The message of solidarity from the NAW Executive
At its Annual General Meeting in Sheffield on Saturday 11 May 2013, members of the National Assembly of Women (NAW) from across Britain learned from CODIR something of the abuse, repression and segregation suffered by women in Iran at the instigation of a vicious and dictatorial regime and of their brave struggle for equality and respect. The next day the Executive Committee of the NAW, when it convened for the first time after the AGM, published the following statement:
The National Assembly of Women wishes to express its solidarity with the women of Iran who are struggling for peace, democratic rights, equality and social justice. We congratulate the Committee for the Defence of Iranian Peoples' Rights (CODIR) for its work in campaigning for the release of all political prisoners, for women's rights and in support of independent trade unions in Iran.
The National Assembly of Women is an active affiliate of the Women's International Democratic Federation.
The Women's Committee of UNISON stands in Solidarity with the struggle of Iranian Women for equality
We, UNISON South West's Women's Committee, would like to send the following message via you to our sisters in Iran:
Dear Sisters in Iran
We have heard from the Committee for the Defense of Iranian Peoples' Rights (CODIR), to which our trade union is affiliated, about your brave struggle for equal rights for women and for a future determined not by dictatorship but by the people of Iran.
We know that your struggle is met with harsh oppression by the Iranian theocratic regime and that women are being silenced by every means - intimidation, incarceration, torture and sometimes death - for what they do to protest against abuse and discrimination, to demand that trade union and human rights are respected and to continue their progressive struggle for peace, democracy and justice.
We send you our congratulations on your courageous and inspiring actions and good wishes for the future. We want you to know that we are supporting you and standing in solidarity with you always.
Please keep us informed of any way in which we can lend you our assistance in the future.
UNISON SW Women's Committee
Anger as Iran bans women from universities
By Robert Tait
3:17PM BST 20 Aug 2012
Female students in Iran have been barred from more than 70 university degree courses in an officially-approved act of sex-discrimination which critics say is aimed at defeating the fight for equal women's rights.
In a move that has prompted a demand for a UN investigation by Iran's most celebrated human rights campaigner, the Nobel laureate Shirin Ebadi, 36 universities have announced that 77 BA and BSc courses in the coming academic year will be "single gender" and effectively exclusive to men.
It follows years in which Iranian women students have outperformed men, a trend at odds with the traditional male-dominated outlook of the country's religious leaders. Women outnumbered men by three to two in passing this year's university entrance exam.
Senior clerics in Iran's theocratic regime have become concerned about the social side-effects of rising educational standards among women, including declining birth and marriage rates.
Under the new policy, women undergraduates will be excluded from a broad range of studies in some of the country's leading institutions, including English literature, English translation, hotel management, archaeology, nuclear physics, computer science, electrical engineering, industrial engineering and business management.
The Oil Industry University, which has several campuses across the country, says it will no longer accept female students at all, citing a lack of employer demand. Isfahan University provided a similar rationale for excluding women from its mining engineering degree, claiming 98% of female graduates ended up jobless.
Writing to Ban Ki Moon, the UN secretary general, and Navi Pillay, the high commissioner for human rights, Mrs Ebadi, a human rights lawyer exiled in the UK, said the real agenda was to reduce the proportion of female students to below 50% - from around 65% at present - thereby weakening the Iranian feminist movement in its campaign against discriminatory Islamic laws.
"[It] is part of the recent policy of the Islamic Republic, which tries to return women to the private domain inside the home as it cannot tolerate their passionate presence in the public arena," says the letter, which was also sent to Ahmad Shaheed, the UN's special rapporteur for human rights in Iran. "The aim is that women will give up their opposition and demands for their own rights."
The new policy has also been criticised by Iranian parliamentarians, who summoned the deputy science and higher education minister to explain.
However, the science and higher education minister, Kamran Daneshjoo, dismissed the controversy, saying that 90% of degrees remain open to both sexes and that single-gender courses were needed to create "balance".
Iran has highest ratio of female to male undergraduates in the world, according to UNESCO. Female students have become prominent in traditionally male-dominated courses like applied physics and some engineering disciplines.
Sociologists have credited women's growing academic success to the increased willingness of religiously-conservative families to send their daughters to university after the 1979 Islamic revolution. The relative decline in the male student population has been attributed to the desire of young Iranian men to "get rich quick" without going to university.
Sanctions hit Iranian women hardest - unemployment rate at 46%
6 June 2012
While the Ahmadinejad government claims that economic sanctions are not harming the economy in Iran recent evidence suggest that the opposite is the case. In fact, evidence indicates that it is women who are bearing the brunt of the combined impact of the international sanctions and the monetarist policies of the Iranian regime.
On Tuesday, 5th June 2012 an article entitled Unemployment Rate Increases in the Country - Women's Unemployment Rate Increases to 46 Percent in www.emruznews.com points out that while the unemployment rate for young people has increased from 23.8% to 25.7% between 2005 and 2012, the rate for women over the same period is nearer to an increase from 30% to 45% thus "...demonstrating the added struggle required for women to enter the job market. On the other hand, it reveals the job market's inability to absorb women in search of employment."
The article goes on to challenge the basis of the figures provided by the Iranian Centre for Statistics which has determined the unemployment figures on the basis that one hour's work per week represents full employment. The article states that, "It is likely that with changes in the definition of employed and unemployed, the current published rates will increase drastically."
Manipulation of the figures to suit the 'facts' according to the regime is not new in Iran. In an article entitled Ahmadinejad's Economics: Unemployment Rates that Nobody Believes in www.mardomak.org on 13th January 2012 it was revealed that, "... the former head of the Iranian Centre for Statistics stated, following the First Vice-President's (Parviz Dawoodi) order, the unemployment rates were changed."
Khalil Saeedi, in an interview with Hamshahri Eghtesadi, exposed the secret that when the First Vice-President found out that the country's unemployment rate had increased, and that the Iranian Centre for Statistics intended to publish it, he openly asked that the rates be corrected. Speaking to Ahmadinejad during the presidential debate in 2009, Mohsen Rezaei one of the four candidates, challenged the basis of the one hour per week full employment assumption. Mohsen Rezaei is a key official of the regime and once was the commander of the Islamic Guards Corps.
The Ahmadinejad government's widely publicised solution for unemployment, initiated in March 2011, was the so called Employment Creation Plan. On 14th August, 2011, in an article entitled Allocation of 58 thousand billion Tomans (approximately 40 billion dollars) for creation of 2.5 million jobs, Ilna News Agency reported,
"After the Supreme Employment Council's discussions and deliberations concerning the creation of employment and the required resources and funds, it was decided that the Central Bank set aside 40 billion dollars for the creation of 2.5 million job opportunities."
Except for reports on the Supreme Employment Council's meetings and the involvement of several tame government approved organisations and foundations, no clear details of the plan or any signs of its impact have ever been disclosed to the general public.
The sanctions imposd upon the country by the US and EU so far have seen the value of the Iranian currency drop by 50% since November 2011. In Iran the past year has been one of deepening economic crisis, escalating unemployment and poverty. Even the estimates of the Iranian Centre for Statistics state that more than 10 million Iranians are living below the poverty line, with close to 30 million living in relative poverty. The regime's ongoing campaign to arrest, prosecute and imprison trade union activists continues apace.
Against this backdrop the working people of Iran in general, and women in particular, continue to struggle with the realities of a harsh sanctions regime and a government with little or no strategy to develop jobs in any meaningful way. Our support and solidarity to prevent further suffering and hardship is needed now more than ever.
Dispatch | The Endless Day: A Look at the Lives of Iran's Women Day Laborers
26 Feb 2012
Brutal conditions and rampant exploitation in the workplace, little relief at home.
[ dispatch ] The lot of women day laborers in Iran, with its patriarchal social structure and straitened economic conditions, is not a happy one. These women, around two million of them, are virtually helpless when it comes to the defense of their rights. In a situation where the supply of labor outstrips demand, Iranian women's historically subordinate role makes many virtual slaves to their jobs.
In a conservative culture where many families still look down on women working outside the home, economic pressure is the principal impetus for the rapid growth in the number of female day laborers. A secondary and related cause is the mass migration of rural Iranians to cities -- one of the largest ongoing internal migration trends in the world.
Newspaper and wall advertisements around Tehran indicate that women laborers are sought for the sort of jobs that require repetitive, intricate work. Sewing, ironing, and product packaging in various factories, domestic cleaning, nursing the elderly, and catering constitute the bulk of the jobs done by women day laborers. While at first glance these may appear to be simple jobs, a closer look reveals that they are given to women precisely because their gender makes it easy to exploit them.
Technological advances have changed the nature of factory work. There is no need to hire strong men to do many jobs that women can now do just as well. What has not changed is the nature of a male-dominated culture. Compared to men, female day laborers are prone to lower wages, longer hours, inferior working conditions, more uncertain job security, and much greater abuse of all kinds.
Life on the factory floor
None of the factories employing female day laborers in Tehran pay more than an average of 300,000 tomans (about $200) a month. No contracts are signed and no insurance coverage paid. One facility owner mentioned that no official from the workers' insurance agency has visited his facility in the past 15 years. Except for a very few factories, the workdays are 12 hours or even longer. The workplaces are habitually overcrowded and filthy, breeding grounds for disease, and most laborers are required to work either bending over or sitting on the floor. If the job requires sitting on a chair, the chairs are often rickety, too short, or simply broken. As a result of their working conditions, many laborers suffer maladies such as deformed spinal columns, skin rashes, respiratory illnesses, and severe eyesight problems. In addition, women routinely have to endure unwanted sexual advances.
Almost all day laborers eat lunch at workplace lunchrooms. They often eat the same low-grade food over and over again, and digestive illnesses are widespread as a consequence. The lunchroom is also another means by which workers' lives are tied to the factory for as long as they are on the floor. Since payment is dependent on volume -- often pursuant to a daily quota -- laborers work as fast as humanly possible. A foreman need never worry that day laborers will take too much time for their lunch breaks.
It really does not matter how aware these workers are regarding their rights, it only matters that they cannot even ask for what they are owed because they can so easily be replaced. In many instances workers' identifications cards are taken away from them, giving employers the opportunity to unilaterally exploit them, withhold their wages, or fire them without notice. All this with the knowledge that the laborers effectively have no legal support system.
Consider the case of Nourieh, an Afghan laborer who has been working in one such facility for the past two years. She is 35 and the mother of two children. She says that her employers routinely withhold part of her monthly salary of 250,000 tomans ($165), and in the meantime require her to perform the most difficult tasks. Her foreman acknowledges that the reason part of Nourieh's salary is withheld is to discourage her from leaving for a better-paying job.
The government is hardly blameless in such stories. Recently enacted female labor legislation, ironically called the Family Protection Law, which requires insurance coverage and maternity leaves and restricts the length of workdays, has prompted many employers to forego officially hiring new female workers, in order to avoid dealing with extra costs or to threaten their female workers with dismissal with the drop of a hat. Many experts are of the opinion that such supposedly benevolent approach by the government was a cynical way to minimize female work outside the home -- or, at least, skew the statistics in that direction.
The economic stresses with which the lower classes contend has meant a deluge of female workers to factories over which the government has no practical oversight. Many of these factories have been registered as small workshops (which are supposed to be limited to five workers), which do not have to provide insurance.
One of the biggest obstacles faced by advocates for female laborers is the "official" number of female workers, statistics based on the number of those covered by insurance. But with so many uninsured, the numbers of whom increases daily, it is impossible to get a true picture of female workers' conditions in Iran. In addition, due to the lack of insurance coverage, there are no accurate statistics about the number of workplace accidents and injuries.
One official report indicates that 95 percent of carpet weavers are women between the ages of 12 to 16, even though by law no one under the age of 15 can be employed for such work. Experts have identified ten different varieties of skin disease these workers suffer. Yet few of them enjoy health insurance simply because they are usually hired as temporary laborers.
Many factories have moved their packaging facilities to the suburbs in an effort to cut costs. In the suburb of Shahriar, 30 miles southwest of Tehran, a packaging facility considers an eight-hour-a-day job "part time" and pays even less, about 200,000 tomans ($135) a month. This has not only placed the financial burden of paying for their transportation on these women, but employers have also refused to enact any safety provisions for those female laborers who have to leave their jobs late at night. Lengthy commutes also rob the women of much of the precious little time they have for rest and sleep.
More pressures on the homefront
Most women day laborers reside on the cities' margins. Once they get back home, they change from their factory uniforms into their house clothes, entering yet another work environment. They perform the domestic tasks that they always have done, which nobody recognizes as proper work worthy of wages. And they are never safe in a male-dominant society that regards them as commodities.
Many of these women have either lost their husbands, or live with ones who are drug addicts. Young widows are the most vulnerable of this group. They are subjected to brutal treatment by their fathers and brothers, who consider themselves lords and masters. Women are frequently beaten for mundane things such as not bringing the tea fast enough. They also often need to cope with suitors approved by the men in the household, many of whom are looking for no more than "temporary wives."
Women workers have little opportunity to sleep or enjoy a decent meal. They are unable to spend sufficient time raising their children, and child abuse is common. Many "laborer children" suffer from infectious diseases due to living in unsanitary environments and playing in dirty streets. Lacking adequate maternal supervision, many are malnourished. Mothers often find themselves at police stations dealing with crimes committed by their children at a very young age.
Khadijeh is 34 years old. She stands five-foot-three, has a pock-marked face, short arms, and fat fingers covered with scabs and wounds. She looks more like a man than a woman in her long black robe. Her clothes are old and she covers her hair very tightly. Even at home, she doesn't show her hair. She says it's become a habit of hers and she is uncomfortable taking off her scarf.
She works in a textile factory in Quds City near Tehran. Every morning she goes to the central square to catch the bus, together with 30 other workers, to work. Her shift starts at seven in the morning, when all the machines are turned on. From then on, it is like a horse race. Those who work fastest are the winners. They get a small bonus. The slower ones are penalized. This drama goes on almost every day, sometimes even on national holidays.
The factory comprises five units, each dedicated to a different task. They produce yarn for carpet weaving. Each section contains giant spools that produce thread which is woven together either in two- or four-ply to yield the final product. Workers must make sure the threads are not tangled or broken and woven together in a wrong ply. Khadijeh must run around and jump up and down to make sure the spools of thread, spaced about two-and-a-half yards apart, are all working properly. She guides the lines of thread so that they are in proper order, and continuously keep an eye on spools so that they don't run out of string. Disaster strikes when strings snag together and intertwine or snap. Then she has to untangle them, and once again put them in order to be tied together in proper ply. She says it sometimes seems like a game. You are racing against yourself, she says, and have to beat yourself in this game.
Then it is one o'clock -- time for lunch. Everybody is in an uproar to prepare. The machines are turned off, and Khadijeh's is always the last one. She follows the others toward the lunch room. Nobody has the energy even to talk. Everyone is carrying a cup, moving toward the hall. The lunch room is a big hall with dilapidated tables and chairs on two sides, one side for men and the other for women. Because there are more male workers, some men end up sitting near the women's section, which is against the law but nobody seems to care. Today's lunch is supposed to consist of rice, meat, and lentils, but there is no meat to be found in the rice. Everyone is in a sour mood. They eat their lunch quickly, cleaning their plates with pieces of bread to get every last scrap. Two of the workers collect the dirty dishes and wash them. Lunch is followed by a cup of tea, and then they start walking toward their sections. All this has taken half an hour.
Exactly at 1:30, the machinery is turned back on again. Once again the spools are lowered and threads start to fly. Again workers run from spool to spool to make sure everything is going smoothly. The rhythm of the work has turned the workers into virtual zombies. They all dance to the same music of the machines. Only the scent of sweat is inalterably human.
At 7:30, the factory alarm announces one last chance to put everything in order for the next day's work. Rather than being happy for the end of the workday, everyone is nervous about having met their quota. Khadijeh spends her last ounce of energy to collect strings and get her section ready for tomorrow. The factory foreman walks around talking only to those who were short of their quotas. Everybody's production level is announced on the factory floor and the foreman makes those who have not produced enough to pledge to do better tomorrow. Then everybody changes and goes out to catch the bus.
Khadijeh lives in a house in a back alley off of a wide street in Quds. The street is covered with garbage and trash and a stream of dirty water flows down the middle. People hang out of the windows and doors, talking to each other. Passersby are met with suspicious looks. Gossip spreads like wildfire around the neighborhood.
Open the front door and yous can see almost the entire house in an instant. The floors are covered with cheap rugs. There is a TV in one corner, a set of bedding in another, and two suitcases in a third, along with a refrigerator and some dishes. This is where Khadijeh lives, in 350 square feet, with her brother, her sister, and her sister's two children. The house belongs to her sister. Khadiejeh starts talking about her childhood.
"I was born in Lahrood, Meshkin. At that time it was not a city yet. My family was very poor. I had not finished primary school yet when my cousin found me a job in the local clinic. However, my mother did not let me work there, because she did not want me to talk to men. Around that same time, my mother got sick with a kidney infection, along with a number of other problems. She ended up bed-ridden. I had to quit school and take care of my mother. To earn some money, I did carpet weaving on a loom in our home. We had to draw water from a spring near our house. In the winter, I had to break the ice to clean the dishes and do the wash. My mother died a few years later and I ended up taking care of my three-year-old brother and eight-year-old sister. I fell into a deep depression.
"Then my older brother, who was working in Tehran, came and took us for a pilgrimage to the city of Mashhad and I visited the shrine of Imam Reza, twice! I got a little better, continued carpet weaving, and sent my brother and sister to school. I also started back at school myself. I finished middle school and started on high school. It took me an hour and a half to get to high school each day, but I finished. I hardly had any time to sleep. I would study, take care of my siblings, and weave carpets. Even then, they would not pay me enough and continuously robbed me of my wages. The only thing I asked of my brother and sister was to study hard. My brother finished school and joined the army for his service. The rest of us moved to Tehran to be closer to family.
"My older sister is 36. She has three boys and a girl. Her eldest son is doing his military service. Her daughter has just graduated from high school and plans to take the entrance exam for the university. She has very good children. When her husband was addicted, her son used to collect scrap paper and sell it to supplement his parents' income. He was also a street vendor and then started working in construction. He built this house when he was 17. My sister went through very rough times, but now conditions have improved. Her husband is clean now. It is true that we live in a very tiny house, but it is better than having none.
"It is hard to find a good man. First I was attracted to Mr. Jaafari, one of my coworkers. But his attention turned toward someone else. And before, while I was looking for a job, I was acquainted with a man who said he was a war veteran. He had lost his hand in the war. He was dressed in dirty and disheveled clothes, but he said he was getting 700,000 tomans [$465] per month from the government as a war veteran. He was also working somewhere, earning 300,000 tomans [$200]. His financial situation was good, but still I could not come to accept him, even though he liked me.... I told my sister about it, and she said it is a good match. She says all men are the same anyway. I really don't know, but I would like to get married, because I can't really do anything. I am only allowed to go to work. I cannot have any fun, or travel. It is very easy to gossip about you around here."
It's been four years since Khadijeh came to Tehran. Four days after she arrived with her sister, Maryam, she found a job in a men's shoe factory near Karaj. They had to stand eight hours a day on their feet and polish shoes. They had no insurance, no transportation, and worked for 120,000 tomans ($80) a month. They worked there for about eight months, but were paid for only the first three. The owner said he would pay the rest in installments; later on he told them that his financial situation was really dire and he could not pay the rest.
Khadijeh was terrified of not having any money and being dependent on others. She went through a string of jobs before she and Maryam found work at a textile factory. The job was 12 hours a day, no breaks, no insurance, no benefits, no weekends off, no vacation time. The workers, watched via closed-circuit camera, couldn't even talk to each other on the factory floor. All this for 246,000 tomans ($165) a month. They also had to surrender their identification cards, and always got paid a month late to make sure they didn't leave the job. Khadijeh and her sister had gone to the factory together, but Khadijeh lasted only half a day. She now works in a clothing packaging factory for 200,000 tomans ($135) a month. Khadijeh remembers her first days at her new job.
"It seemed like my hands did not belong to me. They were both numb. I couldn't even unbutton my uniform. The first day I went home in my factory uniform. I had run around so much and jumped around so many times that every muscle in my body ached. But now it's all become normal."
The factory has compulsory night shifts that begin at 6:30 in the evening and go to seven in the morning. Khadijeh says that the night shifts are much more difficult than day shifts and that her fellow workers sometimes fall asleep standing up. She and her sister, who works a 12-hour day shift, hardly ever get the chance to see each other. Both women often work on Fridays, the traditional weekend day off, and even on religious holidays.
Khadijeh's dream is to get a job as an aide in a government hospital. She has been trained as a health worker. She says it is not important what kind of job they give her, it could even be cleaning. If she had only one day left to live, she would want to spend it working in a hospital. She acknowledges that she is not in a position to get a better job. Moving to Tehran would mean more job opportunities, but also a much higher cost of living. She speaks over her shoulder as she goes to change and get ready for work.
Copyright © 2012 Tehran Bureau
Iranian Regime Deports Political Prisoners to "Hell"
Thursday 12 May 2011
Among the human rights activists around the world, the Evin Prison in Tehran is well known and it has often been referred to as the notorious "Evin Prison". A large number of the political prisoners, who were detained during the protests after the 2009 presidential elections, were initially kept in the Evin Prison. However, during the last two years, the appalling conditions in the Evin Prison have not been enough to break the will of the Iranian political prisoners. Therefore, it has become a practice of the coup government in Iran to deport the most determined political prisoners to prisons with conditions like hell. "Rajaei Shahr Prison" is one of those prisons; during the last two years a large number of political prisoners, men and women, have been deported to that prison. However, looks like the horrendous conditions in the Rajaei Shahr Prison have not been bad enough either! Therefore, during the last week, approximately 200 of female political prisoners were deported from the Rajaei Shahr Prison to the Gharachak Prison in Varamin.
During their telephone conversations with their relatives, the political prisoners have referred to the Gharachak Prison as "the second Kahrizak." Kahrizak is the prison where after the presidential elections of 2009, several political prisoners lost their lives under torture and many political prisoners, both men and women, were raped by the guards. The women prisoners have also described the Gharachak Prison as a "poultry farm". They have also indicated that prisoners of all types, murderers, drug dealers, addicts and political prisoners are being kept at the same place.
