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As of January 2009, this site is definitely closed, but you can follow Safa Haeri on his new blog: DAMAVAND at http://wwwdamavandsafa.blogspot.com

Iran Women Demand Equality. Police Represses Demonstration

Published Thursday, March 8, 2007



Tehran. 8 Feb. (IPS) All but three of the 33 Iranian women's rights activists jailed on Sunday were freed Wednesday night, on the eve of International Women's Day, in exchange for a pledge not to demonstrate on 8 March, according to one of their lawyers, Mr. Mohammad Ali Dadkhah.

Nevertheless, many of them and other women's rights activists staged a meeting in front of parliament in Tehran on Thursday afternoon, but the protest movement was brutally repressed by security and police forces.

The commemoration of Women's Day has been a perennial rallying point for those opposed to government policies viewed by human rights activists as sexist or discriminatory.

Eyewitnesses told Iran Press Service that early in the morning, Law Enforcement Forces has closed all main streets leading to the Parliament’s square in an attempt to prevent any gathering by women and teachers, the latter protesting their difficult living and work conditions as well as low salaries.

Despite the heavy security cordons, about 300 women managed to gather at Baharestan Square and read a manifesto, but police and anti-riot units attacked them violently, beating and wounding several, including Mr. Abdollah Mo’meni, a student’s leader and Marzieh Mortazi and Fatemeh Govara’i, both female activists, eyewitnesses added.

The commemoration of Women's Day has been a perennial rallying point for those opposed to government policies viewed by human rights activists as sexist or discriminatory.

The women were arrested on Sunday for staging a demonstration in front of a courthouse in Tehran where five fellow women's rights activists were on trial for staging a peaceful rally against sexual discrimination in Iranian legislation last 12 June. Authorities arrested more than 70 female protesters and Mr. Mohammad Mousavi Kho’eini a former reformist Member of the Majles, who spent four months in prison while all of the female detainees had been released except five of them.

The women still in custody are Zhila Bani Ya’qoub, a well known journalist, Mahboubeh Abbasqolizadeh, journalist and blogger and Shadi Sadr, a lawyer.

On orders of the government of fanatic Iranian President Mahmoud ahmadi Nezhad, thirty-three women were arrested on 4 March while demonstrating outside the Revolutionary Islamic Tribunal in Tehran in protest against criminal charges brought against five activists who organised a women’s demonstration in June 2006.

Iran Women Demand Equality. Police Represses Demonstration-Body-10

Reporters Sans Frontieres (Reporters Without Borders) urged on Thursday on the Iranian clerical-led authorities to the “the immediate and unconditional release of the journalists and activists in custody in Evin prison”,, adding: “These women have not broken any law. They simply exercised their right to demonstrate peacefully”.

“On the basis of Iran Islam-based laws, women are considered second class citizen, with very little rights outside their houses”, said Mr.Ali Afshari, an analyst of Iranian affairs now living in the United States.

New York-based Human Rights Watch and London-based Amnesty International have condemned the recent arrests.

“When Ayatollah Rouhollah Khomeini, (the leader of the Islamic Revolution of 1979) ordered women to be confined to their houses, many male Iranians welcomed the ruling, saying that under the Shah’s regime, women had got too much of rights. They are also to blame for the sad situation of the brave Iranian women”, added Alireza nourizadeh, another veteran Iran watcher.

On the basis of Iran Islam-based laws, women are considered second class citizen

“After censoring websites which relay and defend the demands of women’s rights organisations, the Iranian authorities have now deprived their main contributors of their freedom”, the RSF said.

Scores of journalists and feminist activists gathered outside the Tehran Revolutionary Islamic Tribunal on 4 March in solidarity with five women on trial for “damaging public order and security”, “publicity against the Islamic Republic” and “taking part in an unauthorised demonstration”.

The five were: journalists Nushin Ahmadi Khorasani, Parvin Ardalan and Fariba Davoudi Mohajer and activists Shahla Entessari and Susan Tahmassebi. They had been charged on 12 June 2006 for organising a peaceful demonstration in support of reform of laws which discriminate against women in Iran.

They were re-arrested when they left court alongside the demonstrators who had come to support them. A total of 33 women were arrested, 22 of them journalists. They were put into isolation cells in Evin prison. Three of them who are sick, Parvin Ardalan (journalist), Fatemeh Govara’i (journalist) and Mahnaz Mohammadi (activist) have been refused access to their treatment.

Many observers and activists suspect that the latest arrests were meant to ward off gatherings anticipated today. Iran's grass-roots political organizers, who gained momentum under the reform-minded former President Mohammad Khatami, have come under enormous pressure during Ahmadi Nezhad's term.

The government has bolstered domestic security agencies in the face of perceived threats from the West, which opposes Iran's nuclear ambitions and its support for militant Islamic groups. That has spelled trouble for the smattering of activists pushing for social and political changes.

"They're stronger, and they've coordinated their activities and mustered their power", said one women's rights activist, who spoke on condition of anonymity. "They're unified now. In previous years there was disunity among the security forces".

Iran Women Demand Equality. Police Represses Demonstration-Body-9

Authorities also have clamped down on websites and blogs promoting the main demonstration, to be held today at Baharestan Square in front of parliament.

