Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Dangerous Circumstances for Women's Rights Activists Draws Attention of UN Human Rights Commissioner

I reported last month in my "Iran Update," an email newsletter, that in July, Nobel Peace Laureate and Human Rights Lawyer Shirin Ebadi wrote to the Honorable Ms. Louisa Arbour, the United Nations Human Rights Commissioner regarding the dangerous circumstances facing women's rights activists in Iran. Dr. Ebadi said they have become more endangered than ever before and outlined the cases of a group of "women's rights defendants" who have been sentenced to jail for periods of time. Dr. Ebadi appealed for a United Nations delegation to visit Iran to investigate the situation of women's rights defenders.

The "One Million Signatures Campaign" reported today that Arbour will be in Tehran September 2-4 to attend the Non-Aligned Conference which will be held on September 2-3 at the invitation of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Islamic Republic of Iran. During her stay in Iran, Ms. Arbour will also meet with women and human rights defenders, in an effort to investigate increased pressures on these sectors. The meeting with women's rights defenders will be held at the UN headquarters in Iran.

According to Dr. Ebadi's letter and the Campaign:

"Iranian women's rights defenders have come under increased pressure, as they have stepped up efforts to reform laws that discriminate against women. Activists involved in the One Million Signatures Campaign, which is a peaceful and civil effort intended to collect signatures asking the Parliament to reform laws which discriminate against women, have faced consistent pressure in the past year, since the launch of the Campaign. Recently two members of the Campaign, Fatemeh Dehdashti and Nasim Sarabandi were issued 6 month jail terms for collecting signatures and Amir Yaghoubali the most recent member of the Campaign to be arrested for collection of signatures, spent nearly one month in solitary confinement in the Security branch of Evin Prison, Ward 209. In all 13 members of the Campaign have been arrested in relation to their activities in this peaceful effort and for collecting signatures, most are facing security charges. Other forms of pressure, such as threats, phone tapping, interrogations, disruption of meetings, denial of meeting space, blocking of the their website, etc have worked to thwart the Campaign and its activists in their efforts to raise public awareness about the discriminatory nature of the law. Despite these pressures, the Campaign celebrated its first year anniversary on August 27, 2007, and the activists involved in the Campaign are continuing with their work."

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