Do Signature Campaign Activists Belong on Trial?

Campaign for Women Rights Iran – WNN Features

Nobel Laureate Shirin Ebadi speaks
Attorney, former Iran court judge and Nobel Peace Laureate, Shirin Ebadi, speaks at WSIS – World Summit of Information Society summit 2005 Image: Rik Panganiban

(WNN) TEHRAN: “The Iranian government has been asked to drop charges against four women’s rights defenders facing imminent trial, and set aside other convictions for peaceful activities to promote equal rights for women in Iran,” said humanitarian defender, Human Rights First, in a July 17 plea.

On July 14, human rights defenders Nasrin Sotoudeh and Mansoureh Shojaee appeared before the Revolutionary Court with their attorney, Nobel Peace Prize laureate Shirin Ebadi. Nasrin Sotoudeh is an attorney who has represented a number of the activists involved with the One Million Signatures Campaign, which was launched in August 2006 to raise awareness about gender discrimination in Iranian laws. Sotoudeh and Shojaee have been charged with acting against Iran’s “national security” by having unauthorized relations with “Iranians outside the country.”

Two other activists facing charges are Raheleh Asgarizadeh and Nasim Khosravi, who have been summoned to appear before the 13th Branch of the Revolutionary Court on Monday, July 20. Both women were arrested on February 14 while collecting signatures on behalf of the One Million Signatures Campaign at Daneshjoo Park in Tehran and were detained for about two weeks before being released on bail.

“The Iranian government should immediately drop all charges against these women and end the official campaign of repression against peaceful activists like them,” said Matt Easton, Director of the Human Rights Defenders Program at Human Rights First.

In addition, on July 13, student activist Bahareh Hedayat was arrested and taken to Evin Prison. Hedayat had previously received a two-year suspended sentence for participation in a women’s rights demonstration on June 12, 2006. Hedayat’s arrest is one of nearly two dozen in connection with the anniversary of the July 1999 student protests.

These arrests are just part of a crackdown against women’s rights activists that intensified two years ago with the violent break-up of a demonstration in support of gender equality on June 12, 2006. The trend has continued with the repression of individuals active with the One Million Signatures Campaign, including 44 arrests.

Human Rights First is deeply concerned about a series of recent judicial proceedings taken against human rights defenders, notably the recent conviction and sentencing of a 21 year-old student, Hana Abdi, to a prison term of five years. Abdi, a member of Azarmehr, a women’s rights organization in the Kurdistan province who was also involved with the campaign, has been detained since November 4, 2007, when she was arrested by seven security officers from her grandfather’s home in Sanandaj. She was charged with “gathering and colluding to threaten national security” under article 610 of the Islamic Penal Code. Her sentence, one of the harshest to have been meted to a women’s rights activist, is the maximum sentence allowed in such cases.

“The actions of the Iranian government violate the rights of defenders and intimidate others from further action,” said Easton . “The One Million Signatures Campaign is a non-violent way to seek much-needed change, not a threat to law and order.”

Timeline of events:

June 12, 2006

Demonstrators gathered at the Haft Tir Square in Tehran to raise awareness about gender discrimination in Iran. The peaceful demonstration was violently disrupted by the authorities; 42 women and 28 men were arrested and charged with “participation in an illegal assembly.” Prior to the June 12 demonstration, Iranian judiciary summoned and interrogated several women’s rights activists: Noushin Ahmadi Khorasani, Parvin Ardalan, Sussan Tahmassebi, Zohreh Arzani, and Fariba Davoodi Mohajer. Fariba Davoodi Mohajer was interrogated for 10 hours by the judiciary agents.

June 19, 2006

Of the 70 protesters arrested during the June 12 demonstration, only Ali Akbar Mousavi Khoini, a former member of the parliament, remained in custody. He was detained for over four months and tortured.

June 2006

Delaram Ali and other injured demonstrators filed a complaint against the police for brutally beating demonstrators during the June 12, 2006 demonstration. In October of 2007, a court dismissed all charges against the police officers present at the demonstration.

Aug. 2006

Campaign to collect 1 million signatures is commenced calling for an end to discrimination of women in Iran.

Aug. 27, 2006

The official launch of the One Million Signature Campaign is blocked by the authorities; however, activists continued to collect signatures.

