Iran: Attempts to persecute human rights defender Mehrangiz Kar by silencing her husband

Mehrangiz Kar, journalist and Iranian women's rights activist, who was jailed in April 2000 for her writings and speeches on women's rights, was allowed to leave Iran for medical treatment for breast cancer in fall 2001. After she arrived in the United States, her husband, journalist Siamak Pourzand, was disappeared. He was brought to the phone a number of times to call Mehrangiz and their daughters Leila and Azadeh to pass on the message that they must refrain from speaking on his behalf and must avoid contact with the media.
Realizing the more profound danger in submitting to censorship, Mehrangiz and her daughters decided to expose the situation and spoke freely with representatives of the media. Mehrangiz has appeared on PBS television, and has spoken on VOA, BBC, NPR, and numerous European radio networks in the hope that international pressure will help save her husband. Their many attempts to get information concerning Siamak's condition and the status of his case from various government entities and several human rights organizations in Iran has met with failure. Siamak, who is being held hostage to silence his wife and daughters, is in danger of losing his life. We urge our friends and colleagues to pass on this information to their networks and to use their advocacy vehicles to bring attention to this case.
On April 30, 2000, the Islamic Republic of Iran imprisoned Mehrangiz Kar and other activists and intellectuals because they had participated in a conference on the future of Iran held in Berlin, Germany a week before. She was denied access to her lawyer and was not allowed to receive medicines during her nearly two months in solitary confinement. She was charged with "acting against the internal security of the state and disparaging the sacred order of the Islamic Republic."

Two charges were filed against her in the Islamic Revolutionary Court-- acting against national security and disseminating propaganda against the Islamic Republic of Iran-- and three additional charges in Iran's Public Court-- violating the observance of hejab, denying the Islamic instructions stated in the Qu'ran, and insulting Islam.

Such spurious charges are often used to silence and imprison political dissidents. Accusations relating to the observance of hejab are particularly common against women whom the courts wish to intimidate and harass. There was therefore grave international concern about the safety of Ms. Kar who has frequently been singled out by the regime as a foremost proponent of women's human rights in Iran.

On June 21, 2000 Mehrangiz Kar was freed on bail. She had to post the equivalent of US$60,000 for her release. Having been diagnosed with breast cancer, Ms. Kar appealed to authorities to be allowed to seek medical care in the Netherlands and the United States. Denied this humanitarian relief, Ms. Kar underwent a mastectomy and a regimen of chemotherapy of Iran. Almost concurrent with her medical treatment, her case went to trial. In January 2001, the Islamic Revolutionary Court sentenced Mehrangiz Kar to four year's imprisonment. It was considered completed in exchange for money. The three charges against her in Iran's Public Court are still open, for which she may again be arrested upon her return.
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