UPDATE: Iran: Support Iranian women - demonstration 12 June 2006

We have heard from friends who say, "Thanks to everybody who participated in this solidarity action, the website of the Iranian Presidency drastically slowed down and came to a halt several times on the 18th and 19th of June. We can be sure they have received the word. We are ending this action for now with an urgent note."
Although reports indicate that many people who were arrested on June 12 at the site of the demonstration have been released on bail, this does not show an entirely positive development in the situation. The following remain key concerns:
  1. So far, the reports issued from human rights organizations - such as Amnesty International and Human Rights First - have relied on information released by the Iranian authorities. The official number of detainees as stated by the spokesperson for Ministry of Justice did NOT include those who were arrested several hours before the demonstration and some who were picked up in the following days. There is no news on the fate of the detainees who were NOT counted in the official figures and have NOT been released. The lack of accurate and independently verifiable information about all of the individuals detained in relation to June 12th demo is a serious cause for alarm.
  2. Ali Akbar Mousavi Khoini, one of the people who is still in prison - that we know of - is in grave danger. Reports coming from Farsi language sources (http://r0ozonline.com/01newsstory/016181.shtml) indicate that the authorities are subjecting him and other political prisoners and their families to pressures to submit to forced confessions to crimes against the state and recantation of their political positions. The reenactment of the infamous tactics the Islamic government used in prisons against dissenters at the height of political repression in the 1980s signals a dangerous regression in the country's political climate. Please join the Human Rights First campaign for immediate and unconditional release of Mousavi Khoini at http://action.humanrightsfirst.org/campaign/Khoini?rk=fdMOIoK1ZBzME
  3. A few of the organizers of the 12 June demonstration who escaped the crackdown - all prominent activists in the Iranian women's movement - have been forced to go underground. There is no confirmed news of their safety.
  4. The June 12th detainees who were released have had to put up bail and must attend the Revolutionary Court (dadsaray-e enghelab) again on as yet unclear charges. Given their large number and the limited and already-stretched resources of human rights lawyers and activists in Iran, the adequacy of their legal defense is a matter of concern.
  5. Although not directly related to the 12th June events, the continued imprisonment of the prominent Iranian-Canadian scholar Ramin Jahanbegloo in spite of international campaigns for his release is an indication of the ongoing highly dangerous conditions for Iranian dissenters, women and men. (http://hrw.org/english/docs/2006/05/05/iran13312.htm)
It is highly important to continue to remain engaged and vigilant. With over one hundred years of recorded history, the indigenous women's movement in Iran has consistently been a strong political force and thus a main target of repressive and coercive politics. (http://www.merip.org/mero/mero061606.html) The current international political climate caused by the US administration's pressures on Iran to abandon the development of nuclear power has created the perfect excuse for the Iranian government to increase its campaign of domestic repression under the banner of national unity and defense of Iranian sovereignty- similar to what happened 25 years ago with the start of the Iraq-Iran war - and divert national and international attention away from Iran's indigenous movement for democratic change. In this process, Iranian women's movement for equal rights once again is becoming the prime target of the Islamic fundamentalist government.

We strongly condemn the neo-colonial wars in the Middle East and the domestic and international aggression by the U.S. administration and its allies, and oppose their interventionist and capitalist expansionist politics that are hidden under the facade of "international security," "liberating the people," and "democratizing the states". It is quite clear from the current situations in Afghanistan and Iraq that their Western-instituted states are perfectly willing to deny and compromise - in their constitutions and in practice - women's demands for social equality and freedom.

While it is necessary to be vigilant against racism and propaganda directed at Islamic and other immigrant communities in the Western countries, we would like to remind the progressive international and feminist communities that the enemy of our enemy is not our friend. It is possible to oppose anti-Islamic racism in the West and simultaneously stand in solidarity with indigenous women's rights and other democratic movements in Islamic countries and diasporic communities. There must be no ethical and political confusion and compromise: Equal rights are women's rights, the world over.

Pending the news from Iran, we may have to call for another solidarity action. The action site will be updated as necessary. Please stay alert and engaged.

We thank Creative Response, OpinionWare and Electronic Disturbance Theatre for their support of this action.

For equality and peace,

Sirens of Solidarity

Published in The Iranian Times web newspaper
UPDATE (20 June, 2006, 2:56 pm EDT)
In the past week friends sent the following statement which provides information about the course of events (to the best of their knowledge). They asked you to issue statements condemning the violence and asking for the release of all those still in prison.

We are especially worried about those who are still being detained and those who will in all likelihood be interrogated. Particualry we are concerned with the situation of Mr. Mousavi Khoini, head of the Alumni Association of Iran (One of the leading student support organizations). Mr. Mousavi has been reportedly beaten in prison, and has suffered great injuries. He is a leading student rights and human rights activist and was a member of the reformist parliament. During his term in parliament (he was nominated by student groups as a candidate) he was a leading voice in support of imprisoned students and intellectuals, and in support of human rights.

