UPDATE: Iran: Amnesty International joins in support of activists arrested in Tehran

Amnesty International today called for the immediate and unconditional release of over 30 women activists who were arrested on Sunday, 4 March while staging a peaceful demonstration in Tehran. The organization believes the arrests may be intended to deter activists from organizing events to mark International Women's Day on 8 March.
More than 30 women are reportedly being held incommunicado without charge in Evin Prison in the capital, Tehran. Amnesty International believes them to be prisoners of conscience, detained solely for participating in a peaceful protest.

The women were reportedly arrested by officials of Iran's National Security Police on 4 March in the course of a peaceful demonstration outside Branch 6 of the Revolutionary Court in Tehran. According to unconfirmed reports, at least one woman, Nahid Ja'fari, was reportedly injured during her arrest, when police allegedly hit her head against a police van, breaking one or more of her teeth. She was apparently denied access to medical treatment afterwards.

Those arrested were taken immediately to the Vozara Department for Social Corruption, a detention centre usually used for people accused of minor crimes such as violations of state regulations on women's dress, which can be punished by a reprimand, fine or imprisonment. Family members of those detained went to the detention centre in an attempt to secure the release of their relatives, but were not permitted to see the women. Later on 4 March, it was reported that all those detained had been transferred to Section 209 of Evin Prison, run by the Ministry of Intelligence and outside the control of Iran’s prison service.

There are fears among Iranian human rights defenders that those arrested will be kept in detention until after 8 March, International Women's Day. This may be an attempt to prevent planned events from taking place, including a demonstration in protest at discriminatory laws due to be held in front of the Majles (Iran's parliament).
The women were protesting about the trial of five women's rights activists (Fariba Davoodi Mohajer, Shahla Entesari, Noushin Ahmadi Khorassani, Parvin Ardalan and Sussan Tahmasebi) in Branch 6 of the Revolutionary Court in Tehran on charges of "propaganda against the system", "acting against national security" and "participating in an illegal demonstration," in connection with a peaceful demonstration on 12 June 2006 demanding equal rights in law for women in Iran. The demonstration was forcibly broken up by security forces, who arrested at least 70 people. Others have also been charged in connection with the 12 June demonstration, but have not yet been summoned to court. Journalist Zhila Bani Ya'qoub, who is among those detained at Evin Prison, was tried in January 2007 and acquitted of the charge of "participating in an illegal demonstration" in relation to the 12 June demonstration.

In August 2006, Iranian women’s rights activists launched a “Campaign for Equality”, aimed at collecting one million signatures from Iranians in support of changes to the law to end legalised discrimination against women. The campaign’s website has been filtered by the Iranian authorities on several occasions in recent weeks, making it difficult for people in Iran to access information about the campaign.

Source: Amnesty International