• Press Release

International Women’s Day Celebration in Iran Marred by Continued Detention of Dozens of Women, Says Amnesty International

March 27, 2011

Amnesty International Public Statement
For Immediate Release
Tuesday, March 08, 2011

International Women’s Day Celebration in Iran Marred by Continued Detention of Dozens of Women, Says Amnesty International

Contact: AIUSA media relations office, 202-509-8194

(Washington, D.C.)  Amnesty International today called on the Iranian authorities to release immediately all women detained arbitrarily in Iran, including political activists, rights defenders and members of religious and ethnic minorities.

Highlighting the cases of nine women prisoners of conscience submitted to the U.N. Commission on the Status of Women in August 2010 under its communications procedure and published today as a ten-page document, the organization deplored that despite the calls for their release or for charges against them to be dropped, Hengameh Shahidi, Shiva Nazar Ahari, Alieh Aghdam-Doust, Ronak Safazadeh, Zeynab Beyezidi, Mahboubeh Karami, Behareh Hedayat, Ma’soumeh Ka’bi, and Rozita Vaseghi  are all either imprisoned or facing imminent imprisonment.

Amnesty International also expressed concern that dozens of other women are currently detained arbitrarily, many as prisoners of conscience, for their peaceful political activities, or their work defending human rights.  Among them are prominent political activists Zahra Rahnavard and Fatemeh Karroubi, currently held in unclear conditions which may amount to enforced disappearance along with their respective husbands, the opposition leaders Mir Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi.

 Fakhrolsadat Mohtashemipour, a member of the Central Committee of the reformist opposition party, the Islamic Iran Participation Front, was arrested on March 1, 2011, apparently in reprisal for her continuing advocacy for the release of her imprisoned husband, politician Mostafa Tajzadeh, previously a Deputy Interior Minister under former President Khatami and adviser to Mir Hossein Mousavi.  On the same day, journalist Mahsa Amrabadi, who is awaiting the outcome of her appeal against a one-year prison sentence for “propaganda against the system”, was also arrested.  

Fellow journalist Nazanin Khosravani, who has written for several reformist publications and who has been detained since November 2, 2010, is facing trial on charges of “acting against national security”.  Prominent human rights lawyer Nasrin Sotoudeh, arrested on September 4, 2010, is serving an 11-year prison term imposed after conviction on the same vaguely-worded charge. 

Fatemeh Masjedi, a member of the One Million Signatures Campaign (also known as the Campaign for Equality), a grass roots initiative which campaigns for changes to Iranian legislation which discriminates against women, began serving a six-month sentence in Langaroud Prison, Qom in January 2011.  She was convicted of “spreading propaganda against the system in favor of a feminist group (the Campaign) by distributing and collecting signatures for a petition to change laws discriminating against women, and for publication of materials in support of a feminist group opposed to the system”

Many other women political prisoners and prisoners of conscience are serving long-prison terms, imposed after unfair trials.  Fariba Kamalabadi and Mahvash Sabet, two women leaders of the unrecognized Baha’i minority in Iran were sentenced with five Baha’i men in August 2010 to 20 years in prison for “crimes” including "espionage for Israel", "insulting religious sanctities" and "propaganda against the system”.  They were acquitted on appeal in September 2010 of some of the charges, including espionage, but are serving a reduced sentence of ten-years upheld on appeal, for charges including “acting against state security” and “propaganda against the system.”

 In recent weeks, they have been moved to Section 200 of Reja’i Shahr Prison (also known as Gohardasht) in Karaj, a prison notorious for its particularly harsh conditions and are reported to have received physical threats from other prisoners.  Mahdieh Golrou, a student’s and women’s rights activist arrested in December 2009, is serving a two year prison term for her peaceful activities and may have to serve a previously suspended one year prison term. She is also facing new charges relating to an open letter published in November 2010 for the occasion of Student Day in Iran.

Amnesty International urges the Iranian authorities to celebrate and support the activism of Iranian women who wish to see greater respect for rights in Iranian society, rather than to lock them up for years after unfair trials, often on vaguely worded charges relating to “national security”.

The text of Amnesty International’s submission to the Commission on the Status of Women is available at http://www.amnesty.org/en/library/info/MDE13/027/2011/en

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