Iran: Human Rights Groups Protest imminent imprisonment of Delaram Ali

Seven leading international human rights organizations today demanded that the Iranian authorities immediately set aside the prison sentence against a women’s rights defender, and drop charges against others facing trial because of their peaceful activities demanding equal rights for women in Iran.
Amnesty International (AI), Equality Now (EN), the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), Front Line (FL), Human Rights First (HRF), Women Living Under Muslim Laws (WLUML) and World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT) were reacting to news that 24 year old social worker and women’s rights defender Delaram Ali faces imminent imprisonment. In July 2007, she was sentenced to 34 months in prison and to a 10 lash flogging on charges of "participation in an illegal gathering," "propaganda against the system" and "disrupting public order and peace." These charges were brought against her after she participated in a peaceful demonstration in Tehran’s Haft Tir Square on 12 June 2006 calling for an end to discriminatory legislation against women. She was beaten by police during her arrest and had her left hand broken. At her trial, her defence lawyer was not allowed to speak and address the court in her defence.

Delaram Ali received a phone call from the authorities on 4 November 2007 in which she was told that her appeal against conviction and sentence had been completed and that she should report to the court by 10 November for the sentence to be carried out. She was warned that, if she failed to do so, she would face arrest. She was told that her prison sentence had been reduced to 30 months’ imprisonment and the flogging sentence had been commuted, but as yet, neither she nor her lawyers have received any other notification – under the law, she should be issued with the court’s written verdict.

Several other women’s rights defenders have been sentenced to prison terms in connection with the June 2006 demonstration but all are currently free awaiting the outcome of appeals. If Delaram Ali is imprisoned, she will be the first to have her sentence implemented.

The authorities have also been harassing members of the Campaign for Equality, launched shortly after the 12 June 2006 demonstration, which aims to collect a million signatures of Iranians to a petition demanding an end to legislation, which discriminates against women. More than a dozen people have been arrested while collecting signatures. Most recently, Ronak Safarzadeh and Hana Abdi, active members of the Campaign in Kordestan province, were detained on 9 October and 4 November and are currently held without charge or trial in Sanandaj, apparently by local officials from the Ministry of Intelligence.

Amnesty International, Equality Now, FIDH, Front Line, Human Rights First, Women Living Under Muslim Laws and OMCT would regard the imprisonment of Delaram Ali, solely for her peaceful actions as a defender of women’s rights, as a gross violation of her rights to freedom of expression and association. Her summons appears to be part of a deliberate campaign by the Iranian authorities to intimidate human rights activists and wider civil society in Iran, where an unprecedented crack down on peaceful dissent is underway.

In addition, the above-mentioned organisations expressed concern at the degree to which Iranian security forces who ill-treat detainees during arrest are able to act with impunity. Delaram Ali lodged a complaint against her ill-treatment during arrest, along with the others who were beaten, but in October 2007, despite the existence of photographs of the demonstration showing ill-treatment, and the medical evidence presented, the case against the police officers who had been present at the demonstration was dismissed.


An Open Letter by Delaram Ali posted Friday, 2 November 2007 on the One Million Signatures website:

"Lamenting a Dream"

Translated by: Sussan Tahmasebi

"These days it seems that our writings have been transformed into lamentations, for an elegy which you have created for us—lamentations for Zeinab, Nahid, Mahboubeh, Bahareh, Amir and now for Ronak.

What have you done to us? What have you done that has transformed the ring of the telephone into an alarm of danger? What have you done to transform the sound of the door bell into a fear of the repetition of nightmares of the past?

My Brother, do you know that these days I have a dream. I dream that a few of us have gathered in a small park, I am not sure where, and we are engaged in conversation so that perhaps we can convince one of the passersby to sign our petition. The guard at the park approaches us, and when he reaches us he offers us tea. When I wake the lamentation remains, but has been transformed into a dream. The truth is that this time a young woman is imprisoned, someone who lives in another city, her words are warm and sweet and without reservation, and her accent is colored by resistance. Her mother says that they have stormed and searched their home. She says that these days she has heard only ill words from you. She says that you have taken the signatures that Ronak had in their home. Thank you. I hope that you will receive your due reward in this effort.

The reward is great, remember not to settle for less than its worth. For each of the signatures you have claimed, much energy has been expended. At least 15-30 minutes for each signature. You do the math, I just don’t want to us to feel indebted to you.

By the way, I just wanted to mention before you turn in the signatures at least take a look at them. Perhaps in their midst you will find the name of your wife, or sister, your mother or daughter. You see awareness spreads in this way. Now you should go and arrest your own daughter, condemn your wife to the home, chastise your sister and mother. My brother, we have moved beyond these tactics, the seeds have been sown, and no doubt they will bear fruit, the sweetness of which we will taste for years to come.

My brother, this time when you return to your office, look through the signatures to see whose names will be make into the pages of history. Believe me, history is not marked by nor does it cease to exist with your desk drawer nor the paper files which make up the cases against us."

-- Delaram Ali

WLUML/Amnesty International