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Anti-Iran government unrest growing

Nobel laureate Shirin Ebadi says opposition to the Iranian regime is growing, spurred by an increase in government violence, more human rights abuses and deepening poverty.

The Iranian human rights lawyer, who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2003 for her efforts to promote democracy, said she came to the United Nations to talk about the deteriorating human rights situation in her country and seek support for a draft UN General Assembly resolution that would condemn its record.

Although much of the opposition movement has gone underground since the violent crackdown after the disputed June 2009 presidential election, Ms Ebadi said it definitely was not faltering.

"I can tell you that opposition is increasing in Iran," she said. "Not only the government is becoming more violent every day, and there are more violations of human rights, but the issue of poverty has become another issue now. ... And, of course, poverty plays a big role in opposition."

She said the latest statistics she received had Iran's economy growing by just 1.6% a year, lower than the rates in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Ms Ebadi urged the international community "to bring the voice of the people of Iran and the political prisoners to the outside world", stressing that the human rights situation in Iran "is very bad ... (and) is worsening".

She singled out the case of prominent human rights lawyer Nasrin Sotoudeh, on hunger strike since September 25. She stopped drinking all liquids five days ago to protest against her detention in solitary confinement on suspicion of spreading propaganda against the ruling system.

Ms Ebadi said Ms Sotoudeh's mother, sister and children went to visit her three days ago and said "she was in poor health, she was weak, she couldn't talk, and also her face was bruised".

Ms Sotoudeh is believed to be one of the first lawyers jailed after representing several of the 100-plus activists and political figures tried on charges of fomenting post-election unrest.

Her arrest in September was seen as a signal of a possible widening crackdown on the pro-reform opposition that took to the streets to protest the victory claimed by President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

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