Through a letter to the outside world, several of the female political prisoners from Gharachak Prison have appealed to the Iranian people, peoples' conscience, Iranian religious leaders, authorities in the Islamic Republic and human rights organizations around the world "...to act on their religious, moral and human duties and take actions, and examine the living conditions of the female political prisoners in the Gharachak Prison." In their letter they write: "Having experienced the detention in the Rajaei Shahr Prison, we never imagined that after leaving Rajaei Shahr we will witness such terrible conditions."
Criticizing the bad conditions in the Iranian prisons, on Saturday April 30th Younes Mosavi, Firozabad's representative in the Iranian parliament (Majlis) indicated that every two prisoners in Iranian prisons receive one blanket. Three months ago, in a meeting of public prosecutors, Gholam-Hussein Esmaeily, Director of the organization in charge of the prisons in Iran indicated that during his year-and-a-half service, the number of prisoners in Iran has increased by 55,000; however, even 55 square meter has not been added to the prison spaces in the country.
On May 3rd, in a letter to Mohammad Javad Ardashir Larijani, Director of the Human Rights Council of the Iranian Judiciary, Zia Nabavi described the shocking conditions in the Karoon Prison. Zia Nabavi, a university student who was arrested after the last presidential elections, was deported to the Karoon Prison. In his description of the prison's horrific conditions, Mr. Nabavi points out that due to the lack of space, during the summer and winter months a large number of the inmates sleep in the prison yard. When the toilets over-flow, the water from the toilets spills over the prison yard and denies the prisoners a sleeping ground. However, after toilets' overflow, all the prisoners have to suffer the awfully unpleasant smell in the prison yard.
Zia Nabavi is the Spokesperson for the Council in Defense of the Right to Study. Three years ago, among all those in Iran who took the entrance exam for graduate studies in sociology, he received one of the top ten marks. However, he was denied the right to study. He was arrested after the presidential elections and was convicted at Tehran's Revolution Court. He received a fifteen-year prison term and was deported to the Karoon Prison in the South of Iran. After writing his letter to Larijani along with twenty-five other political prisoners, Mr. Nabavi was transferred to a different prison.
The brutal crackdowns only make Iran's women stronger
Tuesday 8 June 2010 20.30 BST
This weekend one year will have gone by since the Iranian people took to the streets in droves to protest at the fraudulent elections that returned Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to the presidency. These peaceful demonstrations were met with extreme violence carried out by the Iranian regime. Since that day, the people have not backed down and continue to fight peacefully for basic human rights. Meanwhile, the government continues its crackdown on any opposition or dissent with ever increasing brutality.
Just a few weeks ago, on 9 May, the lengths to which the regime will go to crush its opponents came to light. Five political prisoners were executed in secret. Not even their families or their lawyers were notified.
Shirin Alam Holi, a 28-year-old Kurdish woman, was executed along with four men. In letters from Evin prison, Shirin wrote of being tortured to confess to charges of terrorism. She refused to confess, sealing her fate. At least 25 other men and women await the same fate on death row.
However, as we see time and time again, the harsher the repression, the stronger the movement grows. And as the story of Shirin Alam Holi demonstrates, women are at the forefront of the struggle for human rights in Iran.
But it is interesting to observe that this powerful feminist movement was not born out of the elections. It has been gaining strength and momentum since the Islamic revolution of 1979 - when the regime began imposing laws that were discriminatory against women - and even predates the revolution. Women in Iran have enjoyed the right to vote for nearly 50 years, since 1963. Today, under an even more repressive regime, they are flooding the ranks of doctors, professors and chief executives. Women now constitute more than 63% of university students. Is it any wonder that they refuse to stand idly by and accept that their lives are not worth as much as that of a man?
With no leader or central office, for 31 years the women's movement has resided in every Iranian household that cares about human rights. In the past year, the now famous Green movement has emerged and modelled itself on this seemingly unstoppable force. With women's rights activists at the helm, the Green network of groups and people is consistent in its demands for democracy and human rights.
Take the Mourning Mothers. Every week since June 2009, mothers whose children are in prison, are missing, or have lost their lives in state-sanctioned violence, gather in Laleh Park in Tehran. Dressed all in black, they carry photos of their loved ones and are surrounded by other women who wish to support and protect them.
Every Saturday they gather peacefully and every Saturday the police attack, beat, and arrest them. This excessive violence and repression by the government has sadly become routine in Iran - but has not deterred the Mourning Mothers. Courageously, they are defending their human rights and, ultimately, those of women everywhere.
In December, a wave of arrests and violence followed peaceful protests taking place on the Shia Muslim holy day of Ashura. Dozens of women journalists and human rights activists were targeted, and I was no exception. In an attempt to stop me from doing my work from abroad, the government arrested my sister, Dr Noushin Ebadi. She has never been politically active or participated in any rallies or demonstrations, but was arrested and detained for three weeks solely because of my work fighting for human rights.
This brave group of women will not stop. They prove that there is no end to the creative ways that Iranian women will fight back. The One Million Signatures campaign has been working since before last year's election to collect signatures from Iranian men and women who oppose discriminatory laws and practices. On 11 March the Change for Equality website, which promotes the campaign, was awarded the first ever Netizen prize by Reporters Without Borders. The next day - ironically the World Day Against Cyber-Censorship - Iranian authorities shut down the website for the 23rd time since it was launched in 2006. It was up and running again just hours later.
The struggle for human rights and gender equality continues in Iran as we mark the anniversary of the disputed elections. This global day of action has united activists, students, NGOs and concerned citizens worldwide to spotlight the horrific human rights abuses that have become all too common.
Women will be at the forefront of this weekend's peaceful activities, as they were today and will be tomorrow. Mark my words, it will be women who will bring democracy to Iran.
Discrimination against women in law and practice
Although in February 2010 Iran ostensibly agreed to guarantee equality for women in law during the review of Iran's record by the UN Human Rights Council in the framework of the Universal Periodic Review, Amnesty International deplores the fact that the Iranian authorities are further entrenching discrimination against women and girls in law and practice. Not only are the authorities failing to amend existing discriminatory legislation, but they have implemented regulations and are considering introducing legislation which would worsen women's unequal treatment under the law.
For example, since September 2009, female students have been required to study at universities in their home towns or cities, thereby restricting their free access to higher education. No such requirement exists for male students.
In addition, the Majles, Iran's parliament, has continued its discussion of a controversial piece of legislation, known as the Family Protection Bill, which has been dubbed the Anti-Family Bill by women's right campaigners.
Following intensive lobbying by activists, in 2008, the Majles Law and Legal Affairs Committee dropped two clauses of particular concern to women: a clause which would allow men to take a second wife without the permission of his first wife and another which would impose a tax on the mehriyeh - a sum contracted to a woman on her marriage, which is only usually payable in the event of her divorce. However, in January 2010, the spokesperson of the Law and Legal Affairs Committee announced that the Committee had reinstated these clauses with some modifications, which women's rights activists believe will, if passed into law, constitute a retrograde step for women's rights in Iran.
Amnesty International is adding its voice to the more than 2200 women's rights activists and equal rights defenders who have to date signed a statement objecting to the proposed legislation. See for example http://familylaw.irangenderequality.com/spip.php?article150 The organization is calling for the Bill not to be adopted in its present form. Instead, the Iranian authorities must uphold their commitments made in Geneva in February 2010 to adopt measures to guarantee women's equality under the law and to ensure the equal treatment of women and girls in law and practice by immediately reviewing this Bill to ensure that its adoption and implementation will not lead to any form of gender discrimination.
Against this backdrop of entrenched discrimination against women and girls in Iran, women have also suffered state repression during the post-presidential election violence. According to IranGenderEquality.com, at least 138 women, - among them students, civil society campaigners, political activists and journalists -have been arrested since June 2009. While some have been released on bail, others have been sentenced to lengthy prison terms or are still held months after their arrest without charge or trial. Some - such as members of the "Mourning Mothers" - a group of women whose children were killed during the post election repression and their supporters, have been arrested for peacefully protesting about human rights violations and demanding accountability. Others appear to be held solely on account of their family relations.
Recent arrests of women documented by Amnesty International include:
Mahboubeh Karami - a member of the One Million Signatures Campaign (also known as the Campaign for Equality) who was arrested on 2 March 2010 at her home on the basis of a general arrest warrant dated May 2009. This is the fifth time she has been arrested in connection with her activism.
Shiva Nazar Ahari, a member of the Committee of Human Rights Reporters was arrested for the second time since the June 2009 election on 20 December 2009, and remains held in Evin Prison without charge or trial. At least six other members of the Committee are also currently detained.
Behareh Hedayat, a member of the Central Committee of the the Office for the Consolidation of Unity (a national student body which has been active in calling for political reform and opposing human rights violations) was arrested on 31 December 2009, and is also held in Evin Prison without charge or trial. Shortly before her arrest, in early December 2009, her recorded video speech for a conference in the Netherlands entitled "International solidarity with Iranian students' movement On the occasion of Iran's National Student's Day" A video of her address may be seen at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l26k19Ps5oo&feature=related was widely circulated on the internet.
Zahra Jabbari, was arrested on 18 September 2009, when mass anti-government protests were held. She is detained in Evin Prison, apparently on account of her having relatives based with the Peoples Mohahedin Organization, a banned opposition group. Her trial has not yet been concluded.
Seven supporters of the Mourning Mothers - Leila Seyfi Elahi, Zhila Karamzadeh Makvandi, Fatemeh Rastegari, Mrs Ebrahim, Elham Ahsani, Farzaneh Zaynali and Manijeh Taheri - who were arrested on 7 and 8 February 2010 are reportedly detained in Section 209 of Evin Prison without charge or trial.
Mahsa Jazini - a journalist based in Esfahan and member of the Campaign for Equality was arrested on 7 February 2010 and released from Dastgerd prison in Esfahan on 1 March. According to reports, she was told at the time of her arrest that the reason for her detention was that she was a feminist.
Maryam Zia, a children's rights activist who is the director of the Association for the Endeavour for a World Deserving of Children was arrested on 31 December at her home and is believed to be held in Evin Prison.
Amnesty International believes that all these women are prisoners of conscience, held solely for their peaceful exercise of their right to freedom of expression, assembly and association, or on account of their family links and calls for their immediate and unconditional release
"I'm not going to give in and do as the government wants me to" - Shirin Ebadi, human rights lawyer and Nobel laureate
The NS Interview: Shirin Ebadi
Published 10 December 2009
Do you, or did you, vote?
Elections in Iran are not free. And as long as that is the case, voting is futile. My wish is that we'll soon have free elections, and then I will vote.
Are you optimistic about the prospects of democracy in Iran?
I am confident that the people will win, but I cannot predict when this victory is to arrive. When a large part of the population of any country seeks democracy, they will achieve it.
What impact has Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's government had?
Unfortunately, Mr Ahmadinejad is not willing to listen to the people, which is why the protests are continuing in strength.
And with regard to women's rights in particular?
The main thing is the discriminatory laws that were introduced after the revolution, which remain in force. Before Ahmadinejad, we did not have any female ministers; after the unrest of the last election, Ahmadinejad decided to give women a present to gain their support. But the woman he's chosen as the health minister is a fundamentalist. She is pro-polygamy. She believes that Iranian women have no problems as far as rights are concerned. It's no concession to Iranian women to have a minister like her.
How do you see the influence of the United States and Europe?
What is happening in Iran now has no connection whatsoever to foreign countries. The Iranian government is trying very hard to prove that foreign countries have been provoking the people, but that is wrong. The people are fundamentally critical of the government.
You are facing government intimidation. Is it a personal warning, or something broader?
My situation is not important. What is important is that defenders of human rights are not able to work in Iran, and I am one of them. Practically everyone who worked for a human rights NGO in Iran has been imprisoned, or banned from leaving the country. All my bank accounts have been closed, and my husband has been banned from leaving the country. They have also sent messages to me saying, "Wherever you are in the world we will find you and punish you."
Are you keen to return to Iran?
I have to return. My home is in Iran, like my husband's. But I cannot give you a precise date.
Does being a woman make it particularly hard to stand up to the authorities?
Yes, as it is hard in Britain if you're a woman. Of course, the situation is more difficult in Iran, but women throughout the world have problems.
Do you fear for your life?
It's a miracle that I've managed to stay alive. I've been threatened with death several times. As I said, the intelligence ministry has passed on messages saying it'll track me down.
Do you feel the responsibility of being a leader?
I'm not a leader of any sort. Nor am I the head of any political movement. But I shall continue with my work. The government wants to intimidate me so that I do not carry on. I'm not going to give in and do as it wants me to.
How do you respond to those who feel Islamic government is a barrier to women's rights?
I don't accept that. But non-democratic countries do exploit the name of Islam to justify their actions. The reason for discrimination against women is patriarchal culture. By patriarchal, I don't necessarily refer to men; it is a culture that doesn't recognise equality of man. It oppresses men and women. It doesn't believe in democracy, either. If you look at various countries, you will notice that wherever women's rights are respected, there's more democracy.
Patriarchal culture resembles haemophilia: if you have one little injury, it could start a haemorrhage. Haemophilia is a genetic disease, which women carriers can transmit to their children. A patriarchal culture is the same: women are the victims of it, but they also promote it. So what is important is that women become aware of how to fight against it.
How would you like to see women in Iran move forward?
Awareness. Fortunately, Iranian women are very aware - that is why the feminist movement there is so strong.
Does winning awards matter to you?
Yes, naturally. And it gives me self-confidence.
Is there, or was there, a plan?
A general plan? Of course. I always knew that I wanted to go to law school.
What would you like to forget?
Nothing! Forgetting does not resolve any problems.
Are we all doomed?
There is so much hope in this world, and I don't see any deadlock anywhere. I just don't think we're doomed. If we started thinking like that, we'd be reluctant to get up in the morning.
The Latest on Iranian Women Prisoners
Translated By:Sahar Mofakham
Friday 13 November 2009
months of imprisonment and Vahideh Molavi , Raheleh Asgarizadeh and Somayeh Rashidi who had been arrested on Nov.4th were released on third party guaranty .
Negar Sayeh is Still in Solitary Confinement
Negar Sayeh , journalist and in charge of Mousavi’s youth election headquarters in district no. 19 , was arrested on the last days of November . She is still kept in solitary confinement ,according to her mother has been allowed to call home only once , while they were allowed to meet her in prison once as well .
Negar’s family visited the public prosecutor yesterday and conveyed their objection against her imprisonment and the unclear state of her file, The prosecutor’s reply was "she has personal weblog and she has written statements and several topics against the state" the family did submit their request to visit her in prison.
Saeed Qoreyshi , Negar Sayeh’s Husband, who had been arrested in Shahabeddin Tabatabayi’s home during a Komeil praying ceremony ,was transferred to ward no 209 of Evin prison with other detainees like Ashkan Mojallali , Mohamd Hussein Khorvash and Mojtaba Hussein khani after spending 2 weeks in public ward of Evin prison.
Mahboubeh Haghighi and Mahdiyeh Minavi have been in Prison since Oct. 22nd ,2009
Mahdiyeh Minavi and Mahboubeh Haghighi, two members of Islamic Iran Participation Front, were arrested in the Komeyl prayer ceremony on Oct 22, along with 60 other participants.
Most of the detainees were released gradually, but they along with 10 others remain in prison .
Azar Mansouri was Transferred to Public Ward of Evin Prison after 50 Days
Azar Mansouri , an engineer and political deputy of Participation Front , was transferred to public ward of Evin prison after spending about 2 months in solitary confinement .
She had been arrested on August 22nd in Varamin. Her home was searched and the next day she was transferred to Tehran Evin prison ward no.209 .
Her nephew who had been arrested with her was released after one day .
More than 110 Days have Passed since Kobra Zaghehdoust and her Husband’s Arrest
Kobra Zhaghedoust and her husband Mostafa Eskandari were arrested on July 31st in Behesht e Zahra cemetery during a ceremony in honor of martyrs of post electoral events. They were both transferred to Evin prison, ward no. 209. They have been interrogated only a few times , and their situation remains unclear, despite the fact that they have been in prison for the last four months.
Their families met with them in prison after 80 days of their arrest, and they have not allowed been to call home. Mostafa Eskandari is kept in solitary confinement in ward no. 240 and Kobra Zaghedoust is in ward no.209. They have no record of political activities and they didn’t participate in any demonstrations.
Atefeh Nabavi’s Court was Held on Nov.11th
Atefeh Nabavi was arrested on June 15th - at her friend's home and along with 7 others - after the massive demonstration in Tehran . No arrest warrant was provided. The first session of her court was held on Nov.11th after 5 months of her arrest in branch No.12 of the Tehran Revolutionary Court .
She was accused of enmity against God (" warring God") in the form of cooperation with the Mujaheddin Khalgh Oganization . The judge stated that the sentence for this charge is anywhere between 5 years of imprisonment and execution .She spent 95 days in ward No.209 and was then transferred to general and methadone ward.
Nafiseh Zare Kohan Called Home
Nafise Zare Kohan , journalist , was arrested on Nov. 4th .
She called home some hours after her arrest but she didn't know where she was being detained.
Hojat Sharifi , Nafiseh Zare's husband, is in the same predicament; he also called home and yet is unaware of the whereabouts of he location he has been transferred to.
Nullification of Prison Visits and Phone Calls for Women Prisoners
All visits and phone contacts have been cancelled for women political prisoners. This was a reprisal against the prisoners who decided not to use their forced fresh air break. Fresh air break at 6 in the morning is a must in women’s prison, whilst women who were sick and refused to go out in to the cold air, it was retaliated by the warden of the Evin prison and has cancelled all visits.
Prisoners such as Shabnam Madadzadeh, Mahsa Naderi , Atefeh Nabavi , Fatemeh Ziaee Azad and Nazila Dashti are kept in this ward.
Shabnam Madadzadeh has been in Prison since 9 Months ago
Shabnam Madadzadeh , member of Islamic Association and deputy general secretary of Tahkim Vahdat (a student organization), was arrested on Feb.22nd , along with her brother Farzad Madadzadeh.
She is accused of propaganda against the state and enmity with God ( warring God). Her court will be held on Dec.5th ,2009.
Tayebeh Nabavi was Sentenced to 3 Years of Imprisonment and one Year of a Further Suspended Sentence
The revolutionary court of Seman sentenced Tayebeh Nabavi to 3 years of imprisonment with a further 1 year suspended sentence . Two months ago intelligence officials arrested her and she was transferred to prison . She has been kept there under pressure going through numerous onterrogations.
She has spent some weeks in solitary confinement and was not allowed to meet her 3 year old child and her family . All her interrogations were accompanied by physical and mental torture . she is still in women's ward of Semnan prison .
Unclear State of Monireh Rabiee’s Situation
Monireh Rabiee, a Chemical Engineer , who had gone to the Revolutionary Court on Oct. 7th following a summons, was arrested without any clear reason .She is now kept in solitary confinement in Evin prison ward No.209. The 32 year old Monireh has no previous political record . She was accused of having "relations with Mujahedin". This is becoming a very common charge as most of the political detainees are being accused of such an alleged connection.
Fariba Pajouh with Heart Disease in Prison
The prison doctors have prescribed Fariba with medicine known as Zanax . The doctor believes that disease has been contracted in prison during the 80 days of her imprisonment.
Fariba has been to court and is back in prison and also still under pressure . Fariba has not been allowed visitors or phone calls and she has also been attacked by the prison warden. She is in grave danger and her prison doctor keeps insisting that she should be provided with the needed medication.
Fariba Pajouh , reformist Journalist and blogger, has been arrested for more than 80 days, it has been reported that she is under very aggressive interrogation and is being pressed to admit to her immoral behaviour. A reliable source has reported that they are trying to make her admit to have had sexual intercourse, the source also adds that she has been threatened with hanging many times.
Zahra Jabbari has been arrested in Qods day
Zahra Jabbari was arrested on Qods day (September 18th) and transferred to Evin prison where she has remained since .
Women's movement in the run-up to the Presidential Elections in Iran
Noushin Ahmadi Khorasani
The ancient country of Iran in the last two centuries has witnessed many internal and regional political crises. The major internal political events in the last 150 years, beginning with the attack by Tsarist Russia on Iran, the Tobacco movement, Constitutional Revolution, the movement for the nationalisation of oil, the 1979 Revolution and the 1997 reform movement. The political transformations in Iran have always been accompanied by popular uprisings and under the slogan of justice as the "major" (maximum wish) demand.
In 2005 as government reforms reached a dead end, and as the political order was renewed in favour of military and authoritarian forces, suddenly a militaristic government came to power under the leadership of Ahmadi Nejad. This authoritarian government adopted idealistic and sweeping slogans such as the eradication of world dominance and governance and proposed populist slogans at the same time it engaged in the suppression of the poverty-stricken strata and set out to silence social movements with total brutality. Hence it is after 4 years of suppression and violence by the absolutist and ideological government, that the people and in particular the social movements of Iran, once again face the approaching 10th presidential elections. But this time a number of new slogans, alignments and social developments, distinguish these elections from the previous ones.
Slogans: For instance one of the differences in this round of elections is the candidates' new tactics in the choice of their campaign slogans. The Iranian electorate are encountering un-theological and un-Islamic slogans that reflect the pragmatic and earthly concerns of the candidates. Currently the candidates are emphatically expressing issues that affect the day-to-day lives of different social strata, that is to say, issues that the activists of social movements representing different social strata imposed on the government officials, having paid a heavy price in the process.
New Factors: One of the new and determining factors in the political arena in Iran is the independent presence in the arena of the elections, of the social movements, in particular women's movement that has succeeded in asserting the concrete and pragmatic demands of its peaceful struggle. This independent and unprecedented presence (albeit through enduring violent and extensive persecution, the incarceration of the civil activists and their being given criminal records) has become a new factor in the political equation in the country, making this election different from the preceding ones.
New Directions for Transformations: Given the earlier points, perhaps the most important factor which makes this election different is the 'new directions that social transformations' may take, i.e. taking a complete new direction which is derived from its objective needs of their day to day life (their material needs). Fortunately, this direction is gaining ground in all arenas and across the wide spectrum of activities of those who strive for a civil society.
The adoption of such a direction cannot and must not be underestimated, given that Iran is the birth place of ideologies. This ancient country - whether before or after the attack by Muslim Arabs - has been the cradle of religious ideologies and the birth place of ideological religions. State religions or religious states have dominated the lives of our people since ancient times. Therefore when after centuries we see our people (in particular the middle class) turn away from abstract slogans for maximum demands, and turn their gaze from the skies down to the earth, seeking change not through global governance or the obliteration of some country or nation or establishing justice in the whole universe, but instead to show an interest in small reforms (small is beautiful). So we can claim with confidence that our country Iran is on the verge of a major and epoch-making shift and that the climate of the forthcoming elections has revealed the tip of an ice-berg.
