Friday, September 5, 2008

Iranian Womens' Rights Activists Jailed

From SignOn San Diego:
"Iran has sentenced four women's rights activists to six months in jail, including one who was awarded a $75,000 human rights prize in Sweden this year, campaigners said on Wednesday.

It was the latest sign of a clampdown on activists working to change legislation which they say discriminates against women in the Islamic Republic.

Dozens of activists have been detained over the last two years and several have received mostly suspended prison terms.

'This is part of a backlash against women's rights activists who demand equal rights in a patriarchal system,' campaigner Sussan Tahmasebi said about this week's sentencing by a court.

She said Parvin Ardalan, Maryam Hosseinkhah, Jelveh Javaheri and Nahid Keshavarz would appeal. Their defence lawyers include Shirin Ebadi, Iran's 2003 Nobel Peace Prize laureate.

The activists write on women's issues on the Internet and were accused of actions against national security by spreading propaganda against the state, a common charge against dissenting voices in Iran.

The activists say women in Iran face institutionalised discrimination that makes them second-class citizens in divorce, inheritance, child custody and other aspects of life.

Iran dismisses accusations it discriminates against women, who are legally entitled to hold most jobs and can vote.

Ardalan, 41, received a two-year suspended jail sentence earlier this year for her role in an activists' gathering in 2007. This followed a partly suspended three-year prison term for involvement in another banned demonstration in 2006. "

From One News (NZ):
"Campaigners say close to 50 of them have been detained since the drive began in 2006, in what Western diplomats see as part of a wider crackdown on dissent. Most were freed within days."

From The Guardian:
"Four women's rights campaigners in Iran have been sentenced to six months in jail just as activists were celebrating a rare success, having persuaded MPs to shelve a bill that would have made it easier for men to have more than one wife.

A court convicted Parvin Ardalan, Maryam Hosseinkhah, Jelveh Javaheri and Nahid Keshavarz of spreading propaganda against Iran's Islamic system. The sentencing is the latest in a series of draconian punishments meted out to campaigners who claim women suffer systematic discrimination.

For the past three years she has edited Zanestan, an online women's rights magazine. She received a two-year suspended sentence this year for her part in a gathering in March 2007 that was violently broken up by police, and was also given a partially suspended three-year sentence for her role in another demonstration a year earlier.

About 50 campaigners are believed to have been detained or sentenced since the One Million Signature campaign started two years ago.

News of the sentences emerged after Iran's conservative-dominated parliament bowed to campaigners' pressure by effectively rejecting the family support bill, tabled by President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's government, which would have allowed husbands to take a second wife without the consent of the first. Polygamy is widely frowned upon in Iranian culture, although men are allowed up to four wives under the country's Islamic laws."

From CNW Group:
"Reporters Without Borders is outraged by the six-month prison sentences which a Tehran court has passed on four cyber-feminists - Parvin Ardalan, Jelveh Javaheri, Maryam Hosseinkhah and Nahid Keshavarz - on charges of "publishing information against the government" under article 500 of the Islamic criminal code.

The four, who are still free pending the outcome of their appeals, were prosecuted for writing articles for two online newspapers that defend women's rights in Iran - Zanestan ("Women's City) and Tagir Bary Barbary ("Change for Equality").

Under article 500 of the Islamic Republic's criminal code, "anyone who undertakes any form of propaganda against the state will be sentenced to between three months and one year in prison." Nobel peace prize winning lawyer Shirin Ebadi, who is acting for the cyber-feminists, says they plan to appeal.

She told Reporters Without Borders: "These four journalists have been convicted just for writing articles and criticising laws that are unfair to Iranian women (...) I am worried because I see the situation getting worse. If parliament ratifies the new law increasing sentences for crimes against society's moral security, bloggers could get prison sentences."

Ardalan, who edits the Tagir Bary Barbary website, has already been convicted three times on similar charges, and has a one-year prison sentence and suspended sentences of five and a half years in prison hanging over her.

Javaheri, 30, writes for Tagir Bary Barbary. She was already arrested with Keshavarz on 14 February for "attacking state security." She was previously held from 1 December to 3 January in Evin prison (in north Tehran) with Hosseinkhah on charges of disturbing public opinion, publishing false information and publicity against the Islamic Republic for writing articles demanding recognition of women's constitutional rights.

Keshavarz, who writes for both Tagir Bary Barbary and Zanestan, was already arrested twice and interrogated by intelligence officers for participating in two street demonstrations in defence of women's rights. She spent 12 days in prison in April 2007. She currently has three complaints pending against her.

Hosseinkhah, 32, also writes for both websites. She was held in Evin prison from 18 November to 3 January with Javaheri. She currently has two cases pending against her.

Meanwhile, Jila Bani Yaghoub, a journalist who writes for the Sarmayeh daily newspaper and the Canon Zeman Irani website, was summoned by a Tehran revolutionary court on 2 September without any charge being specified. She was arrested with eight other journalists on 12 June while covering the third anniversary of the biggest-ever feminist protest in the capital - on 12 June 2005. They were released the next morning.

Iran was ranked 166th out of 169 countries in the latest Reporters Without Borders world press freedom index."

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