Another activist, speaking on condition of anonymity, said she expected fewer women to participate in the event this year. "It seems we won't have a large crowd", she said. "We expect a heavy crackdown".

Iranian officials have painted the activists as dupes of Western powers and the United States government, which has advocated "regime change" in Iran.

Iran's parliamentary reformists have criticized the government over women's rights, including its proposal to cap the number of women attending universities.

"Unfortunately, the new government hasn't done anything to improve the situation of women", said a statement from the Islamic Participation Front, the main reformist bloc in parliament. "On the contrary, it has created new programs to reduce women's participation in the society."

The group urged the government to "listen to voices asking for change; otherwise, the gap between the government and nation is going to widen."

It is not hard to find women who have been caused great suffering by the law as it stands.

"This is my son just after he was born", say Forough, looking through old photo albums in the tiny apartment where she lives alone.

Ali Reza is now seven and Forough has not been able to see him for many months. When she separated from her husband the judge gave him custody of their child.

"From the moment he came home my husband used to start shouting until he left again", she remembers. "So many times it ended in a physical beating".

She says Ali Reza would come to her defence: "'Don't do anything to my mum,' he'd say. But he would beat the child and throw him aside".

The judge said Forugh could see Ali Reza for up to 12 hours a week, but they had to meet in a police station. It frightened the child so much she gave up.

Now Forugh's ex-husband does not let them meet and even prevents them talking on the phone.

Her story illustrates how the laws in Iran are weighted against women: the father automatically gets custody of a boy over two years of age or a girl over seven.

There are those trying to change things.

Parisa is approaching total strangers on the street and talking to them about the legal status of women.

She is collecting signatures for a petition asking for the repeal of Islamic laws that discriminate against women.

The campaign has struck a chord with many Iranian women like Mahnoush who are fed up with being second class citizens.

Mahnoush has just signed the petition and explains why: "I am protesting that in any instance I am considered only half a man... maybe I am more effective than a man so why should my rights be half his".

Her friend Shima has also signed because she says she has seen lots of women suffer, even her own mother when she divorced.

"The right to divorce is really ridiculous. I have seen women go and say their spouse is a drug addict and the judge says stay with him, at least he can support you. The judges do not consider the value and dignity of women. It's disgusting."

Some of her colleagues have been arrested while campaigning.

"Officials don't want to listen to the women's movement because they think it's something that's come from the west", she explains.

She says the interesting thing is the rich, westernised women are less supportive of the campaign to change discriminatory laws than the poor and more conservative women.

Parisa thinks it is because less well off women cannot afford good lawyers when they run into trouble.

The one million signature campaign to change the law began with a peaceful protest last June in one of Iran's biggest squares.

Within minutes the police beat them and started firing tear gas and mace spray.

More than 70 people were arrested. Among them 20-two-year old student Delaram Ali, who is now on trial.

"I am charged with acting against national security, disturbing public order and doing propaganda against the system, and having connections to illegal opposition groups", explains Delaram.

She says she spent three days in solitary confinement in Evin Jail after the police injured her hand in the protest last June.

Delaram is being defended by Iran's best known woman lawyer, Shirin Ebadi who won the Nobel peace prize for her human rights work.

Mrs. Ebadi says Iranian law allows peaceful protests, that it is the police not the demonstrators who should be prosecuted for their violent action.

"We filed a complaint against the police. Unfortunately although 10 months has passed no representative of the police has come to reply to the complaint in spite of being asked to attend many times", she explains.

She confirmed that the authorities had warned women not to stage any demonstration on the occasion of International Women’s Day and said all the meetings organized by women were “fully legal, because peaceful, for their basic rights”.

Meanwhile on Thursday morning teachers also gathered in front of parliament in their third protest in a week demanding raises and asking that colleagues fired for political reasons, as many as 1,500 only in Kurdistan, be given their jobs back. Thousands of teachers had already gathered in front of parliament last Saturday and then on Tuesday threatening to block mid-term exams and not to resume work in rallies called by 30 teachers' unions.

Akbar Baghani, coordinator of the Association of teachers' unions, told Adnkronos International (AKI) that "100,000 teachers, 30,000 of whom took part in the protest in front of parliament, abstained from work on Tuesday" and that "teachers across the country took part in assemblies despite the threats of school authorities", the independent Italian news agency AKI reported.

According to data provided by the teachers' unions, 98 percent of retired teachers live below the poverty line and the salaries of elementary and high school teachers have not been raised for the past ten years despite rising inflation today estimated at around 12 percent, according to official data.

Many teachers are reportedly forced to get a second menial job to make a living, AKI said.

“Since the Government of Ahmadi Nezhad is facing growing international pressures and disenchantment and criticism at home, he is getting harsher against the people, but mostly women, and students and the press in general. As a result, one has to expect more repression in trhe coming days”, Mr. Afshari, a former student’s leader warned. ENDS WOMEN UNREST 8307

 

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As of January 2009, this site is definitely closed, but you can follow Safa Haeri on his new blog: DAMAVAND at http://wwwdamavandsafa.blogspot.com


Iran Women Demand Equality. Police Represses Demonstration-Main-4
Despite official ban, hundreds of Iranian women staged demonstrations, demanding equal rights with men.



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