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Silencing the Women's Rights Movement in Iran

Interrogators often forbade women activists from contacting their families, lawyers or anyone in the outside world. When interrogators did allow contact, they often monitored communications.

Iran's women activists endured repeated interrogations in 2006, 2007 and 2008 in retaliation for their activities, including their work on the One Million Signatures and Stop Stoning Forever campaigns. Women activists report that during Mohammad Khatami's presidency and President Ahmadinejad's first term, a team of interrogators from the Ministry of Intelligence was assigned to investigate women's rights activists.228 The team was headed by a man who went by the aliases "Mahdavi"229 or "Foroutan,"" 230 and sometimes "Khakzad" or "Khakpour."231 The team knew each activist by name and professional association, and tracked their email and telephone correspondence for years. The team knew the most intimate details of the women's lives. As Shadi Sadr relates:

These people had handled the women's file for 5-6 years and had interrogated around a hundred women's activists and supporters. They knew a lot of details. One time my interrogator Foroutan told me "I know so much about all you ladies that if you were to quiz me and ask when Parvin Ardalan had her first tooth removed, I would be able to tell you."232

Therefore, women activists who were arrested after the June 12, 2009 election were surprised to see unfamiliar interrogators (and for the blindfolded, unrecognizable voices). The interrogators focused on the role of women in the post-election protests and were intent upon collecting information on the whereabouts of other women activists. They also harassed and tried to convince some detainees to become collaborators. Interrogators used threats, and verbal and physical abuse, to intimidate and coerce women into giving confessions and providing information about other women activists.

When lawyer Shadi Sadr was initially taken to the Tracking Office (Daftar-i Paygiri) in July 2009, she recognized one of her prior interrogators. She asked him where Foroutan (her previous interrogator) was, and he curtly replied: "what is it to you? He is not here."" 233 In all subsequent interrogations, the interrogators did not allow Sadr to see their faces but, through their voices and style of questioning, she could tell they were not the same men who had interrogated her in the past. Sadr was subjected to multiple interrogations during her twelve days in detention. She was questioned by four teams, each composed of two men.234

The team at the Tracking Office asked her personal questions, including questions about her relationship with her husband, and whether or not she smoked cigarettes and drank alcohol. They demanded her password and username to her email accounts. They asked her many questions about the women's movement including the identities of the main women's rights activists and their activities. They also asked her about the disputed election-they wanted to know whether she voted, who she voted for, and her opinion on the outcome." 235

Sadr was interrogated again the following two days in Evin (Saturday and Sunday).

[228] See IHRDC Interview with Aida Saadat (April 15, 2010) (on file with IHRDC); IHRDC Interview with Parisa Kakaee (April 14, 2010) (on file with IHRDC); IHRDC Interview with Tania Ahmadi Kaliji (April 19, 2010) (on file with IHRDC); IHRDC Interview with Asieh Amini (June 11, 2010) (on file with IHRDC); IHRDC Interview with Shadi Sadr (June 13, 2010) (on file with IHRDC); IHRDC Interview with Parvin Ardalan (July 6, 2010) (on file with IHRDC); IHRDC Interview with Mahboubeh Abbasgholizadeh, (July 6, 2010) (on file with IHRDC).
[229] IHRDC Interview with Aida Saadat, (April 15, 2010) (on file with IHRDC); IHRDC Interview with Parvin Ardalan (July 6, 2010) (on file with IHRDC); IHRDC Interview with Shadi Sadr (June 13, 2010) (on file with IHRDC).
[230] IHRDC Interview with Mahboubeh Abbasgholizadeh (July 6, 2010) (on file with IHRDC); IHRDC Interview with Shadi Sadr (June 13, 2010) (on file with IHRDC).
[231] IHRDC Interview with Shadi Sadr (June 13, 2010) (on file with IHRDC).
[232] Id.
[233] Id. Sadr believes that the team changed about six months prior to the June election.
[234] Id.
[235] Id.

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Tagged as:

Sexual Violence, Gender Rights, Death Penalty, Political Killings, Executions, Torture, Inhuman and Degrading Treatment, Punishment, Personal Liberty, Arbitrary Detention, Travel Restrictions, Due Process, Right to an Attorney, Illegal Search and Seizure, Free Speech, Right to Protest, Protests, Free Association, Child Rights, Political Freedom, Equality Before the Law, Discrimination