Hope for Release of Some of the Detained Women
Yesterday’s inquiries by families of more than 33 women’s rights activists, arrested on Sunday and transferred to Evin Prison’s 209 Block, was faced with silence of judicial authorities who refused to disclose the reasons for the arrests. Evin Prison has again become a holding place for women in peaceful search for their rights. Nevertheless, in late hours of last night, authorities contacted several families and instructed them to appear at the court for bail proceedings.
After a long wait in front of Evin Prison, families of arrested women issued a statement, requesting the authorities to provide information. The statement expresses: “With 24 hours past the arrest of 33 journalists and women’s rights activists, as their families, we continue to have no information about their situation. Ever since the arrests took place, we have been unable to receive any responsible communication about the situation of those detained, and in spite of the cooperative promises of several judicial and police authorities, no news has been disclosed to their families in attendance by Evin Prison. As family members of the detained individuals, we request immediate release of information about their circumstances, and hope to see them released as soon as possible.”
A women’s activist in Tehran told Rooz that interrogation of detainees commenced yesterday, and it appears those who don’t have a previous record will be released today (Tuesday). Those with a previous legal record will continue to remain in prison pending further interrogation. According to this women’s rights activist, herself among those appearing at Evin Prison today, if all arrested women, who have performed no illegal act are not released tomorrow, it will indicate that District Attorney’s authorities have used the peaceful gathering of last Sunday as an excuse to disrupt plans underway for March 8th (International Women’s Day). “Over the past several years, some of the same women were summoned by security organizations just prior to the March 8th gatherings, in order to hamper their activities for this day. Of course those summonses have not worked before, but I think they hope to impede the assembly.”
Tehran District Attorney, on whose orders these individuals were arrested, has not provided any explanation. District Attorney of Tehran has played a pivotal role in arrests of activists in political, internet, women’s rights, and human rights realms. In order to restrict social activities, even peaceful assemblies permitted under Islamic Republic of Iran’s laws have not been tolerated by Tehran District Attorney’s Office. Detainment of 33 women’s rights activists, some of whom have been social activists for decades, is the most comprehensive arrest of its kind.
Sohrab Soleimani, Chief Director of Tehran Prisons has said that families can see the judge in charge in order to seek information about their relatives. According to Prison authorities, should an order for release be issued, families will be contacted.
Free Our Friends
Women’s Cultural Center, a women’s rights organization, which has assumed an active role in informing and addressing women’s issues, in a statement has objected to the arrests. Some of the original members and affiliates of this Center, such as Nooshin Ahmadi Khorasani, Parvin Ardalan, Nahid Jafari, Maryam Hosseinkhah, and Nahid Keshavarz are among those arrested. “Detainment of 33 women’s movement activists on March 4th, displays the special awareness of the legislative and judicial authorities towards women’s rights and their demands on the threshold of the International Women’s Day. Physical abuse by Police forces at the Revolutionary Court, transfer of arrested individuals to Vozara Detention Center for Fight Against Social Corruption, and later to Evin Prison, displays a violent approach by the authorities towards women’s equality movement. Contrary to these efforts, the joint communiqué of various groups, and presence of different organizations active in women’s movement, all objecting to the way these women were arrested and interrogated, has revived the women’s movement.
While objecting imprisonment of their affiliates and six dedicated members of their organization (Nooshin Ahmadi Khorasani, Parvin Ardalan, Nahid Jafari, Maryam Hosseinkhah, Nahid Keshavarz, and Maryam Mirza), and the subsequent uncertainty around their fate, Women’s Cultural Center has demanded immediate release of all prisoners and a hault to summonses, arrests, and threats issued on all those active in women’s movement. Sussan Tahmasebi, Mahboubeh Hosseinzadeh, and Asieh Amini are members of Koneshgaran Institute, and Mahboubeh Abbasgholizadeh, Shadi Sadr, and Nasrin Afzali are members of Women’s Field Website (Meidan), who are active in social education and promotion of women’s issues. All women are activists, authors, journalists, and lawyers.
Meanwhile, various women’s groups continue to invite all to events related to International Women’s Day on March 8th. An invitation has been issued for an assembly on March 8th, 17th of Esfand, to renew commitment and to express support for elimination of discrimination and inequality and injustice against women, from 2 to 3 p.m. in front of the main gate of Iranian Parliament (Majles).
Kayhan and Obliteration of the Million Signature Campaign
Yesterday’s issue of Kayhan, attacked the One Million Signatures Campaign, which is a peaceful activity in support of law changes in the country, relating it to intelligence services of Holland and US, and announcing it an activity “fed by $57 million and €51 million budgets of Holland and US.” In another section, it unveiled plans against women.
Kayhan Newspaper, which in the case of other arrests had published pieces revealing interrogation questions of Information Ministry of Iran, as well as those of parallel intelligence organizations, has published unfounded accusations which have never been proven in any court of law.
Kayhan says: “The One Million Signatures Campaign, with the slogan of ‘Change for Equality’ began work six months ago, now forms the largest coalition among seculars, liberals, and atheists, and is a convergence to join rebels with those who claim to be reformists, and people like Simin Behbahani, Shirin Ebadi, Shahla Sherkat, Moniroo Ravanipoor, Farhad Aeesh, Jafar Panahi, Farideh Gheirat, and political activists such as Fatemeh Rakeii (Chair of Women’s Faction in Sixth Parliament), Zahra Eshraghi (Counsel of Women’s Affairs to Khatami’s Ministry of Interior), Zohreh Aghajari, Zahra Noori, Fakhrosadat Mohtashamipoor (Head of Mosharekat’s Committee on Women), Azar Mansouri (Deputy Chair of Mosharekat Party) were among them.”
While the unprecedented arrests of 33 social activists for women’s rights is considered total obliteration for the Campaign by Kayhan Newspaper, it continues: “In spite of this haphazard coalition, after six months of activity of this Campaign, and establishment of educational workshops by its principles, signs of the Campaign’s obliteration are apparent on the threshold of International Women’s Day (March 8th).”
This newspaper denies violent actions of the Police, and reports obliteration of the One Million Signatures Campaign, in an attempt to define the main objectives of the raid in between the lines. “After this gathering, opposition media, in their continued efforts to publish false news, have claimed that Police have been abusive in the face of this illegal congregation. With obliteration of the Campaign, and its turning into a ’50 Signatures Campaign!’ currently all opposition media, through aggrandizement of these individuals and discounting the decreasing forces of regime opposition, have planned a psychological warfare and news fabrication with the aim of confronting the people and the Police.”
Kayhan then attempts to drive an opposite meaning to the word “campaign,” saying: “Campaign means battle, attack, as well as non-military and publicity confrontation, and as the movement in this special news bulletin is recognized by the same name among anti-revolutionary groups, we decided not to use an equivalent Farsi word for it.” The article also attempts to tie activities of Iranian women towards achievement of their rights to individuals outside of Iran, in order to provide a foundation for intelligence organizations to retaliate with the named individuals.
(My piece published at Roozonline on Tuesday)
Update: Eight of the arrested women released on Monday. They Confirmed that the others are on a humnger strike.