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Silencing the Women's Rights Movement in Iran

Aida Saadat, the women's rights activist and journalist, reports that the signatories of two open letters criticizing the election result and government reaction to post-election events were put on a list prohibiting them from leaving the country." 261 Saadat credits her signature on these letters as the reason she was forbidden to legally leave Iran . She was forced to escape through the mountainous Iran-Turkey border with the help of smugglers." 262

Some activists are unaware that they are barred from leaving the country until the authorities confiscate their passports at the airport.263 On her way to Paris, France to attend an International Women's Day ceremony on March 8, 2010, Simin Behbahani, Iran's national poet and long time women's rights activist, was prevented from leaving Imam Khomeini Airport. She was detained by security police as she was heading to board the plane. She was eventually released but authorities confiscated her passport and gave her a letter instructing her to go to the Revolutionary Court to retrieve her passport.264 Many Iranians were shocked by the government's treatment of Behbahani because of her age (she was born in 1927) and her physical condition (she is nearly blind). Commentators speculate that the travel ban on Behbahani was in retaliation for comments she made to the international media shortly after Neda Agha-Soltan's death on June 20, 2009.265

Zhina Modares Gorji, a women's rights activist in Sanandaj, was on her way to Dubai on November 13, 2009 when she was stopped in the airport before boarding her flight. She passed through the Passport Control Desk and had received an exit stamp, but was paged over the airport speaker. A plain clothes agent confiscated her passport and ordered her to report to the Revolutionary Court in Sanandaj. " 266

[261] The open letter of August 23, 2009 was addressed to the "sources of emulation," i.e. the top Shi'a clerical leadership, including Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei, as well as Hashemi Rafsanjani, Mir Hossein Mousavi, Mohammad Khatami and Mehdi Karroubi. It was signed by 293 activists and journalists who criticized the election results and the government's response to the post-election unrest. See Namihyih 293 Ruznamih Nigar va Fa'al-i Kishvar bih Maraji-i Taqlid va Hashemi va Khatami va Mousavi va Karroubi [Letter of 293 Journalist and Activists in the Country to Sources of Emulation and Hashemi, Khatami, Mousavi and Karroubi], Norooz News, August 23, 2009, available at http://norooznews.ir/news/13597.php. The second letter, of September 6, 2009 (15 Shahrivar 1388), was addressed to the incoming prosecutor of Tehran and criticized the treatment of detainees post-election. It was signed by 330 activists and journalists. See Namihyih Sargushadihyih 330 Ruznamih Nigar bih Dadsitan-i Jadid-i Tehran [Open Letter of 330 Journalists to the New Prosecutor of Tehran], Committee of Human Rights Reporters, September 6, 2009, available at http://chrr.us/spip.php?article5423.

[262] See IHRDC Interview with Aida Saadat (April 15, 2010) (on file with IHRDC).
[263] See supra note 115 and accompanying text (Narges Mohammadi and Soraya Azizpanah).
[264] Jilugiri az Khuruj-i Simin Behbahani az Iran [Preventing Simin Behbahani from Leaving Iran], BBC