Campaign to Defend Women's Rights Defenders in Iran
May 14, 2007
Prosecution of Women’s Rights Defenders Continues in Iran
Women’s rights defenders are experiencing a new phase of government oppression ranging from interrogations to prison sentences. The women’s rights defenders are being charged for actions against “national security” for their legal activities in the promotion of women’s rights and objecting to legal discrimination against women. Zeinab Peyghambarzadeh, a sociology student and an active member of the Daftar Tahkim Vahdat student organization, is the latest victim of this new wave of oppression by prosecution. She was arrested on May 7, following a court summons after she announced that her family could not afford the substantial bail for her release. She was immediately transferred to Evin prison.
During the past few weeks, scores of women’s rights defenders have been summoned to the court or intelligence-security offices for interrogation. Six women activists have received prison sentences ranging from 6 months to 3 years and many more are awaiting trial.
The wave of women’s arrests started on June 12, 2006, during a peaceful demonstration in protest about discriminatory laws against women. More than 70 people were arrested and a dozen people were summoned to the court. As a court session was held to try five of those women on March 4, 2007, a group of women gathered in front of the court to show their solidarity and objections to the prosecution of women’s rights defenders. This peaceful gathering was violently dispersed and 33 women were arrested and detained. By March 20, before the beginning of the Iranian New Year, the detainees were gradually released on substantial bail. However, they all have been charged with acting against “national security” and their cases remain open. They are all to be legally prosecuted by the state. Meanwhile, more women are being summoned for investigations, apparently to increase fear and intimidation.
Some of the prosecuted women are prominent activists. Noushin Ahmadi Khorasani and Parvin Ardalan are two feminist scholars and activists who are the main organizers of the One Million Signature Campaign which has been initiated to advocate gender equality and change discriminatory law. Both of them have been sentenced to three years in prison. Three other women, Fariba Davoudi Mohajer, Sousan Tahmasbi, and Shahla Entesari, have been sentenced to four, two, and three years, respectively. All sentences consist of a six months prison term with the remainder of the sentences suspended. Another woman, Azadeh Forghani, has been given a two year suspended sentence. Currently, all women are awaiting the result of their appeals.
The offices of three non-government organizations have been searched and sealed by the intelligence-security forces. The bank accounts of these organizations have been frozen and their activities have practically been stopped. The Stop Stoning Forever Campaign, which has been initiated to eradicate the law of stoning as a punishment for adultery, has been severely affected by the recent wave of prosecutions. The organizers of this campaign, Shadi Sadr, Asieh Amini, and Mahboubeh Abbasgholizadeh, were among those detained on March 4; they have had their offices closed, and will soon be subject to trial.
The Campaign to Defend Women’s Rights Defenders in Iran, originally initiated as the Campaign to Free Women’s Rights Defenders, was launched immediately after the arrest of 33 women on March 4, and has successfully drawn international attention to the oppression of women’s rights activists in Iran. The international objection to the Iranian authorities has been pivotal. In reaction to the wave of prosecutions of women’s rights defenders, this campaign has launched a petition addressed to the Iranian President, Mr. Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, and the Head of Judiciary, Mr. Mahmoud Shahroudi, supporting women’s rights to conduct civil activities against discriminatory laws without persecution and is asking the public to support this campaign by signing the petition and writing directly to the Iranian officials demanding an end to the state sponsored persecution of the women’s rights activists.
The petition can be seen at the following site:
For more information please contact Shadi Sadr or Soheila Vahdati , in Iran and the US, respectively.
To learn more about the One Million Signature Campaign to End Discriminatory Law, please visit:
To learn more about the Stop Stoning Forever Campaign, please visit: