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Detention of Sadr and Abbasgholizadeh Continues

Omid Memarian – Women’s Field: With the Sunday, March 11th Temporary Detention Order for Shadi Sadr and Mahboubeh Abbasgholizadeh, the two remaining activists in custody, a new round of confrontations with Iranian women’s rights activists has commenced.

Sadr and Abbasgholizadeh, who have been rejected the right to attorney, will remain in detention for at least a month, based on their temporary detention order, Farideh Gheyrat, their attorney announced today.

Sadr and Abbasgholizadeh are charged with five accusations. Acting against national security, holding illegal assembly, and confronting the security forces are three of the charges being known to their attorneys. The remaining two charges are not announced, Gheyrat said.

Over the past several days, Iranian newspapers have been barred from reporting on the subject, and as a result, except for a few cryptic short lines, the censorship surrounding the events has been palpable. With the Detention Order, hope for release of the two women is thwarted.

Shadi Sadr who is also Mahboubeh Abbasgholizadeh’s lawyer is now in detention herself. In one of the most unprecedented events of recent years, both client and attorney are now in custody.

During Mahboubeh Abbasgholizadeh’s earlier arrest in November 2005, Shadi Sadr was also threatened and interrogated several times by District Attorney’s Office in Tehran, but never like this. During the past several days, some of the released women had reported about a shift in the type and direction of questions asked of them during interrogations, from questions about the gatherings to questions about other individuals, even personal and private matters.

Authorities in Evin’s Block 209 and interrogators have not permitted Abbasgholizadeh to call her family. This has caused concerns for her two daughters.

Her daughter, Maryam Ommi, in an interview with Women’s Field Website said: “Everyone called their families, but she hasn’t. We are worried for her health and we fear something might have happened to her…memories of Zahra Kazemi poison my mind continually!” Up until a few days ago, I was worried for her hunger strike, worried for Mahnaz Mohammadi for whom I took some medicine and it was rejected [by prison authorities], their promises that prison medical staff were looking after her. I had heard that her feet were motionless, but now that she is out I understand none of those promises were true and she is not well at all. I went to see the last woman released, but she had been in solitary confinement as well, and hadn’t heard about my mother or Shadi Sadr. I only hope that they are healthy.”

Also yesterday Hassan Nilchian, Shadi Sadr’s husband who pursuant to earlier news regarding release of remaining prisoners, had gone to Revolutionary Court to post bail and release his wife, was told that she is now in official Temporary Detention.

Nilchian told Women’s Field Website that yesterday morning he went to the Court and met the Judiciary’s representative in Block 209. “After a conversation with Tehran District Attorney’s Securities Deputy, the Judiciary’s representative in Block 209 of Evin Prison announced that they have received a Temporary Detention Order for Shadi Sadr. Their file has now been sent to court for review. For now, there are no prospects for their release over the next day or two.”

According to Article 33 of Criminal Review Law, a temporary detention order is issued by the Judge, and is approved by Head of local Judiciary field (District Attorney, or his Deputy), and is possible to appeal in the Appeals Court within 10 days. A review by the Appeals Court will be done on an emergency basis, and within a month of detention, a resolution to the case must be reached. If the Judge determines that the temporary detention must continue, he will issue appropriate orders.

Some civil rights activists issued a communiqué today, voicing their objections to the continuation of the detentions of two women’s rights activists.

Over the past year, in step with the “No Stoning Campaign,” Mahboubeh Abbasgholizadeh and Shadi Sadr have been active in their pursuit for elimination of execution by stoning from Islamic Republic’s laws. Also, over the past few years Shadi Sadr has been one of the several attorneys highly active in stopping executions of several women by stoning, taking important steps towards this goal through her many interactions with judicial authorities. Side by side of another group of women, these two activists have also taken part in writing a Women’s Demands Charter over the past several months. Subsequent to meetings with other activists and conducting numerous surveys, this Manifest demonstrates women’s demands in a variety of areas.

In a statement published just before their detention, Abbasgholizadeh, Shadi Sadr and several other activists had expressed hope for the future of women’s rights on the threshold of International Women’s Day (March 8th), inviting people to gather in a peaceful assembly in front of the parliament. The gathering, which was attended by hundreds of people, was crushed by the police. Eight women were arrested in the gathering, but were later released.

Arrests of last Sunday followed a peaceful gathering by the court where five other women’s rights activists were being tried. Temporary detention orders of Mahboubeh Abbasgholizadeh and Shadi Sadr, however, point to a new wave of activities to start a new case, unrelated to the mentioned assembly. It is reminiscent of the arrest of Ali Akbar Mousavi Khoeineeha, who was arrested during last July’s peaceful gathering in Haft-e-Tir Square, which kept him in detention in Block 209 for months.

