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Silencing the Women's Rights Movement in Iran

After her interrogators promised and then refused to release her on Monday, they continued interrogating her. Convinced that she had provided false password information, they told her she was on notice that any future deviation would be met with swift punishment. When Sadr asked what would be considered a deviation, her interrogators responded that everything related to her social and political activism would be regarded as deviations. When Sadr asked if she could write in Etemad-e Melli (a newspaper that has since been shut down) about topics that were not controversial to the Iranian government, she was told that this would not be possible.236 Her interrogators said that anything she did would be considered illegal simply by virtue of who she is. They told her that she could even write in Kayhan (a conservative hard line paper) because she "would be writing the West's ideas"-in essence, they viewed her as tainted by the West. They told her to check with the authorities for permission to leave Iran." 237

The interrogators became increasingly verbally abusive. They alleged that she attended international conferences for the purpose of trying to overthrow the Iranian government. They asked about trips she had taken to Pakistan and Malaysia to speak to women about Islam and their rights which surprised Sadr, since these were Muslim countries, and not secular Western countries, which were the usual targets of suspicion.238 When Sadr asked why traveling was a problem, they explained that it causes other countries to get the idea that Iran has a problem with its legal system and this creates instability and calls people to action. The interrogators alleged that this was part of a master plan of the United States for the Middle East. According to the interrogators, the women activists were the root cause of this sedition." 239

The sessions were long and tiring. While the interrogators took breaks and rotated in questioning, Sadr was given no rest. The interrogators continually taunted Sadr. They insisted that she was targeted by foreign powers as she was a woman of merely average intelligence and would do their bidding without question or complaint. They told Sadr that she had been awarded international prizes, not on account of her merit or accomplishments, but so that she would be flattered and further ingratiated to the foreign powers awarding her the prizes." 240

The interrogators alleged that she was conspiring with international organizations and foreign governments to overthrow the Iranian regime. Although the government had closed Sadr's non-governmental organization Raahi several years before, the interrogators asked many questions about the organization and its funding sources." 241 Sadr's case file from her arrest in March 2007 contained allegations that Raahi had received financial support from a Dutch group, HIVOS, and that it planned to use that money to help overthrow the Iranian Regime. Sadr was concerned that the interrogators would seek to make an example of her, by having her publicly recant and denounce the activities of the women's movement.242 They proposed that she

[236] Etemad-e Melli was shut down by the prosecutor's office on the eve of August 16, 2009 for publishing insulting material. See Ruznamihyih Etemad-e Melli Tawqif Shud [Etemad-e Melli Newspaper was Shut Down], Fars News Agency, August 17, 2009, available at http://www.farsnews.net/newstext.php?nn=8805260178.
[237] IHRDC Interview with Shadi Sadr (June 13, 2010) (on file with IHRDC).
[238] Id.
[239] Id.
[240] Id.
[241] Raahi provided legal advice to women. After Sadr's arrest in March 2007, the Revolutionary Court and the Ministry of Intelligence closed the center. A separate case file was created charging the group with acting against national security. Although, the case file did not proceed further, the authorities closed Raahi's bank account and ordered that it cease its activities. "Raahi" barayih Ta'qir-i Zindigiyih Zanan [A "Way" to Change Women's Lives], Radio Zamaaneh, April 8, 2007, available at http://radiozamaaneh.com/morenews/2007/04/post_651.html.
[242] IHRDC Interview with Shadi Sadr (June 13, 2010)(on file with IHRDC).

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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