepted these cartoons to share them globally.[10]


On May 3, 2016 Farghadani was freed again and the charges against her were dismissed. She has expressed no intent to leave her country.[2]


In 2015, Farghadani received the Courage in Cartooning Award in absentia from the Cartoonists Rights Network International.[11] Two days after her release in 2016, she received the Václav Havel Prize for Creative Dissent.[12]


  1. ^ "Imprisoned Iranian artist Atena Farghadani on hunger strike". Amnesty International. 2 March 2015. Retrieved 2 October 2015.
  2. ^ a b Cavna, Michael (4 May 2016). "Cartoonist Atena Farghadani, sentenced for satirizing government as animals, is freed in Iran" – via
  3. ^ a b c d Battersby, Matilda (2015-09-09). "Satirical cartoonist to have 12 year prison term extended over handshake". The Independent. Retrieved 2015-09-11.
  4. ^ "Iranian artist goes on trial for cartoon mocking draft law". BBC News. 19 May 2015. Retrieved 2 October 2015.
  5. ^ "Free Atena, imprisoned for drawing cartoons in Iran". Amnesty International UK. Archived from the original on 3 October 2015. Retrieved 2 October 2015.
  6. ^ "Atena Farghadani released early after being imprisoned for her art". January 12, 2018. Retrieved 2018-11-19.
  7. ^ a b c d "Young Artist Who Lampooned Iranian MPs Released From Prison – Center for Human Rights in Iran". May 4, 2016. Retrieved 2018-11-19.
  8. ^ "Open Letter for the freedom of Atena Farghadani". 9 June 2015.
  9. ^ Cavna, Michael (10 June 2015). "Open Call to Artists: #Draw4Atena to support appeal of Iranian artist's 12-year sentence" – via
  10. ^ Walsh, James (12 June 2015). "#Draw4Atena: add your cartoons in support of the jailed Iranian artist" – via The Guardian.
  11. ^ "Jailed Iranian Artist Atena Farghadani Recipient of CRNI's 2015 Courage in Cartooning Award". Retrieved 11 March 2017.
  12. ^ "دو روز بعد از آزادی، آتنا فرقدانی برنده جایزه حقوق بشر "واتسلاو هاول" شد" [Two days after her release, Athena Farghadani award-winning human rights "Vaclav Havel" was]. VOA News (in Persian). Retrieved 11 March 2017.