With their sensitive antennae, the women's and students' movements have sensed the possibilities. The absolute majority of those active in these groups have come together in self-organised groups and have formed broad (and temporary) coalitions in order to advantage of the prevailing climate. Women's movement has taken the opportunity to call for the 'women's solidarity movement for election demands' and a civil society. This unprecedented and broad coalition of women comprises of 40 women's organisations and 700 activists. The activists of Women's Solidarity movement have already participated in joint meetings with other social movements such as students and some of the independent trade unions among others.
It is hoped that in the years to come, women's movement of Iran can establish and broaden the dialogue for attaining its "fundamental demands"- a dialogue that can assist the Iranian society in its journey to democracy through peaceful means.
Elections: An "Opportunity" for Women's Movement in Iran
By: Noushin Ahmadi Khorasani
Amidst the mood and atmosphere of the 10th presidential elections that is sweeping Iran these days, there is the talk about "election opportunity" amongst many civil organizations and circles, and political parties. Diverse groups of equal-rights activists in Iran took appropriate advantage of this "opportunity" and formed a large alliance called "coalition of women's movement to advocate electoral demands". However, we know that a significant part of what is called "opportunity" or "threat" in the elections atmosphere depends on the potential and influence of social forces that are active in the society. For instance, when there is talk about "election opportunity", it does not necessarily reflect on the level or degree of "openness or tightness of political atmosphere", but it is about the "special political state" in which the whole society is living for a short period of time. If fact, even if we consider the "elections" as "selections", even if we witness intensification of "security clamp down" in such periods of time, and finally, even if we see a full home court advantage on the side of our strong opponent, we still cannot ignore the situation and circumstances in which, due to "elections", the society is; i.e. in the mode of mobilizing the forces and line ups that engages and concerns a whole slew of diverse layers of society and a predominant majority of the citizens.
Elections: an opportunity for "solidarity of social movements": the existence of elections mood is quick passing and short-lived. But if we really believe in the rightness of our cause and in continuing in that direction, then we can certainly create an opportunity in this election atmosphere for unity and (interim) "coalition" amongst the social movements. Union and unity among the social movements also needs opportunities for "joint action" in which all the various groups could participate within their capacity and power. In fact, it is the existence of this "common playing field" that can form solidarity among social movements. A "common playing field", however, is not readily obtainable in Iran and requires our preparedness and the presence of "special and particular political circumstances". Clearly, taking advantage of opportunities requires "identifying" and "chasing" them. We all have experienced - even in our personal lives - that attempts to spot and trace occasional opportunities in the society, will eventually not only detect opportunities but also create them.
It seems that the latent potential of the "elections" atmosphere will always prepare the grounds of "common action" for the solidarity of social movements. I don't mean that only taking part in the election and casting votes for candidates will create this opportunity; what I mean is that the "election atmosphere" will automatically develop an opportunity so that we would be really and tangibly able to find a "common platform", beyond the cliché and repetitious slogans. What is certain is the fact that elections, in reality, create a "common playing ground" much broader than the private and limited ground of each and every one of the social movements, and lays an objective and very valuable groundwork for planning and putting in place a practical and common "project" among the various groups seeking change in the society.
It is now time to act: presently, the minimal opening in the current security and political atmosphere and "the latent potential in different stages of elections" that has created a different situation in the society, is a golden window of opportunity for the civil society activists and social forces in the country that could be very well utilized to develop solidarity and joint actions, if it is dealt with vigilantly and prudently. Demand-centered movements, such as women's and students' movements, and even parts of trade union movement in Iran, are probably the closest and most prepared social forces that could take advantage of such an opportunity for joining forces and forming interim and temporary alliances centered around "practical joint action".
However, the "election opportunity" that is talked about, is an opportunity that could lay grounds for the course of reconstructing the internal relationship of social movements, if we wish to do so. As we witness today, such has happened at least in a large part of women's movement and parts of students' movement. Social movements, and women and students' movements in particular, subsequent to suffering a period of the harshest illegal violence and heavy blows on their bodies, which caused a fall out and disappointment among their members, could eventually take advantage of this opportunity to recuperate their losses and once again invite the scattered groups of their movements to join their forces and voices in accord and cooperate with each other.
Fortunately, the women's movement has been successful in doing so to a certain degree. Close to 40 equal-rights supporting women groups and organizations, along with 600 of Iranian activists and intellectuals, utilized the mood and opportunity of elections and alongside each other, shoulder to shoulder, formed an provisional and democratic coalition called "coalition of women's movement to advocate electoral demands". This is for the first time that women's movement in Iran has succeeded in entering the elections environment fully independently in order to raise its demands. This fresh and brave move cannot and should not be taken loosely. During the period of time since the inception of the "coalition", fortunately tens of articles have been published in various papers and web sites in favor or to criticize this innovative and united move. Various acting committees in Tehran and a few of the other cities have started working with hope and optimism. Educational booklets and leaflets of the "coalition" are being printed and distributed by volunteers among the public, and students in particular. Face-to-Face dialogue with people and holding productive educational workshops are on the go. Substantial presence of the young members of "coalition" in the electoral headquarters and conventions of candidates, regular distribution of weekly news bulletins of "coalition", the renewed relationship of women's movement with student movement, and... is progressing. Yes, the women's movement in Iran is making a new comeback.
Fortunately, the student movement has taken a similar initiative and with an unprecedented will and determination is forming various, very broad, and independent alliances in order to develop unity and to attract fresh forces, and to revive its subdued forces, with a goal of creating "change" in the current situation of the society.
Elections: a precious opportunity to "institutionalize": one of the other prudent and wise approaches that civil activists could take during the elections is to make broader contacts with the public in order to form civic institutes in Tehran and other cities in the country. This smart move should, of course, involve any and all forces (be it political, civic or trade). But the question here is that how and in which way this opportunity could be utilized to form popular institutes and bodies.
Perhaps one of the ways is to have an eye on the electoral headquarters. At present, all the headquarters of presidential candidates are active in Tehran and all across the country. The active and motivated forces of these centers (the office staff) are mainly from the reformist youth. The important point here is, in fact, the "presence of a very different atmosphere" that forms only during the election periods, i.e. sectors of the society become practically active in participating in the political destiny of the country. And the interesting point is that these "select locations" designated as electoral headquarters in numerous districts of Tehran and other cities (that are "permitted" by the security agencies) house these young people. We can contact these young people without fear and interact and dialogue with them. Civic activists have access to these locations and to the vast number of young people under such circumstances prior to which, due to the dominating political atmosphere, were never able to contact even one tenth of them. When people are organized, this opportunity arises for the activists of the civil society to take advantage of this motivated individuals to "raise awareness" about their demands.
"Golden opportunity" belongs to all social forces: this exceptional opportunity is not only available to us, activists of women or student movement, but more so available to political parties who wish to make a change in the current status. The reformist political forces (with any ideological orientation they may have) could also utilize this precious opportunity to expand and extend the popular institutions, and therefore boost and strengthen the civil society. Instead of looking at the forces in the electoral campaign offices as "auxiliaries and perhaps extras in elections", they could positively plan to "organize and institutionalize such forces" (for the days after elections), without aiming necessarily to keep these young people under their hegemony and "umbrella of their own party".
Just like women's and students' movement, the reformist political forces, from national-religious, and parties like Etemaad-e Melli (National Reliance), Jebhe-ye Mosharekat (Participation Front), Nehzat-e Azadi (Freedom Movement), Jebhe-ey Melli (National Front), and..., desperately need these popular institutes. This is because if supporters of change could win the elections and the presidential office, they will certainly need the presence and organized activity of these popular institutes even more, because taking presidential office at a time when military forces have dominated all the economical, political, bureaucratic, educational and social bodies of the county, perhaps the only hope for advancing economical policies and running the country as a civic society and not a militarized one, incidentally is to have the support of such popular institutes.
While Mr. Ahmadi-Nejad and its allies move forward with their policies adeptly and in the best way possible through centralized organization of a part of society around "Basij" (paramilitary militia), reformist forces "seeking change" should also admit that it is only through organizing of popular forces and forming "institutes for change" (even if they possibly win the elections) that they can hope to "survive" in the next four years. I mean that modern forces in our country, from social movements or political forces seeking change, have no other option in order to defend their demands (regardless of any ideological or political tendency they may have) but to "organize" themselves.
Today, the protectors of status quo led by military, having the experience of order and "discipline" in military, have been able to successfully create and establish "simple yet disciplined and flexible organizations" within parts of the society (their target audience), and this way promote and advance their demands and policies, and backed by "popular organization of their target audience" save their representatives in judicial, legislation and executive branches of power. Unfortunately, the modern and change-seeking forces in our society are suffering from dispersion, discord and dissension, and are losing the chance to organize themselves everyday more than before. Perhaps the elections opportunities are the only remaining opportunities under the current circumstances for the modern and change-seeking forces in order to organize at least part of their forces in a modern form and way and with the least expense.
Considering these temporary situations, we have probably two paths in front of us: either we won't bother to make connections with diverse strata and classes of the society in this brief moment and will walk by the electoral headquarters with indifference, or we take the second path and grasp this relatively short and transient moment with both hands, with hope and motivation (and looking forward to tomorrow) in order to: voice our demands even louder and broader, strengthen our ties with various strata of society, reconstruct the internal relationships of women's movement, access fresh, young people who defend equality, organize modern social forces, and create broader solidarity among civil and equality-seeking activists.
"To Roxana Saberi, Iranian with an American passeport"
Bahman Ghobadi, Iranian filmmaker, has written an open letter following the arrest and conviction of Roxana Saberi..
The text of Bahman Ghobadi's letter is the following:
If I kept quiet until now, it was for her sake. If today I speak, it is for her sake.
She is my friend, my fiance, and my companion. An intelligent and talented young woman, whom I have always admired.
It was the 31st of January. The day of my birthday. That morning, she called to say she would pick me up so we would go out together.. She never came. I called on her mobile, but it was off, and for two-three days I had no idea what had happened to her. I went to her apartment, and since we had each other's keys, I went in, but she wasn't there. Two days later, she called and said: "Forgive me my dear, I had to go to Zahedan." I got angry: why hadn't she said anything to me? I told her I didn't believe her, and again she said: "Forgive me my dear, I had to go." And the line was cut. I waited for her to call back. But she didn't call back. She didn't call back.
I left for Zahedan. I looked for her in every hotel, but nobody had ever heard her name. For ten days, thousands of wild thoughts came to my mind. Until I learned, through her father, she had been arrested. I thought it was a joke.
I thought it was a misunderstanding and that she would be released after two or three days. But days went by and I had no news from her. I started to worry and knocked on every door for help, until I understood what had happened.
It is with tears in my eyes that I say she is innocent and guiltless. It is me, who has known her for years, and shared every moment with her, who declares it. She was always busy reading and doing her research. Nothing else. During all these years I've known her, she wouldn't go anywhere without letting me know, nor would do anything without asking my advice. To her friends, her family, everyone that surrounded her, she had given no signs of unreasonable behavior. How come someone who would spend days without going out of her apartment, except to see me; someone who, like a Japanese lady, would carefully spend her money, and had sometimes trouble making a living; someone who was looking for a sponsor to get in contact with a local publisher so her book would be printed here (in Iran); could now be charged with a spying accusation?! We all know - no, we have all seen in movies - that spies are malicious and sneaky, that they peep around for information, and that they are very well paid.
And now my heart is full of sorrow. Because it is me who incited her to stay here. And now I can't do anything for her. Roxana wanted to leave Iran. I kept her from it.
At the beginning of our relationship, she wanted to go back to the United States. She would have liked us to go together. But I insisted for her to stay until my new film was over. She really wanted to leave Iran. And I kept her from it. And now I am devastated, for it is because of me she has been subject to these events. These past years, I have been subject to a serious depression. Why? Because my movie had been banned, and released on the black market. My next movie was not given an authorization, and I was forced to stay at home. If I've been able to stand it until today, it is thanks to the presence and help that she provided me with.
Since I had no authorization for my last movie, I was nervous and ill-tempered. And she was always there to calm me down.
Roxana wanted to leave Iran. I kept her from it. She is the one who took care of me while I was depressed. Then I convinced her to stay, I wanted her to write the book she had started in her head. I accompanied her, and thanks to my friends and contacts, I knocked on every door and was able to set up meetings with film makers, artists, sociologists, politics, and others. I would go with her myself.
She was absorbed by her book, to the point that she could stay and bear it all, until my film would be finished, and we would leave together.
Roxana's book was a praise to Iran. The manuscripts exist, and it will certainly be published one day, and all will see it. But why have they said nothing? All those who have talked, worked and sat with her, and who know how guiltless she is.
I am writing this letter for I am worried about her. I am worried about her health. I heard she was depressed and cried all the time. She is very sensitive. To the point she refuses to touch her food.
My letter is a desperate call to all statesmen and politics, and to all those who can do something to help. From the other side of the ocean, the Americans have protested against her imprisonment, because she is an American citizen. But I say no, she is Iranian, and she loves Iran. I beg you, let her go! I beg you not to throw her in the midst of you political games! She is too weak and too pure to take part in your games. Let me be present at her trial, sit next to her wise father and gentle mother, and testify she is without guilt or reproach.
However, I am optimistic about her release, and I firmly hope the verdict will be cancelled in the next stage of the trial.
My Iranian girl with Japanese eyes and an American ID, is in jail. Shame on me! Shame on us!
April 21st, 2009.
IFJ calls for Openness in Trial of Journalist Accused of Spying in Iran
14 April 2009
21 Dec 2008
The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) has called for the trial of an Iranian-American journalist accused of spying to be 'open, honest and respectful' of all her rights under international law.
The trial of Roxana Saberi began yesterday behind closed doors in Tehran and a verdict is expected within three weeks, says an Iranian official.
"To accuse a journalist of spying is easily done," said Aidan White, IFJ General Secretary, "but it must be a fair trail with evidence given in an honest and respectful manner in open court and in line with international standards of jurisprudence."
Ms Saberi faced her accusers before Iran's Revolutionary Court, which handles national security cases. The IFJ is dismayed that the trial is taking place behind closed doors - "which inevitably undermines the credibility of the process," said White.
A US-Iranian national, Ms Saberi has spent six years in Iran studying and writing a book. The journalist, aged 31, worked briefly for the BBC three years ago. She has also worked for the American public radio network National Public Radio and the television network Fox News.
She was arrested in late January and has been held in Evin prison near Tehran. At first she was accused of working without press credentials, but last week an Iranian judge charged her with spying for the United States.
For further information contact IFJ on +32 2 235 2207
The IFJ represents over 600,000 journalists in 123 countries worldwide
WOMEN'S RIGHTS AGAIN UNDER ATTACK
21 Dec 2008
In an article entitled "Iran thirty lost years" published to coincide with International Women's Day, Genevieve Garrigos, the president of Amnesty International France, draws attention to the fate of Iranian women following the Islamic revolution of 1979. She points out that although Iranian women are among the best educated in the Muslim world (they make up 65% of students) and while the young are demanding equality and emancipation, women continue to be repressed by domestic and political violence. With little protest from the outside world, Iran continues to flout international law and the International Declaration of Human Rights.
On 30 January three members of the anti-discrimination campaign 'One Million Signatures' were arrested as they collected signatures in northern Tehran. Two were released but the third, Nafiseh Azad, was charged with "acting against national security" and was not freed until she had spent 6 days in custody. On the same day in another part of Tehran three other people were arrested but after public protest were released. More arrests followed and on 31 January women's rights activist Alieh Eghdamdoost was taken before the security court. She could be forced to serve a three-year suspended sentence imposed on her in 2006 for taking part in a women's rights demonstration.
Nasrin Sotoudeh is a lawyer for the women's movement. She herself was summoned before the security court in February but is determined to carry on her work defending women's rights activists. In an interview for the website Feminist School, she describes how arbitrary arrests and harassment have increased since the One Million Signatures campaign won the international Simone de Beauvoir prize. These attacks are also linked to the wider civil rights movement. The Iranian regime blithely ignores the weight of international solidarity behind the movements. According to Nasrin Sotoudeh there is no legal or general logic in the oppression of people who are defending their human rights in a peaceful manner.
The much respected lawyer and Nobel Prizewinner Shirin Ebadi has been the subject of violent attacks in recent weeks. The attacks coincided with the enforced closure of the Defenders of Human Rights' office. Opponents of Shirin Ebadi gathered in front of her home, writing slogans on the walls and accusing her of being a supporter of "Israel's slaughters". Her friend, the poet Simin Behbahani told reporter Noushin Ahmadi Khorasani that Shirin Ebadi was the pride of Iranian women, receiving a Nobel prize for her work and dedication and giving her best in recent years to defend human rights by accepting so many cases such as serial political murderers, students and women activists.
"She defends them all and follows their judicial fate ... Shirin Ebadi is a logical and knowledgeable and approachable person. She defends peace."
The attacks and the closure of the office are incomprehensible for those who support freedom and human rights but the policies of the theocratic regime are diametrically opposed to those of the International Declaration of Human Rights. It is therefore imperative that in the weeks leading up to the presidential elections the dissident voices continue to make themselves heard so that change can be democratically introduced into a country which, in this twenty-first century, stills forces its citizens to live under mediaeval laws.
To sign the One Million Signatures petition go to http://www.campaignforequality.info/english/
Forcing Women out of Society and Active Social Life
An examination of the bill to reduce the working hours of women in Iran
21 Dec 2008
Since its inception in 1979, women's rights and place in society have been hotly contested in the Islamic Republic of Iran - the covering of women (Islamic Hijab), the right to divroce and the right to custody of children have, for example, all been the subject of much public and media scrutiny. A speech on 8th December 2008 by Ms. Sorayya Zafari, an advisor to the Ministry of Industry and Mining, announced another controversial development: "a bill to reduce the working hours of women in Iran by at least one hour per child."
The proposed bill, drafted and presented to Parilaiment by Ahmadi-Nejad's administration, is but the latest in a long series of government measures to reduce the working hours of women and to expedite their retirement. The Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance's instructions to 'send all female employees home before 6 pm'; the Social-Cultural Council of Women's proposals to 'reduce women's daily working hours, to eliminate night shifts and compulsory overtime for women'; and bills to ensure 'early retirement for women' and 'women's eligibility to take leave of absence in the case of illness of their husband or chilren' serve as just a few examples of this worrying trend.
The fact of the matter is that the living and working conditions of women in Iran especially working class women, are dire. Whilst a small fraction of the population enjoys a lavish lifestyle, the majority live below the poverty line. At a time of high unemployment and under-employment, breadwinners, be it the father, mother or both, are forced to hold down three or even four jobs in order to meet a family's daily cost of living. For equal work, women are compensated and paid less than men. Due to the lack or un-affordability of childcare facilities, working women struggle to earn a living and at the same time take care of their children. The traditional fanatical views about women, which are bolstered by the government and the regime in general, are promoting and indirectly forcing women to stay at home as housewives. This is particularly harmful to single women and women who are the sole breadwinner in their family.
The reality is that traditional, medieval and fundamentalist views are what lie behind all the aforementioned bills and proposals of the Iranian regime, including that which seeks to "reduce the working hours of women employed in industrial jobs and other professions." These sorts of actions and bills are intended to force on society a paritcular view of the role of women. They pose this bill as a solution to issues of childcare and family responsibilities of women whilst in reality it reduces families to poverty and hence compounds the same issues. This traditional view has as its goal to "Islamicise" all aspects of society, particularly those elements relating to women. In this view, the main role of women is to raise children and to run the house. Other roles that women can and should play in society, including paid work , are considered to be secondary and superfluous. This is why the working hours and minimum years to retirement of women are cut short: in order to send them back to what is considered to be their "natural" place.
The insatiable animosity of the government and the regime towards the current Labour Law is another reason why these bills are being introduced. Ever since the Labour Law was ratified in the years immediately following the 1979 revolution, successive governments have worked relentlessly to undermine it. Only by popular, intense and conscious social struggle has the working class been able to resist efforts to undermine this law. However, the regime has not given up and is looking for new ways to seriously dillute this law. By introducing other labour related procedures, they intend to render the present Labour Law ineffective.
The upcoming presidential elections are another motivating factor behind these proposals. The demagogic and opportunistic approach of Ahmadi-Nejad and his administration is well known. Indeed, the key slogan in his 2005 presidential campaign was to ensure that oil revenues reached the pockets of the Iranian people. With elections once again looming, Ahmadi-Nejad is reverting back to his old maneuvers and tricks.
With the present global economic crisis at play, if this bill is enacted, it will have a negative impact on women's employment, family income and living conditions. There are many desperate unemployed men who are ready to accept jobs with as long a working day as employers wish, and employers see no reason to employ someone who will work fewer hours and is entitled to more leave of absence rights, with equal pay. As for career advancement , clearly those who work fewer hours are less likely to be candidates for promotion. Whilst it may appear the aforementioned bill is intended to help women, its real beneficiaries are those who desire to keep women where they think they belong, i.e. at home.
It is less than two months since Ms. Sorraya Zafari announced that the"Reducing the working hours of women employed in industry and other professions" bill had been submitted to Parliament. Initial reactions towards this bill show that the public , and in particular women, are by no means neutral on this issue. Various analyses and commentaries, which expose the true nature of this bill, are finding their way into the media; popular and working-class movement against this bill is to be expected in the country.
The History of International Women's Day in Iran
By: Mansoureh Shojaee
21 Dec 2008
The history of the active presence of women in the social, political, and cultural arena in Iran is a fairly recent one that has evolved only in the last century. However, this movement, its progress and its impact embraces much of Iran's contemporary history.
Despite the efforts of those historians who try to diminish the role of women, the pivotal role of women in support of the constitutionalists, in preserving and promoting modernism cannot be denied. The efforts of Iranian women, took shape as a movement for women's right to education and to visibility in social life. This took on a more social and political character after the victory of the constitutionalist movement which, in spite of women's involvement, still denied them the vote.
The first celebration of 8th March in Iran, in 1922, took place in Rasht [North of Iran] organised by "the Society of Women's Prosperity Herald" [Jamiyat Peyk-e Sa`adat-e Nessvaan]. However, there is no other record of further events being held by this society. A few years later records show that celebrations took place publicly in 1928 organised by the "Organisation for Women's Awakening" [sazeman-e bidariy-e zanan]. With the rise to power of Reza Khan after a coup in 1926, despite a few events taking place that on the surface seemed to be in favour of women, the genuine women's movement slowly faded and independent organisations gradually gave way to those controlled by the government. Since then, there are no records of public events commemorating 8th March. However, this event was celebrated secretly and in private in the homes of some of the elite women.
