London, Paris, Tehran,14 June (Rooz Online-IPS) The peaceful rally by Iranian women on 13 June to protest gender discrimination was suppressed, in the words of a journalist, “by unprecedented violence”. The following is a report by Dana Shahsavari, a journalist who witnessed to the event and the accompanying violence.
The presence of the police was overwhelming. All the streets leading to 7 Tir Square in Tehran where the rally was planned to be held were blocked by the police.
The policewomen, 200 of whom had recently been promoted to the rank of officer, were even harsher than their male colleagues.
At a park close to the square, some 30 special guard agents sat on the ground, waiting for the women to arrive. At about a quarter to five, about 10 women arrived and sat on the grass and the benches. Soon their numbers increased and some carried placards without handles. Some of them even had slogans written on pieces of paper that they displayed.
At this time some of the police agents approached the women and forcefully snatched the placards that the women were holding. The women had not even started chanting slogans before they were attacked. Women police wearing black veils were also present and sprayed the demonstrating women’s overcoats and their scarves with red paint. This of course soon differentiated the protesting women from others.
The rule was that if you remained stationary in the park or the streets, the police considered you to be a participant in the rally. If you moved around or walked, then you may have been deemed to be a passer-by.
I was told to leave the scene by the police as well, as I stood watching. When I returned a few minutes later, there was no trace of the women demonstrators. I asked some people who were there and they said that the women were attacked with batons, causing some of them to leave the scene while some were forced into police vans and taken away.
After the attack, those who were in the park moved to the square. Soon their numbers grew so large that it was impossible to simply pass through the square. But as the number of women participants increased, so did the number of police and security agents who mistreated anyone they suspected of being a participant in the rally, regardless of their gender.
The policewomen, 200 of whom had recently been promoted to the rank of officer, were even harsher than their male colleagues. One policewoman chased a man while shouting insulting words at him, words that were insulting from a man’s perspective.
But the rally did not comprise of women alone. Men accompanied many women. At the Metro station near the square, there were more men and they too shouted slogans in support of women’s rights.
This meeting was held despite the fact that a group of Iranian women activists had been summoned to courts and security/intelligence offices and warned about the rally, calling it illegal. Women still went and made their calls known.
Shahsavari reports that for about 2 hours the complete square was blocked from through fare because of the number of participants in the rally, which included women and men.
While initially women had planned to limit their gathering to the northern end of the square, but because of the pressures exerted by plain-clothes-men, uniformed police and security/intelligence agents, people from the whole area joined the rally.
The tactic that the police used to disrupt the rally was that as soon as they would see a women break away from a group, policemen would rush to her and spray her veil and face, and then detail her. The police were so violent in their methods that many women’s scarves or even overcoats would be torn. According to Shahsavari, the police had brought in a large number of vans and filled them with whoever they could arrest.
The Student Human Rights Committee announced that about 70 individuals had been arrested in connection with the rally, a report confirmed on Wednesday by the Judiciary.
Those arrested include Ayatollah Mousavi Kho’einiha, (the General Secretary of a student organization), Samira Sadri (a woman activist), Bahareh Hedayat (Secretary of the women’s committee of Daftare Tahkim Vahdat, or the Office for Consolidating Unity, Iranian students largest organisations), Zhila Bani-Yaghoub (journalist and woman activist), Bahman Ahmadi Amouie (writer), Atefeh Yusefi (secretary of the Islamic Society of Sharif University), Ali Roozbehani (student female activist at Sharif University), Siamak Taheri (journalist), Leyla Mohseni (female student activist from Polytechnic University), Vahid Mir-Jalili (student activist from Isfahan University), Massoumeh Loghmani (female student activist from AlZahra University), Amin Fatemeh (female student activist from Isfahan University), Delaram Aramfar, Delaram Ali (female student activist from Tehran University), Leyla Farhadpout (female journalist), A’zam Elhami (female human rights and children’s rights activist), Shohre Keshavarz (female human rights and children’s rights activist), Zahra Hayat Gheybi (wife of Mansour Hayat Gheybi, member of board of directors of Sherkat Vahed, or Tehran United Bus Company), etc
Ayatollah Mousavi Khoeiniha, the prominent cleric once an aide to Grand Ayatollah Khomeini, was arrested at the rally while being violently beaten and pushed to the ground by the police.
There are conflicting reports as to where the arrested individuals are being kept at Evin detention centre. Some, such as Shahla Entesari, were even arrested from their homes and taken to a prison. The homes of Noushin Ahmadi Khorasani and Pavin Ardalan too were stormed by security agents with the purpose of arresting them, but they were not at home. Unconfirmed reports say that other family members of Parvin Ardalan were arrested with the purpose of pressuring the family for Parvin’s arrest.
The Judiciary confirmned the arrest of 70 individuals in connection with the rally.
More than 200 leading Iranian scholars, intellectuals, journalists, artists and political activists from both inside and outside the country, in a petition, protested to the police brutalities against the demonstrators, stating that not only such demonstrations were legal under Iranian Constitution, but the Tuesday meeting was a protest movement to denounce segregation against women under Islamic laws that regards women as half of men in social rights, that gives men the right to repudiate their wives without explanations, that gave men the right of having four wives, that do not allow women travelling or working without authorisation from husbands or brother or the father etc..
Abbas Amir Entezam, Iran’s and probably the world’s longest political prisoner, Mrs. Shirin Ebadi, Nobel Peace laureate, Akbar Ganji, Iran’s veteran journalist who was awarded the Golden Pen of the World’s Association of Newspapers, Kambiz Rousta, a political activist living in Germany, Mrs Fariba Davoudi Mohajer, a journalist, Ms. Simin Behbahani, Iran’s foremost national poet, Ali Afshari and Amir Farshad Ebrahmi, political and human rights activists, Mrs. Fatemeh Haqiqat Jou, a former reformist lawmaker etc.. were among the signatories. ENDS WOMEN PROTEST 14606