Global Roundup: Film on Iranian Feminist Hero, Marriage Equality in Mexico, Shelter for Sex Workers in Canada

Compiled and written by Miriam Batal

Iranian human rights lawyer Nasrin Sotoudeh with a poster of South Africa's Nelson Mandela, in a scene from the Nasrin documentary.

Floating World Pictures via NPR

Nasrin Sotoudeh, a prominent lawyer who was jailed two years ago on spying and propaganda charges, was temporarily released following warnings by human rights groups that her health had severely deteriorated after she staged a six-week hunger strike to demand the release of political prisoners and rights activists.

Sotoudeh, one of Iran’s most well-known human rights lawyers, campaigned for more than two decades for women's rights, children on death row, and minorities at risk. She has gained universal praise, but her resistance has come at a high personal price: after defending women who opposed Iran's compulsory head-covering rule, she is serving a 38-year jail term for "national security" offenses.

She is the closest thing that Iran has to Nelson Mandela, someone who has remained steadfastly committed to her principles at enormous sacrifice to herself. One of the reasons that the Islamic Republic fears her so much is the fact that she is truly irrepressible — Karim Sadjadpour, senior fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace

A new documentary, Nasrin, presents an emotional close-up of the life and career of Sotoudeh. American filmmakers Jeff Kaufman and Marcia Ross spent four years making the documentary, narrated by Olivia Colman, from abroad because they were unable to get a visa to Iran. They relied on Iranian videographers who were left unidentified because they feared being detained for filming on the ground.

Iran has detained protesters, activists and labour leaders, and has even arrested their attorneys in an escalating crackdown over the past two years. The arrest of Sotoudeh came in June 2018, halfway through the shooting of the documentary, when Iranian intelligence agents turned up at her house.

Nasrin always felt that even though she was putting herself at risk to do this film, it was important to have as loud a voice as possible — Jeff Kaufman

Watch the trailer for the powerful documentary!



Pedro Pardo/Getty Images via

After a vote on November 3, the conservative Mexican state Puebla is set to become the latest in the country to allow same-sex unions. According to the Mexican news outlet Yucatan Times, the Honorable Congress of the State of Puebla supported marriage equality by a significant margin at a meeting held over Zoom: 31 members of the legislative body voted in favour of the resolution, five opposed and three deputies abstained.

The ruling also extends to common-law marriages of the same sex. According to state laws, a couple informally enters a common law marriage when they cohabitate for two years or have a child together, according to the Associated Press.

The vote was reportedly broadcast over Facebook Live and Periscope to almost 20,000 folks, but the bill faces one more challenge before it becomes law: it must be signed by Gov. Miguel Barbosa, who is generally expected to sign the legislation. When he plans to do that, he has not said.

For Puebla, a largely Catholic state situated 80 miles southeast of Mexico City, the vote is a significant milestone. Puebla is the 20th of Mexico's 32 provinces, with 1.5 million residents, to grant relationship recognition rights to all partners. 


Photos via VICE

Canada's first shelter solely for sex workers opened its doors in Vancouver's Downtown Eastside – ABOUT FUCKING TIME! The temporary shelter runs 24/7 and has on-site laundry, washrooms, hot showers, a dining space, and 23 beds, three of which are reserved for COVID-related isolation, run by WISH, a service group for women and gender diverse individuals in the street-based sex trade. 

Before COVID we had so many people who used our drop-in as a de facto shelter, so we knew there was a need for quite a while. With COVID, there is a deep exacerbation of pre-existing crises that we see in the Downtown Eastside and crises of sex workers we support — Mebrat Beyene, WISH executive director

The new shelter also shares a backlot with the long-standing drop-in centre of WISH, where, among other services, clients can visit nurse practitioners and have access to meals. Also available is a safe respite spot.

In Canada, sex work is effectively criminalised. But for more than five years, Vancouver has had police guidelines in place that allow officers to consider the welfare of sex workers over criminalization. According to the guidelines, the basic principle is that law enforcement should be a last resort. We are in 2020 and SEX WORK SHOULDN’T BE CRIMINILIZED! We need more shelters like WISH that keep womxn safe and secure, we need governments to acknowledge that sex workers are human too and they deserve to be treated as such!   



Whatever your feelings towards the results of this historical election in the United States they are valid. However, we can agree that having a FIRST WOMAN, FIRST BLACK WOMAN, FIRST ASIAN-AMERICAN AS VICE PRESIDENT of the United States is MONUMENTAL! Kamala Harris is the Vice President-Elect of the United States. 