In 1979, having fought against the Shah and his despotism shoulder to shoulder with men, enduring prison and torture for years under that regime, women were faced with the orders of the new revolutionary government. On 26th February 1979, the office of Ayatollah Khomeini announced the annulment of the law of Family Support to the courts. For the first time, on 2nd March, it was announced that according to Islamic laws, women could not become judges. On 6th March, the office of Ayatollah Khomeini announced that women could work outside their houses, but they must observe full religious dress code (hijab). As a result of the declaration of these orders the celebration of this International Women's Day turned into widespread demonstrations in Tehran and a few other cities. This protest was met with violent reprisal from the supporters of compulsory Islamic hijab.
During the 1980's, International Women's Day was commemorated privately and secretly in the homes of secular and intellectual women. This situation continued during the first half of the 90's. Since June 1997 and the election of the reformist government, celebrating 8th March became more widespread, although it was still being held in private.
The year 2000 was a turning point in the celebration of International Women's Day and the open activities of women. In this year, Noushin Ahmadi Khorasani invited a group of women to openly and publicly celebrate 8th March. This group was selected from the members of non-governmental organisations working on the environment, children, women publishers, and also women's domestic groups. To the surprise of the organisers, more than a 1000 people attended, and the widespread news of the event grabbed the attention of society.
In the spring of that same year, the events of the Berlin Conference resulted in the incarceration of Shahla Lahiji and Mehrangiz Kar, resulting in the 8th March organising group collecting signatures for the release of these two activists. This was the first time ever that a group of independent women had risen up to collect signatures and to demand the release of two jailed women. This clearly was not to the liking of the men in the society, whether in the ruling circle or not. This in itself was a lesson for women on the necessity of the independent of activity of women.
The Women's Cultural Centre is the offspring of this and other experiences of those years. In 2001 the centre staged the biggest and most creative event of 8th March at the "Khaneh Honarmandan" [Artist's House]. The Women's Cultural Centre's action in publicly and openly celebrating 8th March in the capital city of Tehran, resulted in the word spreading and members of the centre began raising awareness about 8th March in towns and cities like Tabriz, Zanjan, Isfahan and Ahwaz.
By 2002, various women's groups that had learned from the experiences of the Cultural Centre, started to establish independent women's organisations. In 2002 the Centre focused its efforts on the rights of women as citizens in using city space and the right to free participation in civic gatherings, selecting Laleh Park as the location for the event. The gathering in Laleh Park was conducted under heavy control by the police. This was the first time that an International Women's Day event had been held in an open space and outside the halls and houses in an atmosphere of defiance and protest.
From 2004 onwards the 8th March has become a focus for women's resistance to injustice as well as an occasion for increased intimidation by the Islamic state, desperate to suppress the voices of women. Celebrations planned for Laleh Park in that year where met by police violence when permits for the gathering where revoked one hour before it was scheduled to take place
In 2006, Simin Behbahani, the aging and freedom-fighting Iranian poet, was assaulted by police. In 2007, one week before 8th March, 33 women activists were arrested in front of the revolution court. This group had gathered in support of 5 of their friends who were on trial at the revolution court for participating in the 12th June protests of the previous year. The security and police forces, using the excuses of disrupting public order and acting against national security, arrested the activists. During the week that these activists spent in jail, security forces escalated the atmosphere of repression and intimidation by raiding the homes of a number of activists. On 8th March, a protest by female teachers and other freedom-loving women in front of the Islamic Majlis (parliament) quickly turned to violence and a large number of participants were arrested.
For 8th March, 2008 women returned to their homes again. Yet this time they were not small and private groups. This time their houses had become public places but unfortunately even homes were not spared from the attack of the security forces. One of the many events that were held on this day was organised by the Iranian Women's Centre and The Feminist School. Prior to the event, police were trying to enter the house. Eventually they arrested two of the School organisers along with the homeowner and took them to the police station. Despite that, the police were not able to break up the programme. The event was held under the pressure and control of security forces.
This year, 8th March is a day when the gaze of the world and the international community is fixed on Iranian women. These women have obtained the international Simone de Beauvoir prize thanks to their tireless efforts in the One-Million Signatures Campaign. This prize does not belong to one or two people or even a few organisations. This award belongs to all women who gave meaning and purpose to the campaign by their membership, activities, articles, interviews, holding seminars and workshops, and even signing the Campaign's petition.
The 8th March 2009 is when Iranian women - encouraged and appreciated by the International community on one hand and under internal threats and pressures on the other hand - celebrate this great day. Happy International Women's Day to these passionate hard working women and their international sisters!
Mansoureh Shojaee is one of the key activists of the One-Million Signatures Campaign.
Iran police shut down Nobel laureate's office
AFP, 5 hours ago - Iranian police shut down the office of a human rights group headed by Nobel peace laureate Shirin Ebadi on Sunday, the deputy head of the Human Rights Defenders Centre, Narges Mohammadi, told AFP.
"They have sealed off the office and are telling us to leave the premises without resistance," Mohammadi said. "Mrs Ebadi is there too. We have no choice but to leave."
21 Dec 2008
She said dozens of policemen had gathered in front of the group's office in northwest Tehran and that the officials had not "shown a judicial warrant but only provided the number of a warrant".
She said policemen in uniform and plain clothes had raided the office and made an inventory of its contents.
The group had been scheduled to hold a belated celebration marking the 60th anniversary of Human Rights Day on December 10.
The closure marks a toughened crackdown on rights campaigners by the Islamic republic, which Ebadi's group accuses of "systematically violating" human rights.
"Freedom of expression and freedom of circulating information have further declined" since President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad came to office in August 2005, the group said in its annual report in May.
"The lack of a real and effective observance of human rights deepens the gap between the people and the government and breaks the pillars of peace, stability and development in the country," it warned at the time.
On Human Rights Day, Ebadi delivered a speech in Geneva calling for non-governmental organisations to be given a greater role in the UN's Human Rights Council and other bodies.
Founded by five prominent lawyers and headed by 2003 Nobel winner Ebadi, the group is a vocal critic of the human rights situation in Iran and has defended scores of prisoners of conscience, including high profile dissidents and student activists.
The group holds frequent meetings on what it deems to be human rights violations. At one recent gathering, it renewed calls on Iran to stop executing people convicted of offences committed when they were minors.
In November, Ebadi criticised Iran's new Islamic penal code, saying it remained unfair to women and used an "incorrect" interpretation of Islam.
In April, she said she had received death threats pinned to the door of her office building, warning her to "watch your tongue."
Ahmadinejad subsequently ordered that Ebadi be protected and that the threats be investigated.
In 1974, Ebadi emerged as the first female judge in Iran, but after the 1979 Islamic revolution, the government decided that women were unfit to serve as judges.
She chose to become a lawyer and devoted herself to human rights, women and children.
Ebadi and her colleagues also represent the family of Canadian-Iranian photojournalist Zahra Kazemi, who died while in custody in 2003 after being detained for photographing a demonstration outside a Tehran prison.
Two UN Special Rapporteurs warn on the ongoing crackdown of women's rights defenders in the Islamic Republic of Iran
GENEVA, 27 November 2008 - "Over the past two years, women's rights defenders have faced an increasingly difficult situation and harassment in the course of their non-violent activities in the defence of women's rights in the Islamic Republic of Iran," warned two UN human rights experts.
Sunday 26 October 2008
27 Nov 2008
In a joint statement, Special Rapporteurs Margaret Sekaggya (situation of Human Rights Defenders) and Yakin Ertürk (Violence against Women, its causes and consequences) expressed deep concern regarding the ongoing crackdown of women's rights defenders in the Islamic Republic of Iran.
"Women and men active in the 'One Million Signatures Demanding Changes to Discriminatory Laws' campaign, a grass-roots movement aimed at promoting full equality between women and men in Iranian law, have been particularly targeted," said the UN experts.
The campaigners aim at collecting one million signatures from Iranian nationals demanding the revision and reform of current laws which discriminate against women, such as those in the civil and penal codes regulating marriage practices, divorce, criminal acts, and inheritance rights.
The "One Million Signatures Campaign" started with a peaceful demonstration on 12 June 2006 in Haft-e Tir Square in Tehran. The break-up of this demonstration by authorities signalled the beginning of the systematic repression of women's rights activists.
While the group leading the campaign seeks to work within the existing system and regulations and insists it is in no way a group in direct opposition to the government; the group has met with serious repression from the authorities.
"Peaceful demonstrators have been arrested, detained and persecuted with prison sentences having been imposed on many of them," said the UN Special Rapporteurs. "The Government of the Islamic Republic of Iran continues to harass and intimidate women's rights activists involved in the campaign and prevent them from travelling."
"To date, 18 communications have been sent to the Iranian authorities concerning violations committed against over 70 human rights defenders involved in the campaign, and on 5 April 2007 a press release was issued on the situation," said the UN experts. "Until now, we have received only three responses from the Government of the Islamic Republic of Iran".
"The repression against the women's rights defenders participating in the campaign most regrettably continues," stressed Ms. Sekaggya and Ms. Ertürk.
For the UN Special Rapporteurs, "women's participation in public life to promote an equal treatment of women and men in the Islamic Republic of Iran should be encouraged as a means to build a stronger and healthier society, in which women's unique contributions can flourish."
In their joint communiqué, the two UN experts urge the Government of the Islamic Republic of Iran "to abide by its obligations under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the International Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination against Women, and respect the rights of women's rights activists to freedom of association and peaceful assembly, and to freedom of opinion and expression".
"We also recall the provisions of the Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, which inter alia recognize the right of everyone, individually and in association with others, to strive for the protection and realization of human rights," concluded the UN Special Rapporteurs on the situation of Human Rights Defenders and Violence against Women.
Security Officials Ban Sussan Tahmasebi from Travel, Search Her Home and Seize Property
Change for Equality
Sunday 26 October 2008
27 Aug 2008
Change for Equality: Elnaz please tell us a little about yourself.
Early this morning on October 26, 2008, security officials at Imam Khomeini Airport confiscated the passport of Sussan Tahmasebi, women's rights defender and member of the One Million Signatures Campaign, preventing her from travel. Following Tahmasebi's return to her house at 10:00am, she was faced with 5 security agents at her door, who presented her with a court order to search her home. The security officials, while filming the home, seized a number of CDs, books, writings, texts addressing peacebuilding, cassette tapes and a Laptop. The security officials also presented a summons to Tahmasebi, which requires that she present herself to Security Branch of the Revolutionary Courts within three days. The summons was issued over a month ago.
In this respect, Sussan Tahmasebi in an interview with the site of Change for Equality explained that: "this morning security officials from the office of the President paged me after I had already passed the passport checkpoint. They proceeded to confiscate my passport, and in so doing prevented me from travel." This member of the One Million Signatures Campaign continued by explaining: "This is the fourth time that security officials have prevented me from traveling under different pretenses. Despite my repeated inquiries I was provided with no information on the reason for their action and the case on which I am being called to the Revolutionary Courts."
Sussan Tahmasebi was planning a trip to the United States to visit with her family and had planned to speak at several conferences on the One Million Signatures Campaign and women's rights in Iran.
Interview with Elnaz Ansari, Iranian Woman Activist
Interview by: Sussan Tahmasebi, Change for Equality, Tehran
27 Aug 2008
Change for Equality: Elnaz please tell us a little about yourself.
I am 26 years old. I am a journalist and write mostly on social issues. I began my journalistic activities in the year 2000 in a local publication in Zanjan, and from the start I focused on social issues, but especially issues related to women and children. In the same year I was arrested for participating in a student protest and spent 3 months in prison. After that, my activities have been focused primarily on women's issues and within the women's movement.
How was it that you became interested in working on women's issues and involved in the women's movement?
I was about 15 or 16 years old and was attending an Arts high school in the City of Zanjan, where I am originally from. During that time the full Hejab or Chador (the full length black veil) was compulsory for female students. As students attending Arts high school we had to carry a lot of art supplies to and from school on a daily basis, and the Chador made this a difficult task. I decided on my own that I was no longer going to wear the Chador to school—of course I was not allowed to attend my classes without a Chador. Within a few months, I got a few of my friends on board and we started writing letters to officials in Tehran. I should mention that compulsory Chador was illegal. Of course, we had to observe the hejab, but the Chador was not a requirement. So its compulsory nature in Zanjan made it an illegal act. Within a year the policy of compulsory Chador in Zanjan was abandoned by the school system, and female students and teachers were no longer forced to wear the Chador and they could choose a more suitable form of hejab for themselves. Needless to say, I was expelled from school and was never allowed to continue my education.
So what did you do then?
Well what happened as a result of my "act of rebellion" was a sort of impetus in connecting me with feminists in Tehran, and specifically feminist activists working at the Women's Cultural Center. Gradually I became more active in the women's movement through this connection. I participated in programs on women's issues, and in protests and started selling feminist publications produced by the Women's Cultural Center in my own city of Zanjan. Gradually I started to understand the broader issues facing women. I read more on women's issues and became committed to addressing the discriminations faced by women.
How did you get involved in the Campaign?
I found out about the Campaign from my friends in Tehran and attended the inaugural seminar of the Campaign, at Ra'ad Conference Hall on August 27, 2006. With the intervention of the security police the seminar was not allowed to take place, and women's rights activists inaugurated the Campaign on the streets outside the Seminar hall. After that, I became more involved with the Campaign in Tehran and I joined the Media Committee and started writing articles and doing interviews for the site of Change for Equality. Because I was working with reformist dailies and some news sites, I had managed to develop strong relations with well-known community leaders, officials, religious scholars and political party leaders. As such, I started doing short interviews with these figures about their position on women's rights and the Campaign.
During some critical impasses faced by the Campaign and its members, including instances where activists had been arrested or meetings broken up, I was able to obtain interviews with key political and religious leaders in support of our work. For example, I did an interview with Dr. Mohammad Sharif, a Lawyer and human rights defender, who emphasized the legal nature of the Campaign and its activities. This was an important interview because it responded to allegations made by the Minister of Intelligence who had accused the women's movement of being subversive. I did another interview with Ayatollah Fazel Maybodi, who is a high ranking and well-respected cleric and religious scholar. In this interview Maybodi claimed that all the demands of the Campaign for legal equality of men and women could be met through dynamic jurisprudence—meaning that our demands were not contradictory to Islam, which is an important declaration. Another example of such interviews was one conducted with Mr. Saharkhiz, who is a member of the Association for the Freedom of the Press. In this interview, Mr. Saharkhiz condemned the arrests of women's rights activists and the prison sentences issued against them, calling these pressures illegal in the context of national and international law.
I feel that in this way, I have been able to legitimize the demands of the Campaign in the eyes of the public and among officials, as well as critically question the pressures placed on Campaign activists.
Thanks Elnaz for your time.
Iran's Women's Rights Activists Are Being Smeared
By Nayereh Tohidi
Run Date: 09/17/08
27 Aug 2008
Women's rights activists recently succeeded in stalling a bill to ease polygamy, temporary marriage and male-bias in divorce. But Nayereh Tohidi says a nasty smear campaign and continuous arrest show the adversity they are up against.
Editor's Note: The following is a commentary. The opinions expressed are those of the author and not necessarily the views of Women's eNews.
(WOMENSENEWS)--In Iran, the government of hard-line President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad recently proposed a bill and, in Orwellian fashion, named it the "Family Protection Law."
If passed it would have threatened the stability, equilibrium, and mental health of families by reinforcing and facilitating polygamy, temporary marriage, and men's privileged position with regard to divorce.
The good news: A diverse coalition of women's rights activists and even some moderate clerics and politicians persuaded a judicial commission to drop some of the most contested articles and Majles, the Parliament, passed an amended version on Sept. 9. This version makes second marriage contingent upon the first wife's consent and does not attach any tax on the amount of dowry to be paid to wife in case of divorce.
The bad news: The amended family law and many other laws pertaining to personal status are still very male biased. Temporary marriage (muta), for example, remains a prerogative for married and unmarried men without even requiring its registration. Activists campaigning to change that those laws are still under attack, with five women recently sentenced to prison terms of between six months and four years.
A major sign of the negative climate is a wave of smear campaigns recently waged against those activists, chief among them Shirin Ebadi, the leading human rights lawyer. Similar campaigns in the 1990s were harbingers of homicides.
A series of articles published in early August by the official Islamic Republic News Agency made dangerous allegations against Ebadi, her family, and the Center for the Defense of Human Rights that she founded and chairs.
The articles charged Ebadi, a Women's eNews 21 Leader, with supporting sexual license, promiscuity, and prostitution. They called her a Zionist agent and alleged that the international Zionist Lobby was behind her winning the 2003 Nobel Prize.
The articles also claimed that Ebadi's daughter has converted to the Bahai faith, a dangerous accusation because Iran does not recognize Bahaism as a religion and its followers have faced severe discrimination and persecution.
Several human rights groups, including the Nobel Women Initiative (founded by six female Nobel Peace Prize winners) have compared the accusations to trumped-up charges brought up by the same media against dissident intellectuals in the 1990s that led to several mysterious assassinations now known as "the serial killings."
Women's status in Iran is paradoxical and complex. Many rural women and those living in small towns suffer from old restrictions and practices such as domestic violence and "honor killing."
As for urban women: While economic necessity compels many to work outside the home, their employment opportunities are limited and often face discrimination and harassment. According to official records, in the course of the past year alone, more than 20,000 women have been attacked by "moral squads" and put under temporary police arrest for breaking Islamic dress code.
At the same time, Iranian women have made remarkable strides. Literacy rates among younger generations have risen above 90 percent, and a drastic decline in the fertility rate (now less than two children per woman) and improvements in health and life expectancy have paralleled strides in higher education and income generation. Women are now more than 60 percent of university students and are active in many non-traditional occupations such as medicine, law, engineering and architecture.
Women played a significant role in the reform movement of the late 1990s by massive participation in presidential, parliamentary, and municipal elections. But since then, women's participating in formal politics has waned along with the reform movement.
Laws Lagging Behind New Realities
Women's legal rights within marriage and the family--so-called personal status--have remained backward and at odds with their proven capacities. While women in Iran have produced best-selling novels and internationally award-winning films, barbaric practices such as stoning to death for adultery are still legal.
Two years ago, in August 2006, 200 women (and also some men) began a grassroots effort known as the "One Million Signatures Campaign" to change discriminatory laws. It was modelled after a similar 1992 campaign by Moroccan women, which produced progressive changes in the family law in that country. In Iran, the plan was to present one million signatures to the Majles and press legislators to enact equal-rights legislation. But continuous attacks and arrest of those collecting signatures have slowed the process and caused organizers to extend the two-year target.
Despite intimidation and arrests, this campaign has grown into a network of thousands of activists in more than 30 cities. It has also mobilized support among Iranians abroad and gained increasing recognition and solidarity among transnational networks of feminists and women's rights activists.
Appealing to Anxieties
To thwart such efforts from fuelling a counter cultural movement in the Iranian population--70 percent of whom are now younger than 30--the radical Islamists are appealing to traditionalists' anxieties about changing sexual mores and gender views. One recent article published in August in the state-run newspaper Keyhan called for "courageous and gutsy revolutionaries who can do the job" (i.e., continue to carry out attacks on the women's rights activists).
U.S. policy toward Iran and the continuous threat of military attack have further complicated the situation. In 2003 the allocation of $75 million in U.S. aid to Iranian civil rights organizations spurred the government to repress all voices of dissent. Any civil society organizations or individuals doing effective work toward democracy and human-women's rights were accused of being agents in a U.S. plan for regime change.
While the hard-liners and radical Islamists cast peaceful and transparent campaigns as national security threats, that charge is better applied to them. Their belligerent foreign policies have brought sanctions and economic hardship and created the danger of military attacks on Iran.
And while they blast off allegations of sexual license and prostitution against women seeking equal rights and egalitarian family relations they promote polygamy and temporary marriage, both frowned upon by the majority of Iranians. Many Sunni and even many Shii Muslims view temporary marriage as little more than legalized prostitution.
Iranian women's rights activists are contributing to a slow, persistent process of building a civil society grounded on egalitarian and democratic values that would nourish national security and peace with justice. Their efforts are not tied to any national security interest. They are part of a universal quest by civilized people for a peaceful and humane society.
Nayereh Tohidi is chair and professor of the Department of Gender and Women's Studies, California State University, Northridge and a Research Associate at the Center for Near Eastern Studies, UCLA.
The 'Family Protection Bill' will HARM families
By: Charles Brickdale
27 Aug 2008
Throughout much of Iranian society there are growing demands for greater legal equality for women in every part of life: marriage, divorce, the custody of children, employment and social life. The regime's response is the Family Protection Bill which is an attempt to stop any further improvements in the position of women and to keep them in a firmly subservient status.
The Bill faces determined opposition from women's rights activists, human rights campaigners and a number of political parties. Nonetheless, it has passed through most of the necessary stages of the Parliamentary process and is close to receiving final approval.
The Bill attacks women on three key fronts, polygamy, temporary marriages and divorce.
Husbands will no longer have to seek the permission of the first wife before marrying a second wife (he may, of course, marry up to four wives). All he will have to do is demonstrate to a court that he has the resources to support more than one wife and that he will treat all his wives with fairness. The lawyer Shirin Ebadi says of this provision, "upholding justice among wives is a paper exercise which will lead nowhere. As far as financial resources are concerned, a wealthy man can submit his accounts and marry two, three or four women. This bill panders to rich men's lust."
Temporary marriages will be made easier in that they will no longer have to be registered. Among several major concerns raised by this proposal is the fact that it leaves in limbo the status of children born to temporarily married parents.
Divorce will be made more difficult - but only for women. As the law stands men can divorce a wife without stating a reason whereas a woman must seek the permission of a court and demonstrate that she has acceptable grounds for divorce. The new law will make more complicated the procedures that wives have to go through.
Why has the regime chosen to bring in such a Bill at this time? There are two main reasons. Firstly, it is a response to the growth of the women's movement and the increasing pressure for radical changes in the lives and legal status of women. Reversing advances made by women has always been an objective of the most reactionary elements of the regime; now they seek not merely to preserve the status quo but to worsen the situation. Secondly, the huge wealth accumulated by some people over the last few decades will enable them to take advantage of the enhanced legal laxity on polygamy.
