French President Emmanuel Macron has named 35 attorneys, including prominent Iranian lawyer and civil rights activist Nasrin Sotoudeh, to give recommendations to the Group of Seven (G7) nations.
Macron, along with a group of human rights advocates, gathered on February 19 at Elysees Palace in Paris to discuss potential strategies that the G7 could employ to reduce violence and discrimination against women.
The advocates discussed three main topics: combating violence against women, promoting girls’ education, and women’s entrepreneurship.
During the meeting with Macron, group members left an empty chair for Sotoudeh, who is currently behind bars in Iran.
Participants included three Nobel Peace Prize winners: Tunisian businesswoman Wided Bouchamaoui, Congolese gynecologist Denis Mukwege, and Yazidi activist Nadia Murad. Actress Emma Watson, a United Nations goodwill ambassador on gender equality issues, also is part of the group.
"I want gender equality to be the main focus," Macron said. "France is financing a $136 million fund to help women’s rights movements across the world."
Macron's official letter inviting Sotoudeh was delivered to the lawyer's husband, Reza Khandan, on March 7.
"The letter was delivered to me by the lawyer of the French Embassy in Tehran," Khandan told Radio Farda. "Sotoudeh's presence in such a high-level council is a glorious achievement for the Iranian women."
Reportedly, a copy of the invitation has been sent to the Iranian Foreign Ministry and the Iranian Bar Association.
Macron, who is rotating president of G7, has insisted on the importance of gender equality, saying, "The Council of Advocates plays a pivotal role in G7 legislations."
The council was established by Macron's predecessor, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, in 2018. Prominent women active in civil rights across the globe are the main participants of the council.
Sotoudeh's husband, who posted a copy of Macron's letter on his Facebook page, told the New York-based Center for Human Rights in Iran (CHRI), “Today [March 7] a legal representative from the French Embassy in Tehran gave me a letter from French President Emanuel Macron and the Group of Seven (G7).”
The letter was delivered to Khandan a day after it was disclosed that a Revolutionary Court in Tehran had convicted Sotoudeh on national security charges. “I am pleased to invite you to this initiative to advance real equality between women and men around the world,” Macron wrote to Sotoudeh.
Sotoudeh was detained on June 13, 2018, and based on a verdict issued more than two years ago in absentia was sentenced to five years. Since then, she has been behind bars at Tehran's notorious prison, Evin.
As phone calls to inmates in Evin is strictly limited, Khandan told Radio Farda, "I am going to inform Nasrin about the letter on Sunday, March 10."
According to Macron’s letter, the council will deliver a “legislative package” to G7 countries and other states to advance the role of women and promote gender equality in participating nations and around the world.
The next G7 summit is scheduled to take place in the French coastal city of Biarritz in August. It is not clear whether Sotoudeh, who faces many years in prison for her work in Iran defending human rights, will be able to attend