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Professor Mehrangiz Kar, a human rights lawyer from Iran, is an internationally recognized writer, speaker and activist who advocates for the defense of women’s and human rights in Iran and throughout the Islamic world. A common theme in her work is the tension between Iranian law and the core principles of human rights and human dignity. In 2000, Professor Kar and sixteen other Iranian journalists, activists and intellectuals attended a conference held at the Heinrich Böll Institute in Berlin entitled “Iran After the Elections,” where Professor Kar made remarks about the urgent need for constitutional reform. Upon her return to Iran, she was arrested, taken to Evin Prison, and leveled with various charges, from “acting against national security” to “spreading propaganda against the regime of the Islamic Republic.” On 13 January 2001, she was sentenced to four years imprisonment. Following two months in prison, Professor Kar was diagnosed with cancer, and under pressure from the European Union, the Iranian authorities released her temporarily for treatment in the United States.
Professor Kar was awarded a SRF fellowship in 2005 to continue a visiting scholar position she secured through the Scholars at Risk program at Harvard University, where she lectured at the Carr Center for Human Rights and Policy, and published numerous articles and essays. Her SRF support was renewed for a second year, and in 2007, Professor Kar published Crossing the Red Line: The Struggle for Human Rights in Iran. She was able to stay at Harvard for a further two years and then held visiting positions at various high-ranking universities internationally, including the Brookings Institute and the University of Cape Town in South Africa.
Currently Visiting Professor at the Pembroke Center for Teaching and Research on Women at Brown University, Professor Kar has been quoted widely and her views have been broadcast across print media, radio, television, and the internet. The themes of her writings and presentations to audiences in North America and Europe consistently emphasize topics of women's and democratic legal rights in Iran. Professor Kar has worked actively to promote academic freedom and to defend the human rights of scholars worldwide.
Having completed her studies in law at the University of Tehran in 1967, Professor Kar was an active public defender in Iran’s civil and criminal courts for many years and published regularly in several influential and independent Iranian journals. She is the recipient of many international awards, including the 2002 Ludovic Trarieux International Human Rights Prize, the 2000 PEN/NOVIB Award, the 2000 Donna Dell’anno Award of the Conseil De Lavallee Consiglio Regionale Della Valle d’Aosta in Italy, and, in 2004, she was honored by Human Rights First. Professor Kar has written a memoir, numerous articles in both Farsi and English, and over fifteen books.
For many years, Professor Kar has maintained her own website, where she writes “about the country that [I] was born and raised in,” because “the government of Iran does not give [me] the right to publish [my] views within the country [I] once called home.” Recently, she posted her thoughts upon returning from a trip to Cairo: “I close my eyes and wish that my destination could have been Iran, instead of my home in exile in the United States.”