A government that wants to promote healthy family life must promote equality before the law and equality of respect and status between men and women and make the safeguarding of children its first priority. The Family Protection Bill does none of these things. It further subordinates women to the whims of unscrupulous men and makes it even more difficult for many wives to achieve any improvement in their conditions. This is not the road to a society of free and fulfilled individuals, families and communities.
Woman's Rights Activist Sentenced to Five Years for Threatening "National Security"
21 June 2008
Hana Abdi, a student and women's rights activist from Sanandaj in Kurdistan who has been in prison since 4 November 2007, was sentenced on 18 June 2008 by Judge Tayari in Branch Two of the Sanandaj Revolutionary Court to a prison term of five years in exile in East Azerbaijan on charges of "gathering and collusion to threaten national security" under article 610 of the Islamic Penal Code.
Abdi had been volunteering in the framework of the One Million Signatures Campaign at the time of her arrest. The trial of her colleague, Ronak Safazadeh, who has also been in prison since November 2007, is pending.
"No one can accept that Hana Abdi's trial was anything other than a farce," the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran stated. "Hana Abdi was tried and convicted on trumped-up security charges apparently to punish her for her peaceful and legal work on behalf of equal rights, and to deter others from exercising their rights."
According to her lawyer, Mohammad Sharif, Abdi was given the maximum sentence possible. The conviction was based solely on interrogations by Intelligence Ministry officials during her incarceration, during which she was held in solitary confinement for two months. The Campaign has received reports that Abdi has been tortured. Sharif told the Campaign that he had been denied access to his client during the interrogation process and that the judge had refused even to consider his defense, referring only to interrogation reports. He plans to file an appeal.
"Talking about human rights is not a crime in Iran," the Campaign stated. "If a law-abiding 21-year old student can be arrested and convicted of such serious crimes with no evidence having been provided and without benefit of a legal defense, then no Rule of Law exists in Iran, and no Iranian citizen is secure."
The Campaign also expressed its serious concern for Ronak Safazadeh who is charged with the serious crime of "Moharebeh," meaning armed activity against the state and is punishable by death penalty. The charges against her are also solely based on interrogations during her solitary confinement.
The Campaign called on head of the Judiciary, Ayatollah Mahmoud Shahroudi, to immediately intervene in these cases and initiate an independent investigation into prosecution of Abdi and Safazadeh.
Hana Abdi (21) is a student and women's rights activist in Sanandaj, capital of the western province of Kurdistan. She is a member of Azarmehr Association of Kurdish Women, a local organization. Actively promoting women's rights, she worked to educate women about their legal rights within the framework of the One Million Signature Campaign and collected signatures in support of its demands. The One Million Signature Campaign is a nationwide effort to remove discrimination against women from Iranian laws. Hana studies psychology at Payam Noor University in Birjand.
On November 4, 2007, intelligence agents arrested Hana in her grandfather's house and transferred her to the Intelligence Ministry's detention center. A few hours later, Ministry agents searched her house and confiscated materials relating to One Million Signature Campaign as well as her personal computer and notes. On the day of her arrest, Intelligence Ministry agents told Hana's family that she would be freed within a few days after they finished questioning her. On November 8, her family went to the Intelligence Ministry headquarters, seeking information about Hana. Ministry's officials told Hana's family she would not be released for another month, but failed to inform them of any charges pending or filed against her.
After Hana had been interrogated for nearly three months by Intelligence Ministry agents, on January 25, 2008, Mohammad Sharif, Hana's lawyer, told the Iranian Student News Agency that she had been transferred to Sanandaj's Central Prison. The authorities have not provided any information about her case and the charges against her. The authorities have not permitted Hana's family to visit her.
A month before Hana's arrest, on October 9, 2008, her friend and women's rights campaigner Ronak Safazadeh was arrested. Hana and Ronak had celebrated Children's Day and collected signatures for the One Million Signature Campaign on October 8. The next day, intelligence agents arrested Ronak Safazadeh in her house.
International Women's Day: Reporters Without Borders supports women journalists and bloggers fighting for women's rights
By Fredrik Dahl
TEHRAN (Reuters) - Three Iranian women's rights campaigners have received suspended lashing and jail sentences for taking part in a rally, a fellow activist said on Tuesday.
It was the latest sign of the authorities clamping down on activists demanding greater women's rights in the conservative Islamic Republic, which rejects Western accusations it is discriminating against women.
"Women's rights activists particularly object to sentences that include lashing," said Sussan Tahmasebi, who herself is appealing a partly suspended two-year prison sentence for involvement in a banned demonstration in the capital in 2006.
"These sentences are intended to embarrass and humiliate human rights activists," she told Reuters.
She said Minou Mortazi, Nasrin Afzali and Nahid Jafari were sentenced to six months in jail and 10 lashes for attending a gathering outside a Tehran court in March last year where Tahmasebi and three other activists were standing trial.
The sentences were suspended so they will only be carried out if they are found guilty of another crime within two years.
A fourth activist who attended the March event, Zeinab Payghambarzadeh, was handed a two-year suspended jail term.
The court issued its ruling on the cases of Afzali, Jafari and Payghambarzadeh a few days ago while Mortazi received her sentence about two months ago.
They were all charged with taking part in an illegal gathering and collusion with the intent to disrupt national security, disruption of public order and refusal to follow police orders, Tahmasebi added.
"They are going to appeal their sentences," Tahmasebi said. "I think they are unjust. It was a peaceful demonstration."
A judiciary spokesman had no immediate comment on the cases.
Women are legally entitled to hold most jobs in Iran, but it remains dominated by men.
Activists, backed by Nobel Peace Prize laureate Shirin Ebadi, say women face institutionalized discrimination that makes them "second-class citizens" when it comes to divorce, inheritance, child custody and other aspects of life.
Iranian officials reject allegations of discrimination against women. Clerics say women in Iran are protected from the sex-symbol status they have in the West and insist the Islamic state is implementing God's divine law.
Western diplomats see the detention of women activists as part of a wider crackdown on dissent, which they say may be in response to international pressure over Iran's nuclear work. Tehran rejects Western accusations it is seeking to build bombs.
(Editing by Richard Meares)
International Women's Day: Reporters Without Borders supports women journalists and bloggers fighting for women's rights
MONTREAL, March 6 /CNW Telbec/
Reporters Without Borders today urged
support for women journalists, activists, bloggers and Internet users speaking
out for their rights in the face of "increasing repression" by governments and
threats from religious groups.
"The imprisonment, torture, prosecution and death threats against them
must be exposed," the worldwide press freedom organisation said. "It is
unacceptable that today, in 2008, people can still be jailed or threatened
with death for raising this rights issue."
Many women are now fighting for freedom of expression in Iran by using
the Internet to dodge censorship. The government has arrested more than 40 of
them over the past year, including 32 journalists and bloggers, for
demonstrating in Teheran for their rights and then continuing their campaign
online as cyber-feminists in blogs and news websites. Some spent a few weeks
in prison and all are currently free but still facing charges. The
intelligence and security ministry called cyber-feminists "subversives in the
pay of foreigners" in April last year.
The Iranian feminist monthly Zanan was suspended on 28 January this year
for supposedly "damaging the minds" of its readers and more than 30 of its
staff lost their jobs. Parvin Ardalan, editor of the website Wechange, which
defends women's rights in Iran, was arrested on 3 March as she was boarding a
flight for Stockholm to receive the 2007 Olof Palme human rights prize. Her
passport was confiscated on the orders of the Teheran chief prosecutor. She
was also arrested in June 2006 after organising a peaceful protest to demand
abolition of discriminatory laws against women in Iran.
In Afghanistan, a man, Sayed Perwiz Kambakhsh, has been condemned to
death for defending women's rights. He was arrested on 27 October last year in
the north of the country and accused of "blasphemy" and "insulting Islam."
After persistent pressure from the national Council of Mullahs and local
authorities, he was sentenced to death on 22 January this year after a secret
trial with no lawyer present to defend him. The 23-year-old journalism student
at Balkh University is a reporter for the paper Jahan-e-Naw ("New World") and
had downloaded an article from an Iranian website that cited extracts from the
Koran about women. He did not write the article.
The most conservative Afghans think too many women appear on local TV and
are pushing for a law to force them to wear religious garb. Men claiming to be
Talibans made death threats against three women journalists in Mazar-e-Charif
in February 2008, warning that if they continued to appear on TV members of
their families would be kidnapped. The women were unable to get protection
from the police, who have still not arrested anyone for the murder last June
of Zakia Zaki, owner of Radio Peace, which exposed abuses against women.
Bangladeshi writer and feminist Taslima Nasreen has been living under
police guard in India since last November after deaths threats for denouncing
violations of women's rights committed in the name of Islam. French President
Nicolas Sarkozy wanted to present her with the Simone de Beauvoir feminist
award when he visited India this January but did not so to avoid trouble for
officials under pressure from powerful Muslim groups.
Egyptian writer Nawal Saadawi, founder of the Arab Women's Solidarity
Association, has also been threatened and hounded by the law and fled her
country to take refuge in Europe.
Argentine journalist Claudia Acuna, founder of an online news agency, La
Vaca, and a related daily, MU, was targeted by police checking the ID of
everyone visiting her house last July after she wrote a book claiming official
involvement in prostitution in Buenos Aires.
For further information: Katherine Borlongan, secretary general,
Reporters Without Borders, (514) 521-4111, Cell: (514) 258-4208, Fax: (514)
Prize winner barred from leaving Iran
March 03, 2008
IRANIAN feminist and journalist Parvin Ardalan said she was prevented from leaving the country to receive her 2007 Olof Palme Prize in Stockholm.
"Last night... I boarded an Air France plane destined for Stockholm to take part in the prize ceremony, but in the plane they paged my name and told me that I am barred from leaving the country," Ms Ardalan told AFP.
Ms Ardalan, 36, was honoured last month for "making the demand for equal rights for men and women a central part of the struggle for democracy in Iran," the Olof Palme Memorial Fund announced.
"They took my passport and asked me to refer to the presidential office department for passport affairs after 72 hours to take it back," she said.
"They told me that I still have an open (judicial) case, which is not true."
She said she had been summoned to court on February 24 for unknown reasons.
"I appeared before the court but the inspector was not there... according to law when they are not there they should issue a new summons warrant which they did not," she said.
Ms Ardalan, a figurehead of the Iranian women's movement, was sentenced to three years in prison in April 2007 after being declared a threat to national security for criticising the state of women's rights in Iran.
She has appealed the verdict and has yet to serve time in prison.
"The only reason for this move is to prevent me from taking part in the ceremony. I think this is unreasonable," she said.
The prize ceremony will be held on March 6.
Ms Ardalan founded a cultural women's centre in the 1990s which in 2005 edited, under her leadership, the first online newsletter on women's rights in Iran, Zanestan.
She also started an international campaign aimed at gathering one million signatures in favour of gender equality.
The Olof Palme award is for outstanding achievement named after Palme, a popular Swedish prime minister who was gunned down by a lone attacker in February 1986, shortly after leaving a Stockholm cinema.
Created to promote peace and disarmament and combat racism and xenophobia, the prize consists of a diploma and $US75,000 ($A80,558).
Former UN secretary general Kofi Annan and Sudanese human rights lawyer Mossaad Mohamed Ali shared the Olof Palme Prize in 2006, and Burma's imprisoned pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi won it in 2005.
Other past winners include former Czech president Vaclev Havel and human rights group Amnesty International.
Iranian women crucial in Majlis election
By Massoumeh Torfeh
School of Oriental and African Studies, London
Wednesday, 30 January 2008
More than 7,000 candidates have registered for the Iranian parliamentary election scheduled to be held on 14 March. Almost 600 of them are women.
The election for the 290-seat Majlis will be crucial in determining the future of the hard-line conservatives who broadly back President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
Two powerful coalitions formed by reformists and moderate conservatives are seeking to change the balance of power and undermine Mr Ahmadinejad's chances of being re-elected in 2009.
Women voters could be crucial in tilting the balance against the president.
Iranian women played a huge role in bringing to power the reformist former President, Mohammad Khatami, for two consecutive terms.
They were also instrumental in the parliamentary elections in 2000, which gave the reformists a sweeping majority in the parliament.
There are several indicators suggesting reformists with clear policies on women will get their votes.
Fatemeh Haghighatjoo, an outspoken former MP, says reformist candidates have had to adjust their election campaigns to attract women voters.
"They have vowed to change family laws, Islamic punishment laws and labour laws to ensure more equal treatment of women," she says.
The reformists are also promising to employ more women in managerial jobs, and allow more to stand as election candidates.
Many women say that since Mr Ahmadinejad came to power, institutionalised discrimination against them has increased. Iranian officials reject these allegations, saying the country follows Islamic laws.
But over the past two years the number of women activists has risen sharply as their frustration has intensified.
Women bloggers, journalists and lawyers have led the fight against the stoning to death of women.
More than 60% of the votes that brought President Mohammad Khatami to power in 1997 came from women
Thousands of women students have marched across the country condemning violence against women and demanding equal rights.
Many women have been sent to Evin prison for being part of the international campaign, One Million Signatures Demanding Changes to Discriminatory Laws.
Leading members of the Stop Stoning Forever campaign were among 33 women arrested in March 2007 while protesting against the trial of five women activists.
Bahareh Hedayat, secretary of the powerful student organisation Office to Foster Unity, says students are demanding "academic freedoms and equal rights be included in candidates' policies".
She adds: "Civil society activists have demanded these for long. Now we will make them conditions for our votes."
This may explain why the reformists have chosen a prominent woman, Fatemeh Karrubi, the wife of former parliamentary speaker Mehdi Karrubi, as their spokesperson.
Elaheh Koolaee, a former MP and professor of political science at Tehran University, is also an active campaigner for the reformists.
Despite such support, the reformists still have a major problem.
They are split into several factions and lost many votes in the 2006 local elections, when many of their supporters stayed at home, angered at their internal quarrels.
There are currently 11 women MPs in the Iranian parliament
Ms Koolaee admits the rift is serious, but says this time the reformists have done their best to pull together more than 25 groups into one alliance.
In fact, the political divisions are so widespread that there are 240 political parties registered by the interior ministry.
Ms Koolaee, who is barred from running because she refused to wear an Islamic chador, or full-body cloak, in parliament, says the reformists will create more "gender justice".
But how much of an electoral force are women if they back the reformist camp?
There are more than 46 million eligible voters in Iran, of which at least half are women.
More than 60% of the votes that brought President Khatami to power in 1997 came from women.
Now almost 65% of university students are women, and they are angered that only 3% get senior and managerial jobs. Reformists have promised to introduce positive discrimination for women.
At present, there are two women in secondary cabinet positions and 11 in parliament.
Ms Haghighatjoo says these women are "more fundamentalist then their male counterparts".
An Islamist who lost her seat in parliament for confronting Iran's judiciary, Ms Haghighatjoo blames Mr Ahmadinejad.
She says his days are numbered: "The women's movement in Iran is gaining momentum and these elections may be the first step towards having Ahmadinejad pushed out."
Too much optimism may also be misplaced.
The hard-line Guardian Council has already disqualified 2,200 candidates for the forthcoming election, including a large number of reformists.
Mass disqualification of reformists in 2004 elections allowed hardliners to regain control.
The Iranian Nobel Laureate, Shirin Ebadi, believes elections cannot be free while candidates have to be approved by the government's vetting body.
"In previous elections we saw that many people were not approved to take part because they had criticised the government," she told reporters in Madrid last week.
Ms Koolaee takes a more positive approach.
She says the reformists will "use all the legal loopholes" to ensure less political meddling. Sceptics prefer to wait and see.
Massoumeh Torfeh is a research associate at the Centre for Media and Film Studies, part of the School of Oriental and African Studies (Soas).
Iran: Leading women's magazine forced to close
Tehran, 28 Jan. (AKI)
Iran's most important women's magazine, Zanan, (Women) has been forced to close after 16 years of publication, after being accused of painting a "dark picture" of Iran.
Zanan's founder Shahla Sherkat is considered a prime example of Islamic Iranian feminism.
She has been accused of "offering a dark picture of the Islamic Republic through the pages of Zanan" and of "compromising the psyche and the mental health" of its readers by providing them with "morally questionable information."
The magazine, has for years been considered a place where controversial topics in Iranian society have been discussed, ranging from domestic violence, to cosmetic surgery and relationships.
It has been at the forefront in the fight for fundamental women's rights in Iran.
The magazine has also used very subtle and creative language in order to avoid being shut down.
A few years ago, Sherkat visited the Italian capital of Rome, to speak about the condition of women in Iran.
Iranian women pursue rights despite pressure
By Fredrik Dahl
Mon Jan 14, 2008
TEHRAN (Reuters) - Nahid Keshavarz says two weeks in an Iranian jail didn't deter her from helping try to collect one million signatures for a petition urging more women's rights and, if anything, prison showed the cause was worth fighting for.
Keshavarz is one of dozens of women who campaigners say have been detained since 2006 when the drive was launched. Most were released within a few days or weeks.
"No one wants to go to prison. But if we have to pay a price then we will, like women have all over the world," said the 34-year-old, who was held on security-related charges after collecting signatures in Tehran.
"It has become a daily part of my life," said Keshavarz, whose pink headscarf conforms to laws in the Islamic Republic requiring women to cover their heads in public. She collects names on buses, while out shopping and at parties.
She was arrested in April as she gathered signatures in the capital's Laleh Park. Of 25 women in her section of the prison, some were accused of killing their husbands, she said in Farsi with a friend interpreting.
"They married too early, lived in dire conditions, they had violent relationships, none of them had prior criminal records."
She was speaking at a sale of paintings by other women which was sponsored by activists to raise funds to help women jailed on various charges. One of the pictures showed a woman with her throat slit. A bloody dagger was the focus of another and a third showed handcuffed arms raised, with fists clenched.
Western diplomats and rights groups see the detention of women activists as part of a wider crackdown on dissent, which they say may be in response to Western pressure over Iran's nuclear work.
Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said this month the West used negative propaganda about women's rights in Iran as a tool to put political pressure on the country, whose nuclear programme Washington suspects aims to develop bombs. Tehran says it is intended only to generate electricity.
Iranian authorities have also clamped down on "immoral behaviour", including women flouting the strict Islamic dress code, since Mahmoud Ahmadinejad won the presidency in 2005 with his pledge to revive revolutionary values.
The activists say their campaign is not focused on what they wear, even if outsiders see conservative dress codes as a symbolic and visible barrier to equality.
The women, backed by Nobel Peace Prize laureate Shirin Ebadi, are concerned about what they regard as institutionalised discrimination that makes them "second-class citizens" when it comes to divorce, inheritance, child custody and other fields.
Iranian officials reject these allegations, saying the country follows Islamic sharia law.
Clerics argue that women are better protected in Iran than in the West, where they are often treated as sex objects.
"Women in Western countries are ... used as products," said Ayatollah Mahdi Hadavi, a senior cleric based in the Iranian seminary city of Qom. "Socially, they are not treated well."
He said women in Iran were free to express their opinions, even if he and others did not agree with some of their views.
But the activists question that freedom. Another member of the "Million Signatures Campaign", who declined to be named because of the sensitivity of the issue, said about 40 people had been temporarily detained in connection with the drive.
"We are under increased pressure," she said. "You have a lot of resistance to women's rights."
One of those held was Jelveh Javaheri, who was in Tehran's Evin jail for a month accused of spreading propaganda against the Islamic system, before being released on bail in early January, with fellow rights campaigner Maryam Hosseinkhah.
Javaheri's husband, Kaveh Mozafari, is proud of her: "I'm glad she believes (in her cause) so much that she goes to jail for it," he said.
A U.S.-based rights group said in December the charges against the two women were politically motivated.
"There seems to be no end in sight to the Iranian government's persecution of women's rights activists," said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East director at Human Rights Watch based in New York.
OUT IN THE OPEN
Although women are legally entitled to hold most jobs, Iran remains dominated by men. In recent years women have started to work in the police and fire departments and there are female members of parliament, but they cannot run for president or become judges.
The activists say it is difficult for women to get a divorce. They criticise inheritance laws as unjust, also the fact a woman's court testimony is worth half that of a man's.
Campaigners point to some positive changes in society, saying most university students these days are women. However, they also say a proposal now before parliament would make it easier for a man to take a second wife.
"Women's status has changed considerably for the better," said activist Sara Loghmani. "The law is the problem."
She and others declined to say how many signatures they had collected so far -- but they insist the message is being spread despite minimal coverage in the domestic media.
"The campaign has brought the issue out in the open," campaigner Sussan Tahmasebi said. "You have grandmothers, mothers and daughters working on this side by side."
But many people are still not aware of the petition.
"I've never heard about it. What is it?" said 23-year-old university student Yasaman, who only gave her first name.
Keshavarz is undeterred: "For me, prison demonstrated the righteousness of our cause," she said. "No, it hasn't stopped me, it hasn't frightened me."
Liberation, Expresses its Support for the Campaign and WHRDs Under Pressure
Saturday 22 December 2007
Change for Equality: Liberation, a UK-based international organization has expressed its support for the One Million Signatures Campaign and its members who are imprisoned or facing charges due to their peaceful activities in support of women's rights. According to its website, "Liberation has for 50 years campaigned against neo-colonialism, and today resists the "new world order" of neoliberal globalisation led by the United States and EU governments." The organization aims to promote peace, economic justice, anti-racism, human rights, international solidarity, and public awareness on international economic justice and human rights. The statement issued by this organization in support of the Campaign is provided below as well as on their site:
'Liberation supports the Iranian women's campaign for One Million Signatures'
One Million Signatures Campaign Demanding Changes to Discriminatory Laws against Women in Iran
Liberation congratulates the activists in the "One Million Signatures Campaign Demanding Changes to Discriminatory Laws against Women" in Iran and supports their courageous struggle for the promotion of human rights/women rights in Iran.
We condemn all kinds of anti-women traditions, cultural norms and discriminatory laws and strongly support campaigns and actions in favour of people's democratic demands.
We believe the campaign of One Million Signatures Demanding Changes to Discriminatory Laws in Iran is a right and brave action by the Iranian women activists and must get international support. The women activists in this campaign should receive full protection from any kind of violation and ill-treatment and the women activists who are currently in prison must immediately be released.
We believe that, by prosecuting and sentencing the women activists in this campaign and also all human rights activists, the Iranian authorities are acting against humanity and justice. They are also in breach of their international obligations, specifically the Human Rights Declaration, and the international community should not tolerate this.
