Iran: Rights Defender Dedicates Award to Women Activists
Source: Human Rights Watch
Sussan Tahmasebi Highlights Mounting Pressure Against Women
(NOVEMBER 10, 2010 - New York) - Sussan Tahmasebi, recipient of the Alison Des Forges Award for
Extraordinary Activism for 2010, dedicated her award to the imprisoned lawyer
and human rights defender Nasrin Sotoudeh and other detained women activists on
November 10, 2010. Human Rights Watch is presenting the award to Tahmasebi for
her courageous work to promote civil society and women's rights in Iran.
Tahmasebi expressed her concern about Sotoudeh's deteriorating
health. Sotoudeh has
been on a "dry" hunger strike since October 31, 2010, refusing to eat or drink
anything to protest being held in solitary confinement since her arrest on
September 4. Prosecutors charged Sotoudeh with various national security crimes,
but have not made public any information regarding the basis for these charges.
"Nasrin Sotoudeh has dedicated her life to defending the rights of the accused,
often at great risk to herself and her family," Tahmasebi said. "Now she is
behind bars, for no other reason than being unwilling to compromise with
authorities when it comes to safeguarding her clients' due process rights."
Prison officials have prevented Sotoudeh from meeting with her husband and
lawyer. Sotoudeh's health is in serious decline and she is in critical need of
emergency intervention, Tahmasebi said.
Since 2005, and especially since the disputed presidential election in June
2009, Iran has stepped up repressive measures against Iranian civil society
activists, including those who advocate women's rights and speak out against
discriminatory laws. The government has arrested scores of volunteers and
members of the One
Million Signatures Campaign, a grass-roots campaign aimed at overturning
"Iranian women in prison today include human rights activists, lawyers,
journalists, and students," said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East director at
Human Rights Watch. "What they have in common is their relentless pursuit of
justice, at great risk to themselves, their families, and their reputations."
Tahmasebi expressed particular concern about three other women sentenced to
prison for their work:
Tahmasebi also referred to the situation of several other women activists and
journalists who have been sentenced to prison terms. These women include:
- Bahareh Hedayat, the
first secretary of the Women's Commission of the Office to Foster Unity (Tahkim-e
Vahdat), and the first - and so far only - woman elected to the national
student organization's central committee. Authorities arrested her on
December 30, 2009, and charged her with various national security crimes,
including "propaganda against the system," "disturbing public order,"
"participating in illegal gatherings," and "insulting the president." In
May, Judge Moghiseh of Branch 28 of the Revolutionary Court sentenced
Hedayat to nine and a half years in prison in relation to her student and
women's rights activities. In July, an appeals court upheld the sentence.
She has remained in prison since her arrest and is currently serving her
- Jila Baniyaghoub, an
award-winning journalist and women's rights activist. Security forces
arrested her and her husband in their home on June 20, 2009. Prosecutors
charged her with "propaganda against the regime" for her journalism and
released her on bail after she spent two months in detention. Her husband,
Bahman Ahmadi Amoui, is currently serving a five-year sentence on various
national security charges related to his journalism. On June 8, a
revolutionary court sentenced Baniyaghoub to a year in prison and barred her
from working as a journalist for 30 years. In late October an appeals court
affirmed the lower court's ruling. She has not yet begun her sentence.
- Shiva Nazar Ahari, a
human rights activist who worked with the Committee of
Human Rights Reporters. Security forces arrested her
on December 20, 2009, as she and several colleagues were preparing to take a
bus to Qom to attend the funeral of Grand Ayatollah Hossein-Ali Montazeri, a
dissident cleric who long criticized the government. Prosecutors charged her
with "assembly and collusion to commit a crime," "propaganda against the
regime," and moharebeh, a vaguely defined offense meaning "enmity
against God" that carries the death penalty and is often reserved for people
accused of belonging to an organization that takes up arms against the
state. On September 18, a revolutionary court sentenced Ahari to six years
in prison, to be served in Izeh prison, 500 miles from Tehran, her home
town. Ahari's lawyer has appealed.
