Prisoner of conscience, Zeynab Bayzeydi, a 26-year old Kurdish woman’s rights activist and member of the Campaign for Equality and the human Rights of Kurdistan (HROK) was sentenced in August 2008 to four years imprisonment and internal exile to the Turkish-speaking city of Zanjan, far from her home.
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Bayzeydi was reportedly not represented by an attorney during the judicial proceedings. Her sentence was upheld by an appeal court on August 23, 2008. She was arrested on July 9, 2008, after the police ordered her to present herself for interrogation at a police station in Mahabad in western Kordestan in Iran. Zeynab Bayzeydi was charged with membership in unauthorized human rights associations, and on account of her activities in support of women’s rights, which she has denied, except the one arising from her work on the Campaign for Equality.
She had also owned a health shop in Mahabad called “Zeylan”, named after a plant used for medical treatment. She was threatened a number of times by the Intelligence offices of Mahabad and told to change the store’s name because it is being used by the insurgent group “PKK” and represented a “code”. Since the name was a regular official Kurdish name and legally used by the registry offices of Kordestan, she had decided to ignore the warnings. Zaynab Bayzeydi and more than 50 other imprisoned members of Iran’s Kurdish minority went on a hunger strike starting August 25, 2008 to protest against continuing torture, executions and other gross abuses of human rights.
Amnesty International considers her to be a prisoner of conscience, imprisoned solely for the peaceful exercise of her rights to freedom of expression and association.
The Campaign for Equality, which was launched on 27 August 2006, is a network of individuals working to end legal discrimination against women. The campaign informs women of their rights, and is aiming to collect one million signatures from the Iranian public to a petition against discriminatory laws. Although their advocacy has consisted of peaceful activities such as participating in non-violent demonstrations and circulating petitions, they have been met with harsh repression from the Iranian government. As part of a recent pervasive crackdown on a wide range of activists, who have suffered arrest, detention, torture and ill-treatment, imposition of prison sentences and fines. As one activist Jila Baniyaghoub, told the Associated Press, over the past year the Iranian security forces have "become more and more aggressive even as women's actions have become more peaceful and more tame.” To date, the website of Campaign for Equality has been blocked on at least 11 occasions. On 27 August 2008, the second anniversary of the Campaign for Equality, Amnesty International renewed its demand that the Iranian authorities cease harassing and imprisoning women’s rights defenders and allow them to freely continue their campaigning for the repeal of laws and policies which discriminate against women in Iran.
Amnesty International is concerned that Minister of Intelligence Gholam Hossein Mohseni Ejeie publicly accused the Iranian women’s movement and student activists of being part of an enemy conspiracy for a “soft subversion” of the Iranian government on 10 April 2007. Despite the repressive conditions and real threats to their safety, fearless women activists persevere in their human rights work. Amnesty International has been working to support the many initiatives taken by these brave Iranian women.
Meanwhile, a new Family Protection Bill passed in July by the Law and Legal Affairs Committee of Iran’s parliament not only fails to address discrimination against women in relation to marriage, divorce and child custody but, if passed into law, would also lift the condition requiring a man to get the permission of his first wife before taking a second wife. The bill still needs further parliamentary approval and to be agreed by the Council of Guardians, but it represents a very worrying trend.
The HROK, which has over 200 members, and was founded in April 2005. The authorities have never granted it official recognition as an NGO. Its founder, Mohammad Sadiq Kabudvand, is serving an 11-year prison sentence for “acting against state security by establishing the Human Rights Organization of Kurdistan” and “propaganda against the system.” Iran’s Kurdish population live mainly in the west and north-west of the country, in Kordestan and neighboring provinces, bordering Kurdish areas of Turkey and Iraq. They have long suffered extensive discrimination. Kurdish human rights defenders, including community activists and journalists, risk arbitrary arrest and torture. Amnesty International calls for the immediate and unconditional release of Zeynab Bayzeydi.
Action: Write to His Excellency Ayatollah Mahmoud Hashemi Shahroudi, Head of the Judiciary, expressing your concern about the case of Zaynab Bayzeydi, a women’s rights activist who was sentenced to four years in prison in internal exile for her peaceful activism on behalf of women’s rights. Urge that she be immediately and unconditionally released and that all charges stemming from her peaceful activism be dropped.
His Excellency Ayatollah Mahmoud Hashemi Shahroudi
Head of the Judiciary
Howzeh Riyasat-e Qoveh Qazqiheh (Office of the Head of the Judiciary)
Pasteur ST.Vali Asr Ave., south of Seah-e Jomhouri,
Subject line: FAO Ayatollah Mahmoud Hashemi Shahroudi
Salutation: Your Excellency
I am deeply concerned that Zeynab Bayzeydi, a member of the Campaign for Equality and Human Rights Organization of Kurdistan (HROK) has been convicted of membership in unauthorized human rights associations and sentenced to four years in prison and internal exile to the Turkish-speaking city of Zanjan, far from her home.
Ms. Bayzeydi has denied being a member in an unauthorized human rights association except the Campaign for Equality. Amnesty International considers Zeydan Bayzeydi a Prisoner of Conscience. I urge you to ensure her immediate and unconditional release as she is held solely for the peaceful exercise of her rights to freedom of expression and association.