Iranian authorities are ill-treating and prosecuting the activists in the "Campaign for One Million Signatures" on the ground that they are acting against national security. Contrary to this view, we believe the discriminatory laws and violation of human rights in Iran supported and condoned by the authorities, will definitely increase the scale of people's discontent and resentment and eventually cause the waves of uncontrollable uprising all over the country.
Iranian authorities must by now have realised that women in Iran are competent, intelligent and committed activists and they would not tolerate inequality and cruelty any longer. The authorities in Iran should know that the Iranian women's campaign for the change of discriminatory laws has moral support from all sections of the society, in Iran.
The Iranian women's campaign for their rights and the change of law in Iran is morally, socially and politically justified and should receive international recognition and support.
We pledge to win support and solidarity for this important campaign from our friends and supporters and will bring the issue to the attention of international community, specifically the British government, UN, European Parliament and human rights organisations. Please advice as to how we could give more support and help to your campaign.
Maggie Bowden General Secretary
Iran's women: listen now!
The courageous voices of the women of Iran's One Million Signatures campaign demand to be heard. Roja Bandari tells their story.
26 - 11 - 2007
I could write about gender violence in Iran; about stoning, wife-killings,
or a wife's legal responsibility in marriage through the law of Obligatory Sexual Obedience, or Tamkin.
But apart from offering our solidarity, you and I might not be able to do much
about these problems from far away. So
instead, I would like to write about the people who can and are doing something
about it; about my sisters in Iran who can
tell you about what is happening to Iranian women, why it's happening, and what
should be done to fix it.
These women are part of a movement called the One Million Signatures Campaign for
Equality, which aims to change discriminatory laws in Iran many of
which facilitate and condone gender violence. So far several of these activists have been arrested and
released on absurdly high bail, many have received prison sentences, and some
are currently in custody and unable to speak to their families.
"If anything happens to my daughter, I'll stop the world
and I will dedicate my whole life to Ronak and her goals." This is what Ronak Saffarzadeh's
mother said in an interview with the Campaign for Equality website. She
was recently assaulted by court security when she tried to inquire about
Ronak's situation and the location where she is being held.
Ronak is only 21. She is an activist in the One Million
Signatures Campaign and part of the Azarmehr Kurdish Women's Group. She lives
in Kurdistan, a province that has long
suffered ethnic and religious discrimination by various Iranian governments. It
is where tradition rules the lives of women, and gender violence is abundant.
Social or even cultural activism in this region often carries a risk of deadly
accusations of treason by the government. Despite all of this, there are many
enlightened Kurdish men and women who work to make their society better.
Ronak's monthly salary as a secretary and a graphic
designer was about $60 and her friends say that she spent much of it on buying
books for village libraries. She worked mainly in villages near her hometown of
Sanandaj, helping to teach
reading and writing classes. She helped set up a mobile library for the
villages and held discussion sessions at the local mosques where women could
speak out about their everyday issues. Ronak also worked to educate women about
circumcision, and woman-killings.
On 9th October 2007, nine men raided Ronak's
house, took her computer and some of her educational pamphlets and arrested her with no
official charges. Ronak's mother went to the court almost every day to ask
to see her daughter, but no contact with Ronak was allowed and instead her mother
was called names and beaten by the court security. Eighteen days after her
arrest, without any news of her condition, the court told her family that they
will keep her for another month. Ronak is still in jail and her family has not
been able to speak to her.
Delaram, Hana, and Maryam
Delaram Ali is
24, and was one of the first members of the One Million Signatures Campaign.
Delaram is a social worker and has mainly worked with women and children in
abusive conditions. Since her first year in college in 2002, she has worked for organisations like the Society for Protection of Children's Rights,
the International Blue Crescent,
and the Cultural Centre for Child Labor. When a catastrophic earthquake hit the city
of Bam in December 2003, Delaram,
then only 20, traveled over 600 miles to provide relief to the children of Bam
and worked with them for over a
Due to a lack of access to public media,
Iranian women's rights activists use many different legal methods to raise
awareness about women's rights. Public gatherings are one of these methods and
are explicitly permitted in the Iranian constitution. On 12th June 2006, Delaram along with hundreds of other
activists participated in a peaceful
gathering in the Hafte-Tir
Square in Tehran
in order to express Iranian women's demand for legal equality. They were sitting
on the ground and singing songs.
Unfortunately the government does not respect the demands of women and tries to
suppress them even at the expense of undermining the constitution. The female
police reacted violently, kicking and punching the participants and beating
them with nightsticks.
Delaram Ali with child (top), and on the ground (above), being dragged by female police officers. *Photos by Arash Ashoorinia, reproduced with kind permission
Delaram was pushed by one of the security forces and broke
her arm. She was then dragged to the police car and kept at the station
overnight with no medical care but an ice-pack. Delaram and her lawyer, Shirin Ebadi, filed a claim against the
police. The court exonerated the police and instead sentenced Delaram
to 10 lashes and 34 months in prison on charges of "actions against national security"
and "advertising against the
government". Last month, the appeals court ordered that
Delaram must report to the court to start her sentence by 10th November 2007. Through relentless campaigning by
her friends and pleas to legal authorities, Delaram's sentence was postponed
for two weeks. At the time of writing, Delaram and her husband of four months,
Payam, are still waiting for news.
These pressures on the activists are on the rise and will
not simply go away on their own. The latest arrests are those of Hana Abdi, one
of Ronak's friends, and Maryam
Hosseinkhah, a young journalist who wrote about women's issues including
the condition of female inmates in Evin prison.
Breaking the silence
This article is the third in a series on openDemocracy
marking the "16
Days of Activism against Gender Violence" from 25 November - 10
December, an annual mobilisation aimed at heightening global awareness of
violence against women
Also in openDemocracy on the 16 Days theme, part of our
overall 50.50 coverage, a multi-voiced
blog where women around the world contributeDespite the charges of "actions against national security"
and "advertising against the government", the harsh retaliation against the
activists has nothing to do with national security. These women are not trying
to overthrow or oppose the government of Iran or break the law in any form.
This is not about political activities or challenging religion. This is about
challenging patriarchy; about women gaining knowledge and confidence, talking
to each other, and sharing their stories. Patriarchy demands silence in the
face of violence and discrimination and the objective here is to force women's rights defenders to be silent by intimidation, arrests, heavy sentences,
probation, and lashing.
In a recent article, another campaign member, Noushin Ahmadi
stench of war is everywhere. Once again the powerful in the world, the
governments, have decided to ruin the lives of their people so one can stay in
power a while longer and the other can expand its current power. [...] They tell
us to stop our independent, peaceful, equality-seeking and real work and instead
pick a side between the two abstract and artificial fronts made up by the
powers. [...] Once again, we are being sacrificed in the violent game between the
governments, without having any role in starting this deadly game." (Translation of article published in the online magazine Zanestan, recently taken down by the
Noushin's words tell us that the looming threat of war with the US is marginalising activists in Iran
as wars so often do to peaceful movements. In the international community, the
media landscape is dominated by discussions about the Iranian nuclear program
and war, thus further marginalising the voices of these women. There is simply
not a lot of interest by the foreign media in reflecting human rights issues or
women's rights conditions in Iran.
Sitting at my desk, I try to think about these events from
different angles, but no matter how I look at it I come to the same conclusion;
these are my sisters and my friends, and I have no choice; I cannot let this happen. I have to
amplify their voices and tell their stories for all to hear. Forget your war
and nuclear talks; this is our priority, this is what we are
talking about! Listen!
Release of Three Social Activists Arrested Violently at the Campaign's Workshop in Khoram Abad
Sunday 16 September 2007
September 17, 2007; Change for Equality: According to reports recieved the three social activists violently arrested on Friday September 14, during a workshop on women's legal rights, held by the Education Committee of the Campaign, were released yesterday afternoon. Despite the fact that Bahman Azadi, Reza Dolatshah, and Khosrow Nasimpour have been released, we have not been able to talk with them and as such no further information has been received with respect to the manner in which they were treated while in detention, the details of their release or future action to be taken by the courts. Updates on their status will be provided on this site, as they are received.
Arrest of 25 Campaign Members at Educational Workshop in Khoram Abad
September 15, 2007; Change for Equality: An educational workshop on women's rights in Khoramabad was disrupted after police violently attacked participants and took them into custody. Twenty-five participants spent several hours in prison and were released at around midnight the same day. Three of these participants, Reza Dolatshah, Bahman Azadi, and Khosrow Nasimpour, who are social activists in the city of Khoram Abad who were beaten in the process of arrest remain in prison and despite inquiries by their families and friends, no information has been provided as to their whereabouts and status. Their crime is the holding of an educational workshop in a small house with a limited number of participants with the aim of discussing unequal rights such as polygamy, testimony, blood money, etc. In other words the same legal issues that state officials address and discuss on a regular basis.
What follows, is a moving account of the incident and the inhumane treatment of civil society activists by police and security officials:
On Thursday September 13th, Mansoureh Shojaie, Jelveh Javaheri, Zara Amjadian, Nafishe Azad and Nazli Farokhi, all members of the Education Committee of the Campaign, traveled from Tehran to the city of Khoram Abad, Lorestan Province, to hold an educational workshop on women's legal rights. The workshop was to be held in the home of Reza and Mahtab Dolatshah, both social activists in the city of Khoram Abad and supporters of the Campaign.
Campaign members from Tehran spent their first day in Khoram Abad familiarizing themselves with the city and the local community as well preparing for the implementation of the workshop.
On Friday September 14, the workshop started with a slight delay. The trainers were still presenting the introductory section and the history of the Iranian women's movement, when at 11:40 Am they heard severe pounding at the door. When Bahman Azadi, one of the participants in the workshop opened the door, 10 armed police and security officials dressed in uniform and plain clothes and 3 female police officers entered the home forcefully. Bahman Azadi was attacked immediately. He was beaten and kicked and attacked with the stock of rifles, carried by the police. In the midst of the surprise and disbelief of the 25 participants present at the workshop, the police brutally and disrespectfully divided the participants and took them to two separate rooms. In one of the rooms women were forcefully and violently forced to undress and were body searched. The men went through the same ordeal in the other room. Additionally, all the personal belongings of the home owners were searched and seized. The police and security forces were extremely rude and disrespectful toward those present at the workshop.
After an hour of continuous insults, search of property and beatings of participants the security forces and police handcuffed the men and removed them from the premises. The hysterical objections on the part of women, in particular Zara Amjadian, prevented the authorities from handcuffing the women while they were escorted to the detention center. On their way out of the house, the workshop participants in disbelief faced the harassment of a crowd of onlookers, who had gathered outside of the premises at the urging of police. The onlookers had been told that those being arrested had engaged in acts of "pleasure and debauchery" and thus were being arrested for their promiscuity!
The vans transferred the participants to the police station and the detention center which housed addicts and drug traffickers. The arrests were complimented with insults, and threats of beatings and of being handcuffed. "They had taken the men to a different location and the women, 14 of us, were forced to wait for hours in the dark corridors of the police station." Finally the judge arrived and reminded us that "you are the same women who instead of wanting only one husband are seeking to take 4 husbands....you want to enlighten the poor women of Khoram Abad?"
The arrested women were crammed into two cells which were three meters in size. One of the young women who suffered from asthma and experienced an attack during this ordeal, asked for medical attention and to see a physician. She was told to "wait. You will be done here soon." Finally at 3:00 in the afternoon some men arrived with desks and chairs and transformed the dark corridor of the police station into an interrogation room, and the questioning of participants was officially started. "They asked us about our background, the Campaign, and how we came to know the owner of the home [where the workshop was being held]."
After the interrogations were over the women were once again transferred out of the police station, but were forced to keep their heads down while on their way to their new location. "They kept threatening us that if we raised our heads, we would be a smack in the head!!" The next destination was an office affiliated with the Ministry of Intelligence. All 14 women were held in a large bright room
"We waited until 4:30 and nothing happened. We finally started beating on the door and calling for the guards and insisting that our case be attended to. Finally we were taken one by one again for interrogation. After all were done with their interrogations, the security officials insisted, especially of the women from Khoram Abad, that we provide a written guarantee not to participate in any more illegal meetings, without permits. We kept objecting that this meeting was not illegal, but no one listened. The security officials instead insisted that their actions were legal. Of course, they announced that according to Article 498 of the penal code, even gatherings in private homes required a permit. And we kept insisting that according to Article 27 of the constitution we have the right to assemble freely and no permit was required. We explained that we had the right to assemble even in public spaces as long as we were not armed and the gathering was peaceful."
Despite the claims of the Judge, Article 498 of the Penal Code does not address the holding of educational workshops in private homes. Rather it discusses the establishment of groups or societies. According to this Article, "anyone with any aim, who without an official permit, engages in the creation of a group, society or the branch of a society with more than 2 members nationally or internationally under whatever name or title, is subject to a term in prison ranging from 3 months to 5 years." Of course it seems that the honorable judge had invented a new law.
The final scene in this bizarre event was the enactment of the confessional show..."they placed all the women in one room, a few agents entered the room with video equipment and cameras. The judge who was a wearing a turban and was from Isfahan, and who adamantly continued to believe that our aim was to take 4 husbands, and only allow our husbands to take one wife, proceeded to advise us. He claimed that we had been fooled by the Campaign and Mr. Dolatshah, and while dispersing kindly advice, he invited us to listen to the words of Mr. Dolatshah. Two agents escorted Mr. Dolatshah into the room. With swollen and red eyes and shaky legs, the Mr. Dolatshah brought before us, did not resemble our host of previous day. He sat down on a chair before us. Mr. Dolatshah proceeded to apologize for the problems that we had faced. But the interrogator, despite the fact that scrutiny of opinion is illegal, kept pressing Mr. Dolatshah to introduce himself fully, to confess who he really was, and to explain about his ideas and beliefs....finally Reza Dolatshah, with a mild and kind tone, which was the only thing familiar about the man sitting in front of us announced: "I am Reza Dolatshah. I am an activist and I support the rights and demands of workers..."
Speaking out for Iranian Women's Rights
As reported in "Human Rights First" web site, Ms. Fariba Davoodi Mohajer, has been announced as the 2007 Human Rights Award winner of this organization. She will be honored on October 15 in New York City.
As stated by Human Rights First, "Fariba Davoodi Mohajer believes that her rights as a woman, mother, human rights activist, and Iranian citizen are indivisible. She has dedicated her life to challenging laws that discriminate against Iranian women, including the lack of legal recourse for victims of violence against women. As a founder of the One Million Signatures Campaign for women's rights, Fariba has been a leading voice in this struggle. As a result of her activism, she has been detained and beaten, and her family has been threatened. Despite this persecution, she continues to devote herself to the cause of human rights in Iran."
According to Human Rights First web site, "this organization is a non-profit, nonpartisan international human rights organization based in New York and Washington D.C., and to maintain its independence, it accepts no government funding. Human Rights First believes that building respect for human rights and the rule of law will help ensure the dignity to which every individual is entitled and will stem tyranny, extremism, intolerance, and violence."
In the recent years, Iranian women's movement has been able to pave the way towards popularizing the demands of women and bring them to the main stream of public sphere. This movement, along with the intellectuals, student and labour movements, has become a genuine social movement in the forefront of the struggle for progress and democracy in Supreme-Leader regime of Iran. Iranian female activists fight against those non-democratic and inhuman Islamic laws of Iran's regime that allow for the stoning of women and inequality in the areas of pay, child custody, divorce and inheritance.
Fariba Davoodi Mohajer, a journalist and human rights activist, has been one of the most outspoken individuals in Iran and a prominent campaigner for women's rights. In April 2007, while in US, Fariba Davoodi Mohajer, along with Nusheen Ahmadi Khorasani, Parvin Ardalan and Sussan Tahmassebi, were sentenced to two, three, and four years' imprisonment under Iran's national security laws for their participation in peaceful demonstration of June 12, 2006 in Tehran. She was charged with acting against national security, spreading propaganda against the state, and giving interviews and disseminating falsehoods.
Fariba is the head of the Union of Young Journalists, a member of the central committee of the Organization of Defenders of Media and Press Freedoms in Iran; and a member of the Central Council of student organization Tahkim-e Vahdat (Office for the Consolidation of Unity). She has been writing for a number of newspapers and online publications including Koneshgaran, Rooz, Etemad Daily, Yas-no Press, and Gooya News. Mohajer holds a Masters degree in political science from Azad University.
Back in 2001, when newspapers in Iran were closed down and a number of their journalists indicted on various charges, Fariba was also arrested in February of 2001. Alleged offenses include "provoking public disorder, engaging in anti-revolutionary activities and insulting Islam." As reported by media, later in March of that year, the then jailed journalist was released after posting a 300-million-rial bail. Reportedly, the agents of the Iranian judiciary had allegedly yanked off her chador (veil), squeezed her in between the door panels in her house and then ransacked the bedrooms of her house before taking her to an unknown place.
Recently, in July of 2007, Fariba gave a talk about "The Iranian Women's Movement Challenges and Prospects "at Berkeley University.
IRAN: Ms. Zeynab Peyqambarzadeh released on bail, but arbitrary prosecution of women's rights activists persists
THE OBSERVATORY FOR THE PROTECTION OF HUMAN RIGHTS DEFENDERS (FIDH-OMCT)
Geneva - Paris, May 21, 2007. The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, a joint programme of the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT) and the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), would like to highlight the May 16, 2007 release on bail of Ms. Zeynab Peyqambarzadeh, an Iranian women's rights activist who was detained and imprisoned for nine days by the Iranian authorities.
Ms. Peyqambarzadeh's case is indicative of a set of increasingly alarming judicial practices in response to the continuation of the campaign for women's legal equality - called One Million Signatures - that began in August 2006", stated Mr. Karim Lahidji, the Vice-president of FIDH and President of the Iranian League for the Defence of Human Rights (LDDHI).
Ms. Peyqambarzadeh's arrest came after she was summoned on May 5, 2007 to appear before the Revolutionary Court within three business days in relation to a previous arrest following the March 4, 2007 non-violent demonstrations before International Women's Day. Neither she nor her lawyer were able to see a written summons and, in addition, the Court detained her without presenting any charges.
When Ms. Peyqambarzadeh appeared before the court on May 7, 2007, a high bail of 20 million tomans (roughly $16,000) was promptly set for her, and, unable to pay it, she was sent to Evin prison in Tehran. When, on May 9, her father first attempted to pay the bail, he was rebuffed by the court and denied permission to see his daughter. The arbitrary handling of this case by the Revolutionary Court's own standards, as in the case of setting a bail and then not accepting it, is an issue of grave concern.
With help from the families of other members of the campaign, Ms. Peyqambarzadeh's bail was met and finally accepted by the Revolutionary Court following an additional week in prison after her father's first attempt to pay the bail. "Upon being released, she confirmed that she was not interrogated or presented with any reasons for her detention", said Mr. Lahidji.
The Observatory welcomes Ms. Peyqambarzadeh's release on bail, but recalls that this particular arrest and imprisonment illustrates a trend within the Islamic Republic in which the courts imprison activists without trial, without publicly-revealed basic evidence and sometimes even without charges.
In recent weeks, activists Ms. Noushin Ahmadi-Khorasani, Ms. Parvin Ardalan, Ms. Fariba Davoudi-Mohajer, Ms. Sousan Tahmasebi, Ms. Azadeh Forghani and Ms. Shahla Entesari have been charged with and sentenced for gathering and colluding to disturb national security, disturbing public order and disobeying the orders of officials. Two more organizers of the campaign, Ms. Maryam Hosseinkhah and Ms. Fatemeh Govaraie, were also summoned to court and in the pattern of recent convictions, they might be charged with violating national security.
"The use of national security laws to curb freedom of expression is an ominous trend not only for the future of this particular campaign for gender equality but for the very future of free speech in Iran", concluded Mr. Eric Sottas, Executive Director of the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT).
In light of Ms. Peyqambarzadeh's release, the Observatory calls upon the Islamic Republic to cease the practice of imposing arbitrary detentions on women's rights activists and to put an end to the judicial harassment against Ms. Peyqambarzadeh and her colleagues.
Furthermore, the Observatory urges the Iranian authorities to guarantee in all circumstances the physical and psychological integrity of all above-mentioned activists and put an end to all acts of harassment against human rights defenders in Iran.
Finally, the Observatory calls upon the Iranian authorities to conform with the provisions of the United Nations Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, adopted by the General Assembly of the United Nations on December 9, 1998, and to ensure in all circumstances respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms in accordance with international human rights standards and international instruments ratified by Iran.
For more information, please contact :
OMCT: 00 41 22 809 49 39
FIDH: 00 33 1 43 55 25 18
Seized - for showing their hair
In the past few days hundreds of Iranian women have been bundled off the streets and arrested. Officially, they were breaking the 'correct' Islamic dress code. But, as Simon Tisdall reports, the real aim is to keep women second-class citizens
The Iranian government's latest act of oppression against the nation's women has taken the form of a high-profile police drive to enforce "correct" Islamic dress codes. In its first few days, last week, the "bad hijab" crackdown netted several thousand young women on the streets of Tehran, with many receiving a warning and several hundred being arrested. Policewomen dressed in black chadors bundled detainees into buses that had been stationed on street corners in advance, before carting them off to police stations. The women were accused of presenting an immodest appearance - allowing their hair to show beneath the obligatory headscarves, wearing manteaus too short to conceal their hips, or wearing tight, revealing jeans and heels.
Those arrested face possible trials and jail sentences. There have even been suggestions that women may be exiled from the city if they reoffend. And it is not only in Tehran that this is happening - the crackdown is being pursued nationwide.
At issue are alleged offences against Islam and sharia law. But the reality is somewhat more complicated. In Iran, the comfort of women is a source of male discomfort.
Sae'ed Mortazavi, Tehran's public prosecutor, made this clear when he told the Etemad newspaper: "These women who appear in public like decadent models, endanger the security and dignity of young men". Mohammad Taqi Rahbar, a fundamentalist MP, agreed, saying, "Men see models in the streets and ignore their own wives at home. This weakens the pillars of family."
A spokesman for President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has tried to distance his boss from this politically embarrassing controversy. And the fashion purge has not gone entirely unchallenged. Some academics have been arguing that hijab standards should be maintained by persuasion rather than force. But, as usual in Iran, the police, like other arms of the pervasive security apparatus, do not appear to have taken any notice.
The "bad hijab" crackdown has happened in a country where the historical tendency to treat women as the property of their fathers and husbands has never really gone away. Iranian women's lack of equality is written into law, and, in a thousand customary ways too, they face daily, crushing discrimination.