- Aliyeh Eghdamdoust, a
women's rights activist serving a three-year sentence for national security
crimes after taking part in a peaceful women's rights gathering at Haft-e
Tir square in Tehran on June 12, 2006.
- Shabnam Madadzadeh, deputy
chair of the Tehran Council of Tahkim-e Vahdat, the national student
organization. Authorities arrested her and her brother on
February 20, 2009. Prosecutors charged the two with moharebeh and
"propaganda against the regime" in connection with their student activities.
In February, after they spent a year in detention, Branch 28 of the
Revolutionary Court, headed by Judge Moghiseh, sentenced them to five years
in prison. Prison authorities transferred her to Rajai Shahr prison in
Karaj, where conditions are notably poor, on August 2. They have denied her
family's requests for medical leave though she reportedly suffers from
numerous physical ailments.
- Mahdieh Golroo, a
student activist and member of the Committee to Defend the Right to
Education, a group dedicated to restoring the rights of students prohibited
from continuing their college education because of their political
activities. She has been in prison since November 3, 2009. A revolutionary
court convicted her of national security crimes and sentenced her to 28
months in April 2010. Although she reportedly suffers from intestinal
problems, prison authorities have refused to grant her temporary medical
- Jila Tarmasi, a
member of a group of mothers protesting their children's detentions, who was
arrested on October 9, along with her daughter, when
security forces raided her home in Tehran. Tarmasi's daughter was released
after 12 days, but Tarmasi still remains in prison and has not been allowed
visits by her family. She joined the "Mourning Mothers," now called the
"Mothers of Laleh Park," to protest her son's detention. "Mourning
Mothers" was established in June 2009 by mothers whose children lost
their lives in state-sanctioned violence following Iran's disputed June 12
election. They used to conduct silent protests in Tehran's Laleh Park, but
security forces now prevent them from holding the protests.
- Akram Zienali, another member
of "Mourning Mothers," was also arrested on October 9 along with her
daughter when security forces raided her home in Tehran. Her daughter was
released after 12 days, but Zeinali remains in custody. Her son, Saeed
Zeinali, was a university student arrested 11 years ago after protests
erupted at Tehran University. He has since disappeared, and his mother has
been trying for years to discover his fate.
- Fatemeh Masjedi, a
member of the One Million Signatures Campaign from Qom who worked to promote
women's rights. She was charged with "spreading propaganda against the
state" and supporting a "feminist group which works in opposition to the
regime" and sentenced on August 29 to a year in prison. Her lawyer is filing
an appeal, and she has not yet begun serving her term.
- Maryam Bidgoli, another
Qom resident who is a member of the One Million Signatures Campaign and who
worked for women's rights. She was arrested and sentenced to a year in
prison along with Masjedi, on the same charges. Her lawyer is filing an
appeal and she has not yet begun serving her term.
- Mahsa Amrabadi, a
journalist who sent a public letter to the head of the Judiciary, Ayatollah
Sadegh Larijani, criticizing the arrest and detention of journalists,
including her husband, Massoud Bastani. Judge Moghiseh of Branch 28 of
Iran's Revolutionary Court sentenced her to a year inprison in October for
"acting against national security" in connection with her interviews and
reports regarding the post-election crackdown on journalists. She has not
yet appealed the decision in her case nor has she begun serving her prison
- Hengameh Shahidi, a
journalist and women's rights activist sentenced to six years in prison on
November 15, 2009, by Branch 26 of the Revolutionary Court. Security forces
arrested her on June 30, 2009, in Tehran and charged her with various
national security crimes, including "participation in illegal gatherings,"
"propaganda against the regime," and "insulting the president." After
persistent requests from her family, authorities temporarily released her
from Evin prison on October 28 so that she could undergo medical treatment
for a variety of physical ailments, including heart problems.
Tahmasebi called on the Iranian authorities to release those
who are serving prison terms or are in "temporary detention," including Nazanin
Khosravani, a journalist who was arrested by
security forces last week, and to overturn the convictions of all of the women
whose cases she highlighted.
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