January 5, 2007

Jila Baniyaghoob was charged for “acting against national security by participating in an illegal gathering,” due to her presence at the June 12, 2006 demonstration. The presiding judge subsequently dropped charges.

January 2007

Nasim Sarabandi and Fatemeh Dehdashti were arrested while collecting signatures on the metro in Tehran. They were sentenced on August 12, 2007 to six months’ imprisonment, suspended for two years.

Feb. 2007

30,000 women have signed the petition since the official Campaign kickoff in August of 2006.

March 4, 2007

26 prominent women’s rights activists were arrested during a gathering marking the International Women’s Day. Two days later, the women started a hunger strike while Shahla Entesari was being held in solitary confinement.

March 4, 2007

33 women were arrested during a silent protest in front of the Islamic Revolutionary Court in Tehran where four women were prosecuted for their involvement with the June 12, 2006 demonstration. Following international pressure, all of the women were released, the last two on March 19, 2007.

March 6, 2007

Eight youngest detainees arrested on March 4, 2007 were released without being charged.

April 11, 2007

Azadeh Forghani was sentenced to two years’ imprisonment for “acting against national security by participating in an illegal gathering.”

April 15, 2007

Mahboubeh Hosseinzadeh and Nahid Keshavarz, two women’s rights activists, were released out of prison following a two week incarceration. However, additional 11 activists were summoned by the Revolutionary Court and charged with “violating national security,” “publicity against the Islamic Republic,” and “participating in an unauthorized demonstration.”

April 18, 2007

Fariba Davoodi Mohajer and Sussan Tahmassebi were sentenced on April 18 to four years’ imprisonment for “collusion and assembly to endanger the national security” and “acting against national security,” respectively. The courts have suspended three years of Davoodi Mohajer’s sentence, leaving her to serve one year in prison. Sussan Tahmassebi’s sentence has been shortened from two years to six months. Presently, both women are free on bail pending court appeals.

April 23, 2007

Two more women’s activists were sentenced to prison, reportedly charged with “gathering and colluding to disturb national security,” “disturbing public order” and “disobeying the orders of officials.”

April 24, 2007

Noushin Ahmadi Khorasani, Shahla Entesari, and Parvin Ardalan were sentenced to three years’ imprisonment for “collusion and assembly to endanger the national security.” The courts have suspended two-and-a-half years of each sentence, leaving all three to serve six months in prison.

May 14, 2007

Activists protested the arrest of Zeinab Peyghambarzadeh, a women’s rights activist, journalist and student leader, who was arrested on May 7, 2007.

June 2007

Delaram Ali was sentenced to 34 months imprisonment and 10 lashes on charges of “participating in an illegal garthering,” “propaganda against the system,” and “disrupting public order and peace.” Due to domestic and international outcry, her sentence was temporarily stayed by the Head of Judiciary on November 10, 2007.

July 11, 2007

Amir Yaghoub-Ali, a 20-year old student, was arrested and held for a month for collecting signatures as part of the One Million Signature Campaign.

August 27, 2007

The One Million Signature Campaign celebrated its first anniversary.

 

2006 women's rights protest banner Iran
2006 protest sign – “We Condemn Any Kind of Discrimination”

September 2007

Due to his presence at the June 12, 2006 demonstration, Bahman Ahmadi Amou’I, a journalist, was sentenced to six months’ prison term, suspended for two years.

September 15, 2007

Reza Dowlatshah and 24 other people were arrested during a raid on his home where he was hosting an educational workshop for the One Million Signature Campaign. He was beaten, held for three days, and finally released.

November 18, 2007

Maryam Hosseinkhah was arrested for her involvement with the Campaign’s website. She was released on January 2, 2008 along with Jelveh Javaheri, who had been arrested on December 1, 2007. Both women were released on bail in the form of a bank check guarantee in the amount of approximately $5,500.

January 2008

Ronak Safarzadeh and Hana Abdi were arrested in October and November of 2007. As of February 2008, they continue to be imprisoned without charges or trial. As of January 2008, the One Million Signature Campaign’s website had been blocked by the authorities at least seven times. Official permission to hold public meetings has frequently been denied.

February 2008

Zanan, Iran’s premier women’s magazine, was shut down by Iranian authorities. President Ahmadinejad said that Zanan showed Iranian women in a “black light” and was a threat to the psychological well being of Iranian society.