Bring up the inequalities that Iranian women face, and many Iranians will point out that in some Arab Muslim countries, such as Saudi Arabia, treatment of women is comparatively worse. In Iran women can vote, stand for most public offices, drive, even smoke in public. It is also argued that social boundaries, (relaxed during the reformist presidency of Mohammad Khatami from 1997 to 2005), have not assumed their former rigour despite fears that they would do so following the fundamentalist victory of two years ago, when Ahmadinejad was elected president.
In pre-Khatami times, and especially during the latter years of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, founding father of the Islamic republic and Supreme Leader of Iran between 1979 and 1989, modern western dress was not tolerated at all, fewer women's sports were allowed, and sentences of stoning to death for adultery were more common.
Life is better for women in Iran now, but inequalities persist. For example, their inheritance and divorce rights are inferior to those of men, so, when a family legacy is divided, the women get less than the men. Women need written authorisation from their father or husband to get a passport; their court testimony is considered half as weighty as a man's; and they may be forced to submit to male polygamous relationships, which are allowable (although increasingly rare) under sharia law.
Women are encouraged to go to university and stay on to do higher degrees, but not, it is widely believed, to actually join the workforce (where, it is claimed, they are often omitted from official unemployment figures). While professional jobs are scarce for men and women alike, there is cultural and social pressure on girls to stay at home or get married once they finish full-time education. A fully qualified female civil engineer, for example, said she had a choice of teaching or getting married when she graduated. The idea of her actually being allowed to go out and build a dam or a bridge was laughable. In the event, she emigrated to the US and got divorced.
And, just in case a woman should forget her place, if she travels on public transport, she must go to the back of the bus. Even on the hottest, busiest days in Tehran, women of all ages can be seen crammed into the back, many wearing full black chadors, mostly standing shoulder to shoulder, burdened with shopping bags, while the less crowded front of the vehicle is occupied by men, apparently oblivious to the situation behind them.
Social rules also demand that a woman must not shake hands with a male acquaintance, in public at least. And, to avoid offence, or worse, she is well advised to look demure and keep her eyes down. To behave differently is to invite disrespect or even harassment and arrest by the ubiquitous Basiji militiamen, a several million-strong officially approved vigilante force that styles itself as the guardian of Islamic mores.
Many women bravely defy these rules where they can. And many Iranian men, especially the younger ones, are aware of the injustices and absurdities and do what they can to forge relationships based on equality.
Talking to Jina (not her real name), a 24-year-old student of English literature at a Tehran university, it is difficult to be optimistic about the prospects for young women.
Jina says she loves her studies. She would like to pursue an MA, then a PhD, and her father is supportive. But her face clouds as she speaks. "I don't know what job I can do, what job they [the government] will allow me to do. There are so few chances for women and so many people are out of work ... But it's no use protesting. All my friends feel the same."
She would like to travel to the west, she says, to visit London and the US, to see for herself where Jane Austen and F Scott Fitzgerald lived. The Great Gatsby is a familiar text for Iranian students, but it is taught not for the beauty of its language but to demonstrate the decadence of western society and morals.
The chances of Jina and most of her generation making such a journey, symbolic or otherwise, are slim to non-existent under the present political dispensation. More enlightened senior clerics, such as Grand Ayatollah Yusef Sa'anei, whose fatwas (religious rulings) argue the case for gender equality, are ignored by the ruling fundamentalists. (In one of his most significant fatwas, Ayatollah Sa'anei ruled that competence and piety outweighed masculinity as criteria in considering appointments. "Islamic law does not allow any discrimination on the basis of race, nor does it condone discrimination on the grounds of sex and ethnicity," he declared.)
Iranian women are still a long way from equality, and fighting for their rights is a perilous task. Last June an estimated 100 women staged an equal rights demonstration in central Tehran. Several dozen were arrested and some were recently jailed, provoking protests from international human rights organisations. They and other activists are being supported by the One Million Signatures Campaign, which was launched last August. Apart from highlighting the plight of those in jail, the campaign seeks to advance the cause of equal legal rights for women in Iran.
"Iranian law considers women to be second class citizens and promotes discrimination against them," say campaign organisers. "Women of lower socio-economic status or women from religious and ethnic minority groups suffer disproportionately from legal discrimination. These unjust laws have promoted unhealthy and unbalanced relationships between men and women and have had negative consequences on the lives of men as well."
Jina's assessment is blunter. Iranians, she says, are living in a "society of lies" where most people, female and male, are disempowered and constantly afraid - afraid to say what they think, wear what they want, and be who they really are. "I can't do anything," she says. "I just try not to let them hurt me".
Ebadi Calls Charges against Women Baseless
In an interview with Rooz, Nobel Peace Laureate Shirin Ebadi spoke about the status of the jailed women's rights activists.
Rooz (R): In light of the arrest of 33 women activists last week, can you please tell us about the arrest of activists - some of whom you represent - earlier this July?
Shirin Ebadi (SE): In that gathering, which was organized in Haft-e Tir Square by some women's rights activists, about 70 people, including former Parliament member Mousavi Khoeini, were arrested. Except for Mr. Khoeini, all of the arrested activists were released two days later, but charges were laid against them, with follow-up implications. Mr. Khoeini spent about 4 months in prison. The trial of the women who were arrested began at the Revolutionary Courts. I was representing a number of them. So far, the trials of two of them, Delaram Ali and Alieh Eghdam, has taken place, though they were adjourned because the prosecutor failed to attend the hearing.
R: Among the women whose trial was to take place earlier this week, which ones you were representing?
SE: Parvin Ardalan and Noushin Ahmadi Khorasani were my clients, and they were going to have a hearing on March 3. Several others were supposed to have a hearing on that very same day, but they were being represented by Mrs. Mohammad Ali Dadkhah and Mohammad Sharif, and Shadi Sadr was representing Shahla Entesari. Because of a prior commitment, on that day I was in Italy to participate in a series of talks on the legal status of Iranian women. So my colleagues, Nasrin Sotouden and Leila Ali Karami, attended the hearing on that day. Three days before the trial, some women had decided to protest peacefully in front of the Revolutionary Court in opposition to the treatment of these women. On that day, about 40 people, who were peacefully and quietly sitting in front of the Revolutionary Court, suddenly faced a violent police force and all of them, plus the women who had left the courtroom after their hearing (33 in all) were arrested.
R: What were they being tried for in particular?
SE: The charges against my client and other activists were that they were undermining national security by participating in the July gathering.
R: What is the legal basis for this charge?
SE: I do not accept the charges. According to the Constitution, participation in peaceful and unarmed gatherings is lawful. The July gathering was very peaceful. Let me say it more clearly: before all the participants showed up, meaning as soon as some had gathered there, the police began assaulting the activists. A legal complaint has been flied against the police by my clients and has been submitted to the Tehran court, but unfortunately nothing has happened until this day. On the other hand, the Revolutionary Court says that women were protesting against Islamic laws, and such as they have protesting against Islam. But this charge is not correct either.
R: Why do you say that?
SE: The July gathering was in protest to discriminatory laws against women in Iran, many of which are not accepted even by Islamic scholars. According to the Fatwa's [religious decrees] of many grand ayatollahs, particularly Grand Ayatollah Sanei, these laws are not essential to Islam and can be modified.
Women's Rights Activists Arrested on the Eve of the International Women's Day
6 March 2007
Islamic Republic's security forces arrested dozens of Iranian women in front of a Tehran courthouse for protesting in support of five women activists on trial there. The five women, Sousan Tahmasebi, Parvin Ardalan, Noushin Ahmadi Khorasani, Fariba Davoudi Mohajer and Shahla Entesari are on trial in connection with a demonstration last June in support of women's rights. Other than Fariba Davoudi Mohajer, who is visiting her son outside Iran, the activists have all been transferred Evin Prison's infamous section 209.
Hadi Ghaemi, a researcher for Human Rights Watch, told Rooz, "Arrests of this kind are unprecedented and extremely concerning. They reflect very negatively on Iran's international image." In Ghaemi's view, these arrests send "a warning to all human rights activists; an alarm for more forceful and hurried action on those activists who seek peaceful change," and demonstrate "an utmost lack of tolerance by the regime towards civil society institutions and women's rights activists." Ghaemi adds, "The Human Rights Watch asks Iran to suspend its violation of Iranian and international law, because the regime cannot simply overlook the fact that the demands of Iranian women represent demands of half of the Iranian nation." In no country in the world, civic elite and leaders of the society are arrested so wantonly and recklessly in one day."
Zanestan, a well known women's blog, several of whose contributors are among the arrested, published a new entry about the incident: "Contradictory news filter out of the Judiciary and the Police, without any clear direction, and this has worried many of those involved and the families of arrested individuals. Since 9:00 a.m. on Monday, many family members, lawyers, and women's rights activists have gathered across from the Vozara Police Station, and are awaiting the release of the detained activists." The standoff continued through midnight, with other women's rights activists scheduled to gather today (Monday) near the Evin Prison to protest the arrests and find out about the fate of those arrested.
While various lists of names of those arrested have been published, Zanestan names the following individuals: Fatemeh Govaraee, Mahboubeh Abbasgholizadeh, Parastoo Dokoohaki, Nooshin Ahmadi Khorasani, Parvin Ardalan, Nahid Keshavarz, Sussan Tahmasebi, Niloofar Golkar, Maryam Mirza, Maryam Hosseinkhah, Nahid Jafari, Minoo Mortazi, Shahla Entesari, Azadeh Forghani, Jila Baniyaghoub, Mahboubeh Hosseinzadeh, Nahid Entesari, Asieh Amini, Shadi Sadr, Saghi Laghaee, Saghar Laghaee, Elnaz Ansari, Sara Imanian, Jelveh Javaheri, Zara Amjadian, Zeinab Peighambarzadeh, Nasrin Afzali, Mahnaz Mohammadi, Somayeh Farid, Farideh Entesari, Rezvan Moghaddam, Sara Loghmani.
However, a journalist in Tehran, who is following the arrests, told Rooz Online that Evin Prison has taken custody of 33 women. According to this source, authorities have told him that some of those arrested will be released tomorrow after preliminary investigations are completed. This means that some others may not be released until later.
Prominent activists like Parvin Ardalan, Mahboubeh Abbasgholizadeh, Jila Baniyaghoub, and Nooshin Ahmadi Khorasani are among those arrested. These women have been previously arrested in connection to their social and political activism. Mahboubeh Abbasgholizadeh was imprisoned by security forces for a month in 2006. Some of the people on the list, such as Sussan Tahmasebi, had their passports confiscated upon return from trips abroad. Parastoo Dokoohaki, Asieh Amini, Mahboubeh Hosseinzadeh, Nasrin Afzali, Maryam Mirza, and Maryam Hosseinkhah are well-known bloggers, dedicated to women's issues. Like many other families, Dokoohaki's relatives had no news about the condition of their kin.
During the protests of last July, more than 60 people were arrested. Most of them were released the following days, though Ali Akbar Moussavi Khoeiniha was imprisoned for five months. That gathering was held in protest to descriminatory gender laws in Iran, and took a violent turn after police forces intervened.
During yesterday's peaceful gathering, 40 to 70 women's rights activists carried placards reminding the court authorities that they, too, were present during the July protests. Their placards read: "Article 27 of Iranian Constitution provides us with the undeniable right to a peaceful gathering."
Arrests Becoming a "Normal Routine"
A women's rights activist who has requested anonymity, told Rooz that demonstrators had gathered to protest the continuous stream of arrests of the past year, which seems to be turning into a "normal routine" for the government. Recently, several women activists were arrested at Tehran's Imam Khomeini Airport while attempting to board a flight to India to attend a journalism workshop. According to this eyewitness, police officers attacked the women, broke their placards, and used insulting tones to threaten them to disperse or "be hanged from trees." Some police officers repreatedly used insulting words.
Two small buses were dispatched to pick up the arrested individuals. According to various sources interviewed by Rooz, arrests were carried out through physical force. When the court session ended, the four women (Sousan Tahmasbi, Shahla Entesari, Parvin Ardalan, and Noushin Ahmadi Khorasani) left the court and objected to the way in which the protestors were being treated; hence they, too, were arrested. Everyone was then transferred to the Vozara Complex, a police complex dedicated to "fighting social corruption."
The most violent treatment was handed to Nahid Jafari, whose head was rammed into the side of the bus, causing several of her teeth to break. The police ignored the requests of witnesses to call an ambulance to the scene.
Women Activists Speak Out
With the upcoming International Women's Day on March 8th, some prominent women's rights activists, who were arrested during yesterday's event, prepared a communiqué, expressing ttheir hope for the resolution of women's rights issues in Iran.
"On the eve of March 8th, International Women's Day, we, women's rights activists, believe that trial of several activists is a sign of continued oppression against women. We condemn these policies and actions, and warn against the negative consequences of violently reacting to the peaceful civic activities of women. We re-emphasize the democratic and unignorable demands of the Iranian nation, specifically the women's movement, and show solidarity with five women's rights activists who have been brought to trial a few days before the International Women's Day for the role they played in organizing the peaceful gathering of July 2nd in Hafte Tir Square (Shahla Entesari, Fariba Davoodi Mohajer, Parvin Ardalan, Nooshin Ahmadi Khorasani, and Sussan Tahmasebi). [We also support] all activists who have faced abuse, insult, and degradation overf the years; those who were beaten up, summoned, and interrogated (such as Jila Baniyaghoub, Delaram Ali, Alieh Eghdamdoost, Azadeh Forghani, Bahareh Hedayat, Nassim Soltanbeigi, Maryam Zia, Leila Mousazadeh, Fatemeh Haj Hosseini, Massoumeh Zia, and Farideh Farrahi, who were arrested or tried or awaiting trial for their participation in the July 2nd gathering), and those who were arrested and are awaiting trial (such as Talat Taghinia, Mansoureh Shojaee, and Farnaz Seifi, who were arrested at the airport while boarding a flight to attend an educational workshop in India). On Sunday, March 4th, at 8:30 a.m., we will show up in front of the Revolutionary Court (located on Shariati Avenue, Moallem Avenue) to protest the security-judicial confrontation against women's peaceful civic activities to pursue their rights."
In another part of this communiqué, the group says, "We feel the pressure of the international community on our shoulders, which is adding threatening us with sanctions and nightmares of war on a daily basis. We, a group of women's rights activists, on the eve of the International Women's Day on March 8th, announce our objection to all patriarchal policies, whether as an inappropriate interpretation of Islam, or in the name of human rights or democracy, and believe that the international community should instead focus upon instituting democracy and human rights, not nuclear power. The latter issue must be solved through diplomatic dialogue, not war and destruction."
An Eye Witness Account
An eyewitness, who was present at the protest, wrote about her experience on "Zanan-e Solh" [Women of Peace] website. "After picking up the placards, police officers and plain-clothed vigilantes began showing up gradually. Police officers approached us and asked us to leave because we didn't have a permit. One of the participants told them that, based on the Constitution, peaceful gatherings do not require a permit. They started arguing that our presence disrupted the traffic and things got heated. Then Colonel [...] began tearing apart the placards and hitting people with his radio.... Colonel [...], who had gained more confidence with the addition of new forces, shouted, 'hurry up, go get lost!' and attacked the crowd. The people moved to the sidewalk but did not leave. Another colonel, who was more polite, asked us to walk on the sidewalk instead of standing around; but our friends were smarter than that."
"If they had walked," she continues, "it would have become a 'demonstration,' and the police would have found a legal excuse to arrest us. Then the mean colonel started threatening us, saying that if you don't leave I will dispatch the buses to come take you slimes away. In the next attack of the colonel and his forces, some of our friends were separated from the rest. Their separation caused them to be pushed onto the street. Our remaining friends (about 40) decided to sit on the ground next to each other. Our separated friends went to the top of the street and several police officers were assigned to avoid them from joining our group. The rest of us just sat there. Slowly there were more and more plain-clothes officers. Two white vans (the same as the ones used in the July 2nd arrests) arrived at the Revolutionary Court building and waited there. About 11 a.m. Shadi Sadr, Nooshin Ahmadi, Parvin Ardalan, and Sousan Tahmasbi left the court building. As soon as they walked out, and the plain-clothed man arrived, it appeared that the 'order' was received."
"The police," she continues, "used force to pick up and shove those who were sitting into the two vans and drove them away. First, it was announced that they were taken to Vali-e-Asr Army Base, but they weren't there. Those who had cellular phones called others. Jila said it is really hot in the van and they are suffocating. Twenty adults were shoved into a van. Someone else said that they are just aimlessly driving on the streets. It was almost 1 p.m. when it became clear that they had been taken to Vozara. Mahboubeh said 'they are keeping us in the courtyard of Vozara Monkarat.' Finally, half an hour later they told us in their last telephone call that they were being 'delivered.' 'We are 36,' they said. It was Sunday, February 4th, at 1 p.m."
The Court Proceedings
All of this was heppening while the court was reviewing charges against Nooshin Ahmadi, Parvin Ardalan, Sousan Tahmasbi, and Shahla Entesari at the Sixth Branch of the Revolutionary Court. They were accused of undermining national security and participating in an illegal gathering. Mohammad Sharif, Nasrin Sotoudeh, and Mohammad Dadkhah were their attorneys.
Mohammad Sharif, Fariba Davoodi Mohajer's lawyer, who is one of the primary individuals accused in the July 2nd case, told ILNA: "As my client had left the country for a familial visit prior to being served the court summons, I have requested a re-scheduling of her court date, and the Judge will need to make a decision about that. Nevertheless, I delivered my power of attorney to the court on March 1st and requested to review the file, but the Sixth Branch of the Revolutionary Court advised me that in addition to my power of attorney, we had to present the Court with a separate contract between myself and my client. Since such a contract does not exist between myself and Ms. Davoodi Mohajer, and the Court insisted on having this document, I could not access the case file. It is, therefore, unknown to me on what basis the charges have been made."
Sharif further explained that as he could not review the file, he could not defend his client. He said his client is accused of "publicity against the regime," and "congregation and collusion to commit a crime against national security." He said he hopes the Court will grant a permission to reschedule and waive the requirement for a separate contract between him and his client, in view of the fact that he has not been able to review the case file. He said he hopes to be able to defend his client at a later court meeting.
Nasrin Sotoudeh, attorney for Parvin Ardalan and Nooshin Ahmadi, others accused in this case, told ILNA, "the court session was held in absence of my clients, as they were arrested in the gathering outside the Court." Sotoudeh said that Ms. Ebadi's deposition in support of the accused activists wa presented to the court on Sunday. "I and Leila Karami, another attorney on the case, delivered our verbal defense. The defense's closing argument regarding Nooshin Ahmadi's case was heard by the Court, and since we have not been able to review the case file, we requested a re-scheduling."
Mohammad Ali Dadkhah, attorney for Sussan Tahmasebi, another individual charged in this case, said, "in this session, the charges against my client were read, and we presented our defense against the charges. We also submitted our closing arguments." He said that the charges lacked legal foundation and said: "Since, according to our Constitution, peaceful gatherings are allowed, these charges lack legal legitimacy."
Many analysts believe that the arrests are related to the approaching International Women's Day on March 8. They recall that, in recent years, the regime has been very sensitive about celebrating the women's day in Iran, and has exerted a great deal of pressure on women's right activists to prohibit them from organizing demonstrations. They believe that some of the arrested women will be kept and monitored in prison until after March 8.
Which Actions Undermine National Security?
2 Feb 2007
Nobel Peace Laureate Shirin Ebadi, who is representing the three women's rights activists who were arrested at the Imam Khomeini Airport last Thursday, said that her clients would face trial in the next two months. Ebadi added that the activists were being charged for undermining national security because they attended a conference in the Netherlands.
Journalist and blogger Farnaz Seifi, who was among the detained activists, shared some of her experiences in an interview with Rooz. "From what the officers were saying," notes Seifi, "it seemed that they were worried and threatened by the fact that the Dutch government has allocated a budget for promoting democracy in Iran."
Seifi believes that such treatment of journalists, who are loyal to their country and are concerned with developing and refining their professional abilities, only generates distrust, and benefits the country in no way: "My goal and method of practice is completely transparent and clear. I will continue doing my work."
With respect to the official charges facing her and her colleagues, Seifi says, "They only told us officially that we will be summoned again for interrogations, and might be charged as well." According to Seifi, this kind of treatment of civil society activists and journalists is nothing new, and will continue.
When asked whether the officials think that such random actions might damage the reputation of the intelligence apparatus, Seifi responded, "Actually they are worried that such actions might harm their reputation. That's why they were trying really hard to be respectful and nice. They kept insisting that they were doing this as a preventative measure. They said that our arrests were to prevent foreigners and counterrevolutionaries from taking advantage of us."
In the past few months, Iran's intelligence organizations have been wary of the actions of journalists and civil society activists, particularly those who travel outside the country and network with foreign organizations. So far, however, formal charges have not been proved in any of the cases brought forth
Parliament to Rule on Gender Quotas for Universities
2 Feb 2007
While statistics in Iran continue to show that women constitute the larger bulk of attendees at institutions of higher education with 65 percent of registered students, the Iranian media reports that a number of Majlis (Parliament) representatives are drafting a proposal for the National Testing Organization (Sazmane Sanjesh) to enact stricter rules for admitting women to universities through the national placement test.
One of the originators of the proposal Anooshirvan Mohseni Bandchi told a reporter of a local newspaper, "Some fields of study are masculine, and so it is natural for the Ministry of Science and Research (which manages public universities) to utilize men in these fields. The same applies for feminine fields." Zad Ali Tahmasebi, another representative with a signature on the proposal said, "When women must not work without the consent of their father or spouse, and go to distant towns, their professional specialty has no utility for the nation." When asked about the limitations that exist for women in Iran, he defended them by saying, "Realities have to be accepted."
"Tehran Emrouz"daily which carried a report on the proposal descried the quotas provided in the bill to limit the number of women who apply and get admitted to the universities. And quoting some members of the Majlis, it defended the proposal arguing that the current entrance standards would create "many dangers" for the country and so the government and the Majlis had to address the issue as soon as possible.
Some Majlis representative have voiced their concerns that government agencies spend about 1.6 million Toman per year (about $1700) on each student, and since because of official and social limitations women cannot easily work in any profession in the country, investing in them is a waste of public money. Another reason cited for the need to restrict women from taking the national university entrance exams is the growth in divorce numbers in the country and the rising years of marriage. They have specifically said that the increase in the number of women university graduates as compared to men has caused the growth in divorce and the desire to get married later if life. They have also said that the "sacredness of the family" and the "institution of the family" have been threatened with the growing number of women in higher education.