In an effort to protect women's rights activists, it is also important not to attribute this protest to one particular organization or group of persons in your statements. In fact, this was a joint effort of 100s of women's rights activists.
Support Iranian Women, Condemn Violence and Arrests of Peaceful Activists

The peaceful women's rights protest demanding changes to family laws and legal discrimination against women, which took place between 5:00-6:00pm on June 12, 2006, in 7 th of Tir square, in Tehran, ended in extreme violence when police attacked the crowd with batons, and pepper gas. A large number of police and security forces arrived at the scene hours prior to the scheduled event in an effort to prevent the protest from taking shape. Despite this, it is estimated that several thousand protesters were dispersed throughout 7th of Tir Sqaure, which is one of the main squares of Tehran. The female police forces brought to the scene were especially brutal in their treatment of protesters. Even small crowds were attacked and beaten violently in an effort to prevent the protesters from forming a large crowd. Besides female police, there were plain clothes security forces present at the scene.

Prior to the protest, a massive campaign of harassment against those who had endorsed the protest was carried out by security forces. Scores of women were summoned to court and interrogated, including women's rights activists, student activists and webloggers, who had spread word about the protest. In an effort to stop the protest, several prominent women's rights activists were issued summons in the middle of the night on Saturday and on the days leading up to the protest. Since then, others have been summoned for interrogation by phone or in writing. Some of these women include: Noushin Ahmadi Khorasani, Parvin Ardalan, Sussan Tahmasebi, Farnz Seify and Fariba Davoodi Mohajer, to name a few. Only Fariba Davoodi Mohajer received her summons in person. Others were not at home or at their offices when agents arrived to issue summons. Ms. Fariba Davoodi Mohajer was issued a summons in person at 11:00pm on Saturday, and subsequently spent 10 hours in interrogation on the 12th of June. She was then released on her own recognizance. Since then, she has been called in for interrogation again.

On Monday morning, the day of the protest, another endorser of the event, Shahla Entesari, a Women's Rights Activist was arrested in her place of employment. It has been reported that Ms. Entesari was released from prison on July 14th, after countless hours of interrogation.

According to reports from the Minister of the Judiciary, Mr. Karimi Rad, 70 persons were arrested during the course of this protest, 42 women and 28 men. These include a large number of women's rights activists, student activists, human rights defenders, and ordinary citizens. According to unofficial reports, those arrested are being held in Evin prison. It is also reported that a small number of those arrested were released on the 13th and 14th of June. It has been reported that those arrested are being charged with actions against national security.

The names of those arrested and released are unsubstantiated. But thus far, the following persons have been reported as arrested:

Delaram Ali, Women and student rights activist (reportedly freed on June 14)
Jila Baniyaghoob, Women's rights activist and journalist
Taraneh Bani Yaghoob, Women's rights activist and journalist (reportedly released on June 14)
Farahnaz Sharifi, Women's rights activist and film-maker
Bahmane Ahmadi Amouie, Author
Shahla Entesari, Women's Rights Activist (Arrested the morning of the protest and reportedly released on June 14th.)
Nasim Soltan Beigi, Women’s Rights Activist

Student rights activists reported as arrested, include:

Ali Akbar Mousavi Khoini, head of the Alumni Organization of Iran, A leading student rights group, and a human rights defender
Farnaz Moayerian, Allameh University Student Activist
Fereshteh Habibollahi, Sharif University Student Activist
Leila Mohseni Nejad, Amir Kabir University Student Activist
Samira Sadri, Member of the Central Council of the Alumni Organization of Iran (reportedly released on June 14)
Bahareh Hedayat, Head of the Women's Commission of the Office to Foster Unity (leading student organization)
Atefeh Yousefi, Sharif University Student Activist
Ali Roozbehani, Sharif University Student Activist
Siamak Taheri, Journalist (reportedly released on June 14)
Leila Mohsenizadeh, Amir Kabir University Student Activist
Vahid Mir Jalili, Sharif Universtiy Student Activist
Amin Ghole'ie, Isfahan University, Student Activist

The violent dispersal of peaceful protesters and the arrests that ensued is in direct violation of the Iranian constitution which guarantees freedom of assembly and peaceful protest. Furthermore, the violent treatment of these peaceful protesters by police is in direct violation of Article 19 of Universal Declaration on Human Rights, which guarantees freedom of speech and assembly and to which Iran is a signatory.

It should be noted that despite the unprecedented pressure placed on student groups in recent months, they turned out in full support of the women's protest. Mr. Ali Akbar Mousavi Khoini, Head of the Alumni Organization of Iran, and a well known human rights advocate, was violently beaten while being taken into custody. Later in prison, after refusing to put on a prison uniform and objecting to illegal arrests of protester, he was beaten further. It is reported that he has suffered extreme injuries due to these beatings.

Despite reports indicating otherwise, this protest was planned by a broad coalition of women's rights activists. In fear of reprisal, no Iranian NGOs sponsored the event. Instead a large number of individuals spontaneously spread word about the protest. Nearly 2000 signatures were collected in support of the protest. Over 50 international organizations expressed their support for women's rights activists in Iran and their protest, including several leading international women's rights organizations and human rights organizations.

Last year, on the 22nd of Khordad (June 12th), a broad coalition of women and women's groups organized a similar protest demanding equal rights under the law. This event was held in front of Tehran University and drew 1000s of protesters. Last year, these women promised to continue to push for their demands, if the government was unresponsive. Many of them were subsequently called in for interrogation and their organizations were pressured and threatened.

Despite the violence they faced, women's rights activists in Iran will continue to press for their rights and changes to Iran's legal code, in the hopes of ending all forms of legal discrimination against women.

We urge the international community to press Iranian officials for an immediate release of those detained and to stop its harassment of women's rights activists, human rights defenders and their organizations. We also urge the international community to press the Iranian officials to end all forms of legal discrimination against women.