UPDATE: Iran: All but three women activists freed

All but three of the 33 Iranian women's rights activists jailed on Sunday were freed Wednesday night, on the eve of International Women's Day, in exchange for a pledge not to demonstrate on 8 March.
Nevertheless, many of them and other women's rights activists protested in front of parliament in Tehran on Thursday. Meanwhile also on Thursday, teachers staged their thid strike in a week in front of parliament, demanding salary raises and that thousands of colleagues they say were fired for political reasons be reinstated to their jobs.

The women were arrested on Sunday for staging a demonstration in front of a courthouse in Tehran where five fellow women's rights activists were on trial for staging a peaceful rally against sexual discrimination in Iranian legislation last 12 June.

Three of the activists are still in Tehran's Evin prison: they are Shadi Sadr, Mahboubeh Abbasgholizadeh and Jila Baniyaghoub, three journalists who had denounced violence suffered during police questioning after their arrest.

The others arrested Sunday were reportedly freed in the middle of the night after their families were obliged to sign a document in which they promised the women would not stage rallies on International Women's Day Thursday.

Nevertheless just a few hours after their release some of those arrested staged a rally with some 200 women in front of parliament, to demand that the three still detained in Evin be freed and to celebrate International Women's Day.

Witnesses in parliament's Baharestan square reached on the phone by Adnkronos International (AKI) said police tried to remove the women by force, in vain. Fatemeh Govarai and Marzieh Mortazi Langharoudi, two of the 31 released from jail, were violently hit with batons by plainclothes officials.

March 8, 2007

This year, the International Women's Day is marked by the attack, arrest and detention of women's rights defenders in front of Tehran's Revolutionary Court. On Sunday March 4th, thirty three women were arrested following a peaceful demonstration. As of now thirty of these women have been released. Those released confirm that the remaining women (Shadi Sadr, Mahbubeh Abbasgholizadeh, and Jila Baniyaghoub) are still in ward 209 of Evin Prison (run by the Ministry of Intelligence of the Islamic Republic of Iran, designated primarily for the political prisoners). The reason for their detention is drafting a statement that called for the gathering.

On Sunday March 4, 2007, women's right defenders gathered in front of the Revolutionary Court in Tehran to protest the court proceedings of Nooshin Amhadi Khorasani, Parvin Ardalan, Shahla Entesari, Susan Tahmasebi and Fariba Davoodi Mohajer, five prominent members of Iranian women's organizations who were arrested in previous peaceful gatherings. As indicated by the women'ss right activists and their legal teams the charges are in violation of the article 27 of the Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Iran, which guarantees the citizens' right to assemble peacefully. In violation of such right, the security police forces attacked women's legal and peaceful gathering and arrested thirty-three protestors.

On March 5, fifty family members and friends of detainees gathered in front of the main entrance of Evin prison to protest the illegal arrests of their loved ones and to demand their immediate release. Consequently, prison authorities declared that Evin prison does not have the authority to release the detainees, as they are kept in ward 209, which is monitored and supervised by the Ministry of Intelligence.

In the following days, two groups of women were released from prison. This morning, at around 2:00 am, another group of fifteen women were released. It seems the reason for keeping the three women in detention is that they have accepted full responsibility for drafting the call for the gathering that took place on March 4.

Many internationally human rights and women organizations and prominent figures including Iranian political and social activists, lawyers, writers, journalists, and academics have denounced the arrest of women's rights advocates demanding their immediate and unconditional release, including Louise Arbor, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Irene Khan, Amnesty International General Secretary, Human Rights Watch, Human Rights First, Women Living Under Muslim Laws, Women's Initiative for Gender Justice and the Observatory. Yet, more women's rights advocates are being summoned to the court and threatened by arrest. This is while the authorities are promising release of more detainees.

The Campaign to Free Women Rights Defenders in Iran

The campaign has been launched immediately after the arrest of women activists by a group of transnational activists. For more information about the campaign and the complete list of supporters, please visit the site: here

Contacts For Updated and Detailed Information:

The coordinators of the Free Women's Rights Defenders in Iran Campaign are ready to provide detailed information about the status of women detainees. The coordinators are willing to put reporters and news agencies in touch with the families and lawyers of the women in custody. The campaign coordinators can be contacted by phone or email.

Soheila Vahdati, soheilavahdati@gmail.com

Sanam Dolatshahi, sanamdi@gmail.com

Still imprisoned:

Mahboubeh Abbasgholizadeh

Mahboubeh Abbasgholizadeh is the editor of the Zanan quarterly journal and is a key member of the Campaign Against Stoning. She has also served as the director of the NGO Training Center. In November 2004, Mahboubeh Abbasgholizadeh was arrested as a result of her activism on women's rights and was detained for over a month.


Shadi Sadr

Shadi Sadr is a prominent lawyer, journalist, and activist. She founded Zanan-e Iran, the first website dedicated to the work of Iranian women's rights activists, and she has written numerous articles and several books on the subject of Iranian women and their legal rights. She has represented a number of persecuted activists and journalists and has donated her time in successfully overturning the convictions of several women sentenced to execution.


Jila Baniyaghoub

Jila Baniyaghoub is a well-known journalist. She is the editor of the website of the Iranian Women's Society and the editor of the society and women's sections of Sarmaye newspaper. She is best-known for her book on Iranian women's journalism and for her reports from Iraq and Afghanistan.


Source: Meydaan