Government officials have said that the issue of establishing quotas for women desiring to attend institutions of higher education has a history and the issue had also been discussed at the Supreme Council for the Cultural Revolution. Such quotas are implemented at present by the Ministry of Health for the current academic year regarding admissions to medical schools and schools of dentistry and pharmacology.
With the publication of these stories in the press, some media and university groups have aired their protests to the proposal. The Women's Affairs branch of the largest student organization, Daftar-e Tahkim-e Vahdat" issued a protesting statement over the Majlis quotas plan saying that the idea deprives women of their social right and is regressive in nature. Pointing to the proposal, the statement said it demonstrates the government's lack of commitment to defend human dignity, and is in direct contradiction to article 21 of the constitution which mandates the government to provide the necessary conditions for the suitable growth of women's dignity, and their spiritual and material rights.
Sex and shopping brings HIV crisis in Iran
Robert Tait in Tehran
3 Jan 2007
In a smart boutique displaying an array of miniskirts and skimpy tops, the shopkeeper was too busy attending to his female customers to listen to a sermon on HIV/Aids. "I don't know anything about it at all. Come back after I've finished with my customers," he told the volunteer health education worker.
The volunteer, Amir Fattahi, was unsurprised. Observation and experience told him he had interrupted no ordinary business transaction. The four young women, he surmised, were prostitutes striking a deal with the shopkeeper offering sex in exchange for free or cheap clothes, an increasingly common arrangement in Tehran's fashion shops.
Health education workers say the practice undermines efforts to combat HIV/Aids in Iran, where the disease is increasingly spread through sexual contact. Along with health officials they believe Iran's strict sexual mores are loosening among its predominantly young population. An official drive has been launched to raise HIV/Aids awareness, which lags behind that in the west.
However, experts say the fight to stop the disease spreading is being hampered by a lack of hard facts. While the latest figures show 13,704 registered HIV cases, World Health Organisation and Iranian health ministry estimates put the true figure at between 70,000 and 120,000. Experts believe many infected young people do not seek blood tests because they are too ill-informed or are afraid of their parents finding out.
In the Qaem mall in north Tehran's affluent Tajrish district, where two floors are dedicated to women's fashion, several shopkeepers admitted to first-hand experience of receiving offers of sex. Arash, 23, said he had been propositioned 40 or 50 times in his store. "I reckon that 50% of shopkeepers have accepted sex in return for clothes," he said.
Ahmed Reza, 23, admitted having accepted such offers. "I was sitting outside the shop when two women came and said they wanted to try various manteaus [overcoats]," he said. "They asked for a bargain and I offered them the standard discount. But they said, 'We cannot pay that - if you give us a good discount and your mobile number, we will serve you'. So I gave them more discount and got their mobile numbers.
"I can tell a prostitute by their attitudes and body language. When she asks the price of something, I say it's much more than it really is. Then I reduce it when she asks for discount, so she think she's getting a great bargain and offers sex."
Iran's Islamic authorities attempted a clampdown on the trade by deploying policemen and plainclothes security guards inside shopping malls.
"I don't think [the prostitutes] are HIV/Aids-aware," said Mr Fattahi, a team leader with Iran Positive Life, a volunteer group part-funded by Unicef. "If they are infected and have sex with three or four shopkeepers a day, you can imagine the danger. I think most of the shopkeepers know the risk but they can't resist the temptation. Most times, the opportunity arises too quickly to take precautions."
Iran Positive Life is trying to raise shopkeepers' awareness in the hope that it will rub off on the prostitutes. Every evening, teams of volunteers tour boutiques asking shop assistants about their level of HIV/Aids knowledge. On one tour, joined by the Guardian, most of those canvassed knew it could be contracted from unsafe sex and that using condoms could provide protection.
However, experts say this awareness often does not translate into personal practice and is not passed on to prostitutes. "We have found that while people know about HIV, their information is not necessarily enough for them to use precautionary methods when engaging in sex," said the group's managing director, Amir Reza Moradi, who became HIV positive after receiving an infected blood transfusion.
"At the same time, it's hard for us to reach sex workers, so our education workers go to malls and speak to shopkeepers ... If the shopkeepers become educated and change their attitudes, hopefully the sex workers will notice and change their own ways."
Iran Positive Life's volunteers have spoken to an estimated 5,000 young Iranians in shopping centres, parks and coffee shops since the group launched its "peer education" programme three months ago. It has opened counselling services at health centres in an effort to estimate how many cases result from sexual transmission, rather than from drug addicts' infected needles.
Official resistance to a more explicitly sexual message is strong. While the government has a five-year plan to tackle HIV/Aids, its information campaigns have been criticised as inadequate. Yet the religious hierarchy apparently needs no convincing. A recent survey of 17 senior ayatollahs produced a near-unanimous response condoning condom use and in favour of educating the young on sexually transmitted diseases.
Estimated number of Iranian women who work as prostitutes.
Average age of prostitutes in Iran. Many are girls who have run away from home.
Estimated number of HIV cases is 70,000-120,000. Estimated number of infected women aged 15-49: 11,000. Number of Iranian deaths from Aids: 1,600 (2005 figures).
Intimidation of Iran's Women's Rights Activists
On 15 August, 2004, Atefah Sahaaleh was hanged in a public square in the Iranian city of Neka.
Four women right's activists, who have been arrested and interrogated repeatedly without facing any charges, were released on 250 million riyal (about 30 thousand USD) bails. The four women are Parvin Ardalan, Noushin Ahmadi Khorasani, Fariba Davoudi Mohajer and Shahla Entesari. These women were asked to end their civil activism in order to be released without any charges, which they all refused to do.
Nasrin Sotudeh, who represents the four women, told the ISNA news agency that they were interrogated on issues related to the campaign known as "one million signatures demanding changes to discriminatory laws." The campaign was initiated earlier this year as a grassroots effort to educate the public and raise awareness of gender discrimination in Iran.
Earlier this spring intelligence officers arrested more than 60 activists who had attended a gathering to kick off the campaign. Some of those arrested, like Ali Akbar Mousavi Khoini, spent five months in jail. Throughout this time, women's activists were summoned repeatedly to security centers and were interrogated.
Some of the charges that these activists are accused of include undermining national security and cooperating with the enemy.
The recent attempts by Iran's women's rights activists have grabbed the attention of international women's rights activists. For the first time, for instance, nine Nobel Peace laureates voiced their support of Iranian women in an open letter. Many international organizations also objected to the harsh treatment of women who gathered to protest gender discrimination earlier this summer.
It seems as if the regime's security officials feel threatened by the campaign that these four women helped to launch, especially because a number of prominent religious scholars have also declared some of Iran's gender laws unjust in the past few months.
The women's campaign will continue until one million signatures are collected mandating a change in discriminatory gender laws. Given the number of organizers, this effort could last anywhere from one and up to two years.
On their website the campaign's organizers write, "The demands of campaign are not in contradiction to Islamic Law: The demand to reform and change discriminatory laws is not in contradiction to Islamic law and is in line with Iran's international commitments. Iran is a signatory to the UN Convention on Civil and Political Rights and as such, is required to eliminate all forms of discrimination. Based on these commitments, the government of Iran needs to take specific action in reforming laws that promote discrimination."
Women and Prison
27 Aug 2006
On 15 August, 2004, Atefah Sahaaleh was hanged in a public square in the Iranian city of Neka.
Iranian women have been arrested in numbers after the revolution, both on political grounds as well on issues related to press freedom. Many of the families of political prisoners have been subject to such stress and have endured harsh conditions as a result of unspeakable pressures on them. The extent of the pressure endured by women whose husbands or brothers faced detention and torture, and who themselves have been subject to the same fate, is mind-boggling. Today, with the introduction of new press laws concerning journalists, these pressures have escalated to a higher level. Many of these journalists or their associates have been called in by the intelligence and military apparatus of the Islamic Republic.
The most notable of these laws are the current law which prohibits any criticism against the Islamic Republic as an act against national security. This law, clearly states that anyone who criticizes the regime will be prosecuted to the utmost. The article states that: "Anyone who criticizes the Islamic Republic or helps the opponents of the regime will be subject to one month to a year imprisonment." Mrs. Saghi Bagheri-Nia, the editor of the prohibited Asia Journal, is one of the recent victims of this law. In addition to her, Mrs. Negar Eskandar Far, the editor of the newspaper Karnameh (report card), is another woman facing similar charges; her case has been referred to the high courts.
The common assumption is that prison is prison whether those in it are men or women. However, even in prison, the legal situation of women is quite different from that of their male counterparts as they are subjugated to discrimination; among these women, those who are mothers face even more hurdles.
Women prisoners who are highly educated face even more obstacles and their prison terms are harsher as they are scrutinized much more than other women prisoners.
These women and the ones who are editors of newspapers or journals face
incredible conditions and they are not allowed to share cells with their colleagues.
Mrs. Sagher Bagheri-Nia, a pathology doctor, might be confronted with imprisonment; others like her, including Mrs. Eskandar who also might be incarcerated, is another good example.
The emphasis on the discrimination against women prisoners and especially those who are highly educated is quite noteworthy, as there is only one section of prison which is allocated to women whereas men face totally different and more favorable conditions.
Therefore, under such conditions and in the current state of affairs, it is best for the presiding judge to fine women of such stature rather than incarcerating them if and when they are guilty of the presumed charges.
Execution of a teenage girl
A television documentary team has pieced together details surrounding the case of a 16-year-old girl, executed two years ago in Iran.
On 15 August, 2004, Atefah Sahaaleh was hanged in a public square in the Iranian city of Neka.
Her death sentence was imposed for "crimes against chastity".
The state-run newspaper accused her of adultery and described her as 22 years old.
But she was not married - and she was just 16.
In terms of the number of people executed by the state in 2004, Iran is estimated to be second only to China.
In the year of Atefah's death, at least 159 people were executed in accordance with the Islamic law of the country, based on the Sharia code.
Since the revolution, Sharia law has been Iran's highest legal authority.
Alongside murder and drug smuggling, sex outside marriage is also a capital crime.
As a signatory of the International Convention on Civil and Political Rights, Iran has promised not to execute anyone under the age of 18.
But the clerical courts do not answer to parliament. They abide by their religious supreme leader, Ayatollah Khamenei, making it virtually impossible for human rights campaigners to call them to account.
Code of behaviour
At the time of Atefah's execution in Neka, journalist Asieh Amini heard rumours the girl was just 16 years old and so began to ask questions.
"When I met with the family," says Asieh, "they showed me a copy of her birth certificate, and a copy of her death certificate. Both of them show she was born in 1988. This gave me legitimate grounds to investigate the case."
So why was such a young girl executed? And how could she have been accused of adultery when she was not even married?
Disturbed by the death of her mother when she was only four or five years old, and her distraught father's subsequent drug addiction, Atefah had a difficult childhood.
She was also left to care for her elderly grandparents, but they are said to have shown her no affection.
In a town like Neka, heavily under the control of religious authorities, Atefah - often seen wandering around on her own - was conspicuous.
It was just a matter of time before she came to the attention of the "moral police", a branch of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard, whose job it is to enforce the Islamic code of behaviour on Iran's streets.
Being stopped or arrested by the moral police is a fact of life for many Iranian teenagers.
Previously arrested for attending a party and being alone in a car with a boy, Atefah received her first sentence for "crimes against chastity" when she was just 13.
Although the exact nature of the crime is unknown, she spent a short time in prison and received 100 lashes.
When she returned to her home town, she told those close to her that lashes were not the only things she had to endure in prison. She described abuse by the moral police guards.
Soon after her release, Atefah became involved in an abusive relationship with a man three times her age.
Former revolutionary guard, 51-year-old Ali Darabi - a married man with children - raped her several times.
She kept the relationship a secret from both her family and the authorities.
Atefah was soon caught in a downward spiral of arrest and abuse.
Circumstances surrounding Atefah's fourth and final arrest were unusual.
The moral police said the locals had submitted a petition, describing her as a "source of immorality" and a "terrible influence on local schoolgirls".
But there were no signatures on the petition - only those of the arresting guards.
Three days after her arrest, Atefah was in a court and tried under Sharia law.
The judge was the powerful Haji Rezai, head of the judiciary in Neka.
No court transcript is available from Atefah's trial, but it is known that for the first time, Atefah confessed to the secret of her sexual abuse by Ali Darabi.
However, the age of sexual consent for girls under Sharia law - within the confines of marriage - is nine, and furthermore, rape is very hard to prove in an Iranian court.
"Men's word is accepted much more clearly and much more easily than women," according to Iranian lawyer and exile Mohammad Hoshi.
"They can say: 'You know she encouraged me' or 'She didn't wear proper dress'."
Court of appeal
When Atefah realised her case was hopeless, she shouted back at the judge and threw off her veil in protest.
It was a fatal outburst.
She was sentenced to execution by hanging, while Darabi got just 95 lashes.
Shortly before the execution, but unbeknown to her family, documents that went to the Supreme Court of Appeal described Atefah as 22.
"Neither the judge nor even Atefah's court appointed lawyer did anything to find out her true age," says her father.
And a witness claims: "The judge just looked at her body, because of the developed physique... and declared her as 22."
Judge Haji Rezai took Atefah's documents to the Supreme Court himself.
And at six o'clock on the morning of her execution he put the noose around her neck, before she was hoisted on a crane to her death.
Pain and death
During the making of the documentary about Atefah's death the production team telephoned Judge Haji Rezai to ask him about the case, but he refused to comment.
The human rights organisation Amnesty International says it is concerned that executions are becoming more common again under President Mahmoud Ahmedinajad, who advocates a return to the pure values of the revolution.
The judiciary have never admitted there was any mishandling of Atefah's case.
For Atefah's father the pain of her death remains raw. "She was my love, my heart... I did everything for her, everything I could," he says.
He did not get the chance to say goodbye.
Women Protestors Defy Regime Violence
The Iranian Regime has resorted to increasing violence in an attempt to suppress the growing movement for gender equality in Iran. Sarah Reed, of CODIR National Executive Council, reports on the latest episodes in the struggle to end gender discrimination.
The suppression of a peaceful demonstration by women protesting against gender discrimination has once again highlighted the plight of women in Iranian society. Demonstrators gathering at 7Tir Square on 12th June were confronted with a regime greeting party of baton toting police and veiled women police. Eye witness accounts report that demonstrators were sprayed with red paint by police so as to be identified before being subjected to violence and detention. The Student Human Rights Committee have estimated that at least 70 protestors were arrested.
The demonstration had been organized to expose the continued second class status imposed on women by the Tehran regime. The rally demands included a call to ban polygamy, an end to men's uncontested right to divorce, equal child custody rights, equal rights in marriage, the increase in the legal age of children to eighteen and the reform of employment laws which disadvantage female employees.
Organizers had stated their aim to struggle to gain equal rights under the existing laws and regulations in Iran. Despite this key organizers were summoned to the offices of security and intelligence agencies in an attempt disrupt organization of the event and intimidate activists.
Clearly the success of a similar demonstration last year has heightened the regime's awareness of the challenge to the existing order. The rally last year was considered the largest in recent history to highlight women's issues in Iran. It also was notable by the fact that groups and organizations active on women's issues had formed a single platform and a coalition on a series of common goals, creating better cooperation and a stronger movement.
The plight of women's situation in Iran has been gaining international recognition as the regime has deployed increasingly violent methods to suppress recent women's events and activities. Women involved in International Women's Day celebrations held in Tehran in March this year were forcibly dispersed by Revolutionary Guards and regime agents drawing protests from Amnesty International.
Amnesty had again stated their support for the 12th June demonstrations. Amnesty International have stated their support for the protestors calling on the Iranian Government to take prompt action to address those laws and practices which continue to discriminate against women in Iran and deny them full access to their fundamental human rights. Amnesty have urged the Iranian Government to ratify the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women.
Campaign organization 'Human Rights First' have also given support to the protestors. The organization has called on its supporters to show solidarity by lobbying the Iranian regime to demand that they protect women exercising their basic rights to freedom of expression and assembly.
CODIR calls on all women's organizations, trade unionists and progressive organizations in Britain to add your voice to the growing protest against the Iranian Regime's treatment of women. Lobby your Member of Parliament to raise concerns of these human rights abuses. Write to the Iranian embassy in London to condemn the use of force by the regime against peaceful women protesters.s in the early days of the Islamic republic after 1979. In the history of women's movement in Iran, last year marked a turning point as the many organizations and groups active in women's issues, formed a single platform and formed a coalition on at least a series of common goals. That has paved the way for stronger cooperation among them.
The June 12th demonstrations are one more stage of the struggle for gender equality in Iran. The regime's increasing use of violence is evidence that they can no longer control the movement for change without resort to human rights abuses. The growing international spotlight on the struggle of women in Iran and the growing international solidarity being forged with the Iranian women's movement is a key to forcing change and ending the abuses of the regime.
Iran: Amnesty International calls for action to end discrimination against women
12 Jun 2006
Amnesty International has been informed that Iranian women will meet in Seventh of Tir Square in Tehran at 5pm on 12 June 2006 in order to call for the implementation of a series of measures which, if implemented, would significantly reduce legal and other discrimination against women in Iran. They include measures for which Amnesty International has also called publicly, including in a statement entitled Iran: Amnesty International urges new President to make human rights a top priority, (AI Index MDE 13/041/2005), and which the organization continues to advocate. The Iranian government should give urgent attention to these calls for reform and should take prompt action to address those laws and practices which continue to discriminate against women in Iran and deny them full access to their fundamental human rights. In addition, Amnesty International urges the Iranian government to ratify, without reservation, the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women.
The Iranian authorities should furthermore ensure that the policing of the meeting should be consistent with international standards on law enforcement such as the United Nations Code of Conduct for Law Enforcement Officials and should respect the internationally recognised rights to freedom of expression and assembly. On 8 March 2006, Iranian police, Revolutionary Guards and others forcibly dispersed a gathering of about 1,000 women celebrating International Women's Day in Tehran, beating some of them (see Iran: Amnesty International condemns violence against women demonstrators in Iran, AI Index MDE 13/024/2006). Amnesty International urged the authorities to investigate this excessive use of force. An official complaint by nine women injured by security forces on 8 March was lodged in May 2006 with Branch 11 of the Office of the Public Prosecutor of Tehran's General and Revolutionary Court , but to date it is not clear what action, if any, the authorities have taken to investigate the complaint and hold to account any members of the security forces responsible for human rights abuses
Iranian Women Demand Equal Legal Status
12 Jun 2006
The laws of the Islamic Republic of Iran continue to treat women as second-class citizens, and deem the value of the life of a woman as half that of a man's. Women are denied equal rights in many elements of family life, including marriage and divorce, child custody, and inheritance laws.
On Monday, June 12, Iranian women will gather in Tehran to demand equal rights, including equality of women before the court and in family law, the banning of polygamy, an increase in the age of legal responsibility for girl and boy children to 18 years old, and the reform of employment laws which disadvantage female employees .
Activists campaigning for women's rights in Iran have asked Human Rights First to encourage our supporters to show solidarity with their peaceful demand for an end to all forms of legal discrimination against them.
Send a message to the Iranian authorities in support of the demonstrators and calling on the Iranian government to protect women exercising their basic rights to freedom of expression and assembly from all kinds of brutality and repression to which they have been subjected in the past.
Four Nobel Winners Support Women's Rally
11 Jun 2006
Iranian men and women against legal discrimination of women plan to hold a rally in Tehran on June 12th, 2006 to demand banning polygamy, ending men's uncontested right to divorce, equal child custody rights, equal rights in marriage, the increase in the legal age of children to 18, and the elimination of temporary work contracts, among others.
Five women Nobel Peace Prize winners Shirin Ebadi from Iran (2003) Judy Williams from the United States (1997), Betty Williams from Ireland (1976), Wangari Muta Maathai from Kenya (2004), and Rigoberta Menchu Tum from Guatemala (1992) have supported this rally by signing the public call. In their statement the women express their solidarity and support for Iranian women in their struggle to gain equal rights under the existing laws and regulations in Iran.
Iranian women plan to sign a petition calling for equal rights in Iran and then through their connections and influence and civil institutions pursue the issue. Following the announcement of the rally, a number of Iranian women activists have been summoned to the offices of security and intelligence agencies in Iran. Similar summons preceded the March 8th international women's day rally in Iran where officials requested the organizers to cancel their rally as it was legal because it did not have a permit from government authorities. But women have challenged the government's position by arguing that article 27 of the current Iranian constitution negates the need of a permit for a peaceful demonstration. A similar meeting was held last year where a communiqué was issued at the conclusion of the rally. This year, the organizers plan to read out last year's communiqué and talk of progress made on the demands. Last year's demonstration was considered to the largest women's rally since the hijab rallies in the early days of the Islamic republic after 1979. In the history of women's movement in Iran, last year marked a turning point as the many organizations and groups active in women's issues, formed a single platform and formed a coalition on at least a series of common goals. That has paved the way for stronger cooperation among them.
Iran women sports ruling vetoed
Several ayatollahs and MPs had said last month's ruling violated Islamic law and Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has now said it should be reconsidered.
Ahmadinejad had said lifting the ban would "promote chastity".
Separately, Iranian police are launching a new drive against owners of illegal satellite television equipment.
Khamenei has the final say on all matters of state.
Government spokesman Gholam Hossein Elham said Ahmadinejad would act according to the supreme leader's wishes.
Six grand ayatollahs and several MPs had protested against Mr Ahmadinejad's move, saying it violated Islamic law for a woman to look at the body of a male stranger.
One MP had said if the reformists had tried the move there would have been suicide bombers protesting on the streets of Tehran.
The ban has been in place since the Islamic revolution in 1979.
Ahmadinejad, who is regarded as an ultra conservative, had said women must be given a chance to watch all sporting events.
"The best stands should be allocated to women and families in the stadiums in which national and important matches are being held," he said.
The move had been welcomed by women's rights campaigners, who have long protested against their banishment from stadiums.
Meanwhile, police are launching a new campaign against the owners of illegal satellite television equipment.
Iran's official Isna news agency quoted the chief of police, Esmail Ahmadi-Mogadam, as saying that if such equipment was visible in homes, it would be seized.
Satellite television, deemed decadent and officially banned, is thought to be picked up by four million dishes in the country.
Satellite dish owners can watch hundreds of international television channels, including some that are sponsored by the Iranian opposition in exile.