February 14, 2008

Raheleh Asgarizadeh and Nasim Khosravi were arrested and charged with “propaganda against the state” for collecting signatures at Daneshjoo Park, following a street play about polygamy, which was performed as part of the International Fajr film festival. They were initially detained at Vozara Detention Center, with bail set at $22,222, which they were not able to pay. They were then transferred to Evin prison’s public ward, and after 13 days in captivity, the bail was reduced to $11,000 and they were released on February 26, 2008 on a third party guaranty.

February 20, 2008

Ehteram Shadfar, a member of the Mothers Committee of the One Million Signatures Campaign, is sentenced to 6 months suspended prison term for collecting signatures.

February 24, 2008

The One Million Signature Campaign was launched a year and a half ago. Since the launch, the cost of pushing this social movement forward has been the issuance of temporary detention warrants for 43 Campaign activists (ranging from one day to five months), and the issuance of suspended prison sentences (a total of 18 months). Acts of harassment and persecution happen during signature collection in public, following educational workshops, after small or large gatherings in Tehran and the provinces, and sometimes due to dissemination of news about the Campaign through its website.

March 3, 2008

Journalist and campaign organizer Parvin Ardalan is removed from a flight at Tehran International Airport, just as she is about to travel to Stockholm, Sweden to be awarded the 2007 Olaf Palme Prize for her work on gender equality. The authorities seized her passport and served her with a summons to appear in court.

April 19, 2008

The Sixteenth branch of the Revolutionary Courts issued a suspended sentence of two years in the case of Zeinab Payghambarzadeh, who was among the March 4, 2007 arrestees. Payghambarzadeh was found guilty of illegal gathering and collusion intended to disrupt national security.

April 23, 2008

The Thirteenth Branch of the Revolutionary Courts issued a suspended sentence of 6 months and 10 lashings in the case of Nahid Jafari, women’s rights activist and member of the One Million Signatures Campaign, also among the 33 women arrested on March 4, 2007. Jafari was found guilty of illegal gathering and collusion intended to disrupt national security. During her arrest, Jafari was beaten, and lodged a complaint against arresting officers, for excessive use of force. Jafari, along with her lawyer, Zohreh Arzani, intends to appeal her sentence.

April 30, 2008

The Thirteenth Branch of the Revolutionary Courts issued a 3 year suspended sentence of 6 months and 10 lashings in the case of Rezvan Moghaddam, another of the March 4 arrestees and active member of the One Million Signatures Campaign. Moghaddam was found guilty of illegal gathering and collusion intended to disrupt national security. She intends to appeal the sentence, which is suspended for the period of 3 years.

May 13, 2008

Maryam Hosseinkhah, woman’s rights activist and a founding member the Campaign was summoned to the Revolutionary Courts. Hosseinkhah, who had also participated in the March 4, 2007 protest, was initially to appear before the courts in November of 2007. At the time, however, she could not appear in court, as she was being held on security charges related to her activities with the Campaign’s website, Change for Equality, as well as the site Zanestan (the webzine of the Women’s Cultural Center).

May 17, 2008

Jelveh Javaheri, women’s rights activist and member of the Campaign, who had previously been arrested on December 1, 2007 and spent a month in prison before her release on bail, was summoned by the 13th branch of the Revolutionary Courts. Her trial is scheduled for August 2, 2008.

May 25, 2008

The Tehran Revolutionary Court sentences Amir Yaghoub-Ali, a student and a member of the One Million Signatures Petition Campaign, to one year of imprisonment for “endangering national security”. Mr. Amir Yaghoub-Ali had been arrested on July 11, 2007 as he was collecting signatures for the Campaign in a park. On July 15, he had been transferred to the Section 209 of Evin Prison, in Tehran. He remained in custody for 29 days and was then freed on bail on August 8, 2007. Eleven charges were pending against him, though no information has been obtained on the other charges. Mr. Yaghoub-Ali intends to appeal this decision.

May 26, 2008

Activist Mahboubeh Hosseinzadeh was summoned to court for trial on May 26, 2008. Hosseinzadeh was arrested on March 4, 2007 along with 32 other women’s rights activists, during a protest held before the Revolutionary Courts. Both Hosseinzadeh and her lawyer, Abdulfateh Soltani appeared in court on May 26 for the scheduled trial, but the trial was rescheduled due to the fact that the prosecutor was unable to appear in court. A court date in relation to this case has been scheduled for Hosseinzadeh for Tuesday July 1, 2008.