Women’s Cultural Center, six members of whom were arrested and detained last week, issued a statement in objection to the continued imprisonment of the two women, saying: “We put International Women’s Day behind us with two women’s rights activists, Shadi Sadr and Mahboubeh Abbasgholizadeh, in detention. Within the framework of law, these two women’s rights activists have been widely active in women’s and social issues for the past several years. Unfortunately, we witness their illegal arrest on March 4th, and their detention. We, of the Women’s Cultural Center, condemn this detention, and request unconditional and immediate release of Shadi Sadr and Mahboubeh Abbasgholizadeh, and we ask all women’s rights activists to voice their objections to the detention of these two members of the women’s movement.”

During the past several days, Islamic Women’s Association, has also objected to the continuation of arrests, and in a statement has called actions by District Attorney’s Office as “poor judgment and mean-spirited actions” and cause for “deeply hurting public Iranian feelings.” “This poor judgment on the threshold of the International Women’s Day, affects all the fruit of actions of Islamic Republic in alleviating discrimination against Iranian women, providing ignorant foreigners an opportunity to see an offensive act as representative of all Revolutionary values, and provides the grounds for deeply hurting public feelings, which under the circumstances is an immoral act. This poor judgment not only affects critics, but also prepares the grounds for a shift of women’s intellectual efforts into slogans which eliminate the opportunity for thinking and reasonable dialogue. A feeling of discrimination destroys opportunities for a dialogue with critics, as well as [women’s] self confidence, and destructs a mutual understanding about women’s rights and their position. On the threshold of this international day, we demand an end to these mean-spirited actions which deeply hurt public Iranian feelings, and implementation of values of Islamic Revolution regarding women, and release of those detained. We hope for a human society in which men and women enjoy equal rights based on Islamic teachings.”

Amnesty International, UN Human Rights High Commissionaire, European Union, Swedish Parliament, Germany’s Green Party, Human Rights First, and Human Rights Watch are among the members of the global community who have condemned the arrests of Iranian women’s rights activists. 

For updates on the story and press contact, please read Women’s Field March 12 Press Release.

* Shadi Sadr, women’s rights activists, attorney-at-law, journalist, and the director of RAAHI legal center for women, graduated in 1999 from Tehran University with masters in Law and Political Science. Winner of Women’s E-news 2004 Ida B. Wells Award for Bravery in Journalism, Sadr started her work as a journalist and writer at the age of 15. She has published several articles on women’s rights in Iranian reformist papers and the prominent feminist magazine Zanan. Winner of several journalism awards in Iran, Shadi Sadr founded the first news website for women in Iran, in 2002. In 2005 she founded RAAHI legal center, which offers free legal counseling and provides free legal representation for women. In 2006 she co-founded Women’s Field (Meydaan-e Zanan) , a website dedicated to various campaigns to end discrimination against women in Iran. Stop Stoning Forever Campaign is one of the latest campaigns she initiated in 2006, which aims at abolishing the stoning law and saving the lives of 9 women and 2 men currently sentenced to death by stoning for adultery in Iran. She has saved the lives of several women from death penalty through free legal representation. The latest case she won was Ashraf Kalhori’s case, through which Sadr succeeded in acquitting Kalhori from death by stoning sentence. Sadr has a seven-year-old daughter named Darya and lives in Tehran.

*Mahboubeh Abbasgholizadeh, Editor of Farzaneh Quarterly, a bilingual journal on women's studies that is published in Iran since 1993, remained in jail for a month in 2005, half of which was spent in solitary confinement. Later, during what went on to be called the “Internet Sites and Webloggers” debacle, some of those accused in the case met with Ayatollah Hashemi Shahroodi, head of Iranian Judiciary, and after hearing reports of the treatment of those individuals, he ordered a halt to the proceedings and instructed formation of a three-person committee to investigate the case. After an investigation which took several months, 17 of the 21 individuals named in the case were exonerated. Even though Abbasgholizadeh was threatened with further imprisonment should she continue her activities, she continued her efforts in civic organizations.

A women's rights activist, civil society activist, journalist and researcher who believes in non-violent change, Abbasgholizadeh he has been the founder and Director of Iranian NGO Training Centre since its establishment in. She recently resigned from her eleven-year post as the founding member of the Board of Trustees of the Network of Women's NGOs in Iran. She has been very active in print media as the director “Jame'eye Iranian" or Iranian Society Publishing, a publishing house established in 1998 devoted to publishing books on women's issues. Moreover, she has been among the founders of the White Mehr Home: a non-governmental human rights organization. She is also one of the imitators of Stop Stoning Forever Campaign.