After amassing 279 electoral votes, Joe Biden was declared the predicted winner of the election on November 7th. At last count, at least 74.5 million Americans, more than any presidential ticket in U.S. history, had voted for Biden and Harris.

During her speech on Saturday night in Wilmington, Delaware, Harris acknowledged that Black women are often ignored:

Women who fought and sacrificed so much for equality, liberty, and justice for all, including the Black women, who are too often overlooked, but so often prove that they are the backbone of our democracy…Tonight, I reflect on their struggle, their determination and the strength of their vision — to see what can be unburdened by what has been — I stand on their shoulders - Kamala Harris, Vice President-Elect

This tweet alone should tell you why this win is important!

Harris’ career, both as a prosecutor (Harris was district attorney in San Francisco from 2004 until 2011, when she became California’s attorney general) and as a lawmaker in the U.S. Senate has been critiqued by leftists and progressives.

Some of the most damaging criticism directed at the self-described former “top cop” cite her record on the rights of sex workers, the trans community, and the overlap of both. 

We need more womxn in higher office around the world! We need to acknowledge that the future is not female but instead INTERSECTIONAL! WE MUST CONTINUE TO USE OUR VOICES AND CONTINUE TO FIGHT UNTIL THE PAGES OF HISTORY BOOKS ARE FILLED WITH WOMXN OF COLOUR! You must’ve heard this a lot throughout the weekend (and good). Kamala Harris is the first Vice President-Elect but she will NOT BE THE LAST! 


Players from the Herat Storm celebrate after winning the championship of the Afghan women's soccer league on October 16 in Kabul. Rahmatullah Alizadah/Xinhua via Getty Images via NPR

It's the Afghan women's soccer league championship in the capital, with the Herat Storm facing off against the Kabul Fortress. In this conservative country, the players run around the pitch in long-sleeved shirts and leggings under their baggy shorts, and cover their heads with black hoodie-style hijabs. 

It took the toppling of the Taliban and almost two decades of advocacy to get here.

Now when I see it, it's a green place. It brings joy to people. They come to be happy and cheer on the teams they love — Sabria Nawrozi, captain of Herat Storm

Nawrozi joined the soccer league when it first started five years ago. She remembers how her neighbors would harass her mother in order for her to drop soccer.

They said my sports clothes are immodest. They said oh, we saw your daughter on TV. It's shameful, in their view, because they consider it not appropriate for women to play football or be shown on the TV screen — men could see them - Sabria Nawrozi. 

Nawrozi kept playing despite being constantly harassed. Unfortuatnly in 2017 the league ran out of money and in 2018 Keramudin Karim president of the Afghanistan Football Federation was accused of rape and physical abuse by Afghanistan women’s national team players.  

Khalida Popal, who was once the team's programme manager, helped draw attention to the situation. She says that women have sacrificed their life in order to come forward. She says the Afghan government felt forced to reopen the league after the fiasco, to reassure the international community that women's sports were taken seriously.

Players fear that the negotiation team of the male-dominated government will bow into Taliban demands to pave the way for a peace agreement. "What are they going to do? Say that we can only play in a burka?," asked Nawrozi. For Nawrozi and her teammates, this is more than just soccer. It's for all the accomplishments that women have been working for in the last two decades. KEEP FIGHTING! 



Miriam Batal (she/they) is a completing their fourth-year undergraduate bachelor’s degree with a major in World Cinemas and minor in Feminist and Gender studies at the University of Ottawa. They are out and proud queer Lebanese – Canadian, they are abled-bodied, a settler of colour, intersectional feminist, body positivity, sex-positive, pro-sex worker, fully bilingual (French and English) person who lives on Turtle Island (Canada). She currently sits on the uOPride Executive team.

They are passionate about human rights, social justice and accessible mental health services and treatments. They are tired of cis white heterosexual men running politics and making decisions on their body and sexuality. They would like one day to make a positive change to this heteronormative world. When they are not protesting, or reading on queer theory/literature, Miriam enjoys spending time with their friends, going to the museum, attending drag shows, queer art exhibit, cinema and the theatre (pre-pandemic nonetheless) and video games.

They firmly believe that with education whether it be in academia or through lived experiences and conversation we are able to defeat ignorance, the patriarchy, colonialism and injustices.