Afrooz Maghzi in light purple blazer outside of Wasserstein Hall at Harvard Law School
Eden Sayed

June 10, 2024Afrooz Maghzi Talks to Harvard Law Today about Human Rights Lawyering in Iran

Attorneys have been vital to these ongoing campaigns for human rights, despite decades of suppression by the government — including threats of arrest, imprisonment, surveillance, and worse.

Rachel Reed recently interviewed Afrooz Maghzi, Iranian human rights lawyer and Visiting Fellow at the Program on Law and Society in the Muslim World, about human rights lawyering and the struggle for justice and equality in Iran. The introduction to the interview in Harvard Law Today is syndicated below with a link to the full interview.

Since Iran’s Islamic Revolution in 1979, which installed a theocratic government first led by Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, lawyers — especially women — have continued to risk life and limb to advocate for equality, democracy, and human rights there, says Afrooz Maghzi, a visiting fellow with the Program on Law and Society in the Muslim World at Harvard Law School.

Maghzi, an Iranian human rights lawyer, researcher, and activist, says that Iran has seen multiple mass protest movements in recent decades, including the pro-democracy “Green Movement,” during which hundreds of people were arrested and several died while protesting the 2009 presidential election. Most recently, widespread demonstrations erupted in 2022 following the death in police custody of a woman named Mahsa (Jina) Amini, who had been arrested for allegedly improperly wearing a hijab, or head covering.

According to Maghzi, attorneys have been vital to these ongoing campaigns for human rights, despite decades of suppression by the government — including threats of arrest, imprisonment, surveillance, and worse. “The state has been unable to silence human rights lawyers or prevent the emergence of a new generation of legal advocates,” she says.

In Iran, Maghzi represented women in gender-related family and criminal cases and worked on national campaigns, such as One Million Signatures, to end legal discrimination against women. During the Green Movement, Maghzi defended human rights protestors, journalists, and the families of those killed during the uprising.

Today, in her role as researcher at both the Max Planck Institute for Social Anthropology and University of Erlangen–Nuremberg in Germany, Maghzi studies social movements, minority rights in Europe, and gender inequality in Islamic law. As a visiting fellow at Harvard, she is researching the role of women in the human rights lawyering movement in Iran.

In an interview with Harvard Law Today, Maghzi traced more than a century of human rights lawyering in Iran, including the work of women attorneys like her. She also shared the complex challenges activists and lawyers face — and what the future might hold for freedom in Iran.

Read the full interview in Harvard Law Today.