UPDATE: Iran: Last two women human rights defenders released from prison on heavy bail

Shadi Sadr and Mahboubeh Abasgholizadeh were released from prison on Monday. However, the charges against the two women have not been dropped and the bail has been set at an exorbitant rate.
This year, the arrival of Nourouz (the Iranian New Year, on March 21) is marked with the release of the last two detained women defenders, Shadi Sadr and Mahboobeh Abasgholizadeh; they were released on March 19.

Sadr and Abasgholizadeh were among the thirty-three women's rights defenders arrested during the peaceful March 4th demonstration in front of Tehran's Revolutionary Court. Authorities gradually released the women during the first week of the arrests. Sadr and Abasgholizadeh spent March 6 thru 15 in solitary confinement. Throughout their detainment they were kept in ward 209 of Evin Prison (run by the Ministry of Intelligence of the Islamic Republic of Iran). According to their families, on March 15 both were transferred from solitary confinement into the same cell and were given newspapers to read. As a condition of their release, their bail was set at 200 million toman each, a prohibitively high amount.

On March 15, the offices of two non-government organizations run by Sadr and Abasgholizadeh were shut down and sealed by the Revolutionary Court. One NGO, Raahi (The Path to Empowerment), which provides legal counsel for predominantly marginalized under-represented women involved in criminal and/or family law cases, was founded by Sadr. The second NGO, Markaz Karvarzi Sazmanhaye Gheyr Dolati (NGO Training Center), provides training and capacity building for civil activists and advocacy NGOs and was founded by Abasgholizadeh.

On Sunday March 4, 2007, a group of women’s right defenders gathered in front of the Revolutionary Court in Tehran to stand in solidarity with five women activists who were summoned for a previous peaceful gathering demanding equal rights. The arrest of women happened, as they demanded their constitutional right to peaceful gathering. Article 27 of the Constitution of Islamic Republic of Iran guarantees citizens the freedom to assemble peacefully. Despite such guarantee, the national security police resorted to verbal and physical violence and the arrest of thirty-three women defenders.

The Campaign to Free Women's Rights Defenders in Iran was launched immediately after the recent arrests. It has worked closely with family members and friends of detainees to protest their illegal arrest and to demand their immediate and unconditional release. The campaign has received strong support from international organizations such as Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, Human Rights First, and prominent national and international figures. These include 620 Iranian intellectuals, artists, journalists, lawyers and activists, Louise Arbour, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, and members of the German and Swedish parliaments, who appealed to the Iranian authorities for immediate and unconditional release of the women’s rights defenders. The families and friends of the two women have also lobbied with the judiciary authorities through Medhi Karrobi, the previous Chairman of the Parliament, for the release of Sadr and Abasgholizadeh before Norouz.

The organizers of the Campaign to Free Women's Rights Defenders in Iran wish to thank all the individuals and organizations whose support, coverage, and actions this success made the campaign successful.

 NB: although the women have been released from prison, the charges brought against them remain and the campaign efforts must continue to ensure these charges are dropped.

Though the women’s rights defenders have been released, the struggle for women’s human rights continues, and so do the campaigns to defend both the civil liberties and the inalienable human rights of all women in Iran. We encourage you to learn more about these campaigns, and specially the Stop Stoning Forever Campaign launched by Shadi Sadr and Mahboubeh Abasgholizadeh.

Stop Stoning Forever Campaign

Stoning is a punishment for adultery decreed by Iran’s Islamic Penal Code. Most of the condemned defendants are women. The objective of this campaign is to reform Iran’s Islamic Penal Codes that stoning will never again be issued as a sentence, or practiced as a punishment. The Network of Volunteer Lawyers involved with this campaign initiated a continuous search for people within the prisons of Iran who have been sentenced to be stoned. So far, nine women and women are being represented by the Network of Volunteer Lawyers to challenge the sentence. The Stop Stoning Forever campaign has begun through the coordinated efforts of a number of women’s non-governmental organizations, women activists and the Network of Volunteer Lawyers.

Read more at: www.StopStoning.org

For more information, please contact Soheila Vahdati soheilavahdati@gmail.com or Sanam Dolatshahi sanamid@gmail.com.