June 12, 2008

Women’s rights activists plan to commemorate the second anniversary of the June 12 2006 demonstration. The gathering is threatened by security forces and 9 women who had arrived at the event anyway were arrested. The women, Nafiseh Azad, Jila Baniyaghoob, Alieh Eghdamdoost, Farideh Ghaeb, Jelveh Javaheri, Sarah Loghmani, Nahid Mirhaj, Aida Saadat, and Nasrin Sotoudeh, were taken to the Vozara Detention Center, and released 8 hours later, after third parties signed for their release.

June 13, 2008

Mahboubeh Karami, a member of the Campaign was arrested in Tehran, near Mellat Park.

June 18, 2008

Judge Tayari in Branch 2 of the Revolutionary Court in Sanandaj sentences Hana Abdi, a 21 year-old student and women’s rights activist to a prison term of five years in exile in West Azerbaijan province, on charges of “gathering and colluding to threaten national security” under article 610 of the Islamic Penal Code. According to Abdi’s lawyer, Mohammad Sharif, Abdi who had been in prison since around November 4, 2007, was interrogated by Intelligence Ministry officials during her incarceration. Abdi spent two months of her imprisonment in solitary confinement. Sharif was refused access to his client during the interrogation process, which formed the basis of her conviction. Abdi’s attorney plans to appeal the decision.

June 25, 2008

Mahboubeh Karami informs her family, via telephone, that she has been transferred to the women’s ward of Evin Prison.

June 28, 2008

Campaign members Raheleh Asgarizadeh and Nasim Khosravi, have been summoned to the Revolutionary Courts. According to the summons they have to appear in the 13th branch of the Revolutionary Courts on the 20th of July, 2008. The two were arrested while collecting signatures on February 14, 2008, and have been released on bail since February 26, 2008. The July court date is in relation to charges pending against them since that arrest.

July 9, 2008

Zeinab Bayzeydi, a women’s rights activist and member of the Human Rights Organization of Kurdistan and active with the One Million Signatures Campaign in the city of Mahabad in Kurdistan Province is arrested. According to Bayzeydi’s family, Zeinab was first interrogated on Saturday July 5th for several hours, and was released. She was summoned again on July 9, and when she appeared, she was transferred to a detention center in Mahabad.

July 12, 2008

Two prominent human rights defenders, Nasrin Sotoudeh and Mansoureh Shojaee, receive summons to appear within 3 days. Sotoodeh is an attorney who has represented many of the activists involved with the Signatures Campaign and has also been active on the issue of juvenile executions. Shojaee, a member of the Signatures Campaign, is also a member of a women’s cultural center and sits on the editorial board of the website “Feminist School.” Reportedly, the summons they have received does not provide any information on the charges against them. Human rights defender and Nobel peace prize recipient Shirin Ebadi will be representing the two women.

July 12, 2008

The attorney representing Mahboubeh Karami, Houshang Poorbaaba’i reports that he referred to Branch 2 of security courts and discovered that his client’s bail has been set at 100 million tomans (in excess of $100,000) – an amount her family is unable to pay. Karami, was arrested on June 13th and while detained in the women’s ward at Evin prison, participated in a hunger strike with 9 other detainees to protest their detention and detention conditions.

July 13, 2008

Bahareh Hedayat and Mohammad Hashemi, two members of a reformist student organization (the “Office to Foster Unity”) are arrested and taken to Evin prison. The two reportedly stand accused of having relationships with “illegal and anti-revolutionary groups outside the country.” In addition to being involved in the student movement, Hedayat had been among the activists put on trial for her participation in the June 12 2006 demonstration. In that case, she had been charged with “acting against national security, “disturbing public order,” and “propaganda against the state.” For her participation in the protest, Hedayat was sentenced to a two-year suspended sentence in effect for five years.

July 14, 2008

Nasrin Sotoudeh and Mansoureh Shojaee appear before the Revolutionary Court with their attorney, Shirin Ebadi. The two are charged with taking actions against Iran’s “national security” by having unauthorized relations with “Iranians outside the country.”
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This video/film covers the history of the One Million Signatures Campaign
for women in Iran. 4:03 min.

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To help with this campaign go to:
Change4Equality
Human Rights First
Amnesty International
UNPO – Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organization
Women’s Learning Partnership

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