Women's rights activists in Iran face imprisonment
Activists campaigning for gender equality in Iran are unable to
exercise their rights to freedom of expression and association, as
shown by a number of recent arrests.
Many of those arrested are supporters of the Campaign for Equality, a network which works to end legal discrimination against women.
The Campaign for Equality
Some of the activists arrested this year were collecting signatures for
the Campaign in its bid to collect one million signatures from the
Iranian public to a petition against laws discriminating against women
in Iran. In addition to the petition, the campaign also runs a website
to provide information and a forum for debate, and works with
grassroots organizations expose the problems women face and inform them
of their rights.
Arrests of activists
The group have faced various obstacles in their efforts as authorities have stifled the debate on gender equality, including dismissal from work and threatening phone calls after hosting meetings.
On 4 March of this year, 33 women were arrested while protesting
peacefully outside the court room where five women were tried in
connection with a demonstration held on 12 June 2006 to demand that
women be given equal rights with men under the law in Iran,. The June
demonstration was violently dispersed by security forces, who arrested
at least 70 people. All had been released by 19 March but are still
under the threat of prosecution. A demonstration held for women’s
rights in front of Iran’s parliament on 8 March, International Women’s
day, was forcibly broken up by security forces, who are said to have injured several women.
In April, five women were arrested while collecting signatures in a
Tehran park. Three of these women were released the following day,
though Mahboubeh Hossein Zadeh and Nahid Keshavarz were released on
bail after thirteen days of detention. They were reportedly accused of
“acting against state security”.
Zeinab Peyghambarzadeh, a student and women’s rights activist who is
involved in the Campaign for Equality, was detained on 7 May 2007,
after being summoned to court in connection with her participation in
the 4 March gathering. She was released on bail on 16 May, after court
officials had repeatedly obstructed her father’s attempts to meet the
bail payment. She had also spent four days in detention in January 2007
while collecting signatures on the Tehran metro.
Nasim Sarabandi and Fatemeh Dehdashti were the first activists to be
tried and sentenced for peacefully collecting signatures. On 12 August
2007, they were sentenced to six months’ imprisonment, suspended for
two years, on the charge of “acting against national security through
the spread of propaganda against the system”. They had been detained
briefly in January 2007.
Discrimination in law
Women in Iran face widespread discrimination under the law. They are
excluded from key areas of political participation and do not have
equal rights with men in marriage, divorce, child custody and
Earlier this year, Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Shirin Ebadi and Irene
Khan, Secretary General of Amnesty International, denounced
“As long as women are denied human rights, anywhere in the world, there can be no justice and no peace”.
However, the arrests continue. Amir Yaghoub-Ali, a male activist, was
arrested on July 11 while collecting signatures in support of the
Campaign for Equality. He has since been released, but remains at risk
Amnesty International calls on the Government of Iran to urgently abolish laws that discriminate against women, and to drop all charges against
these women’s rights activists, who have been exercising their
internationally recognized rights to freedom of expression and
association in collecting signatures and protesting peacefully. Anyone
detained solely in connection with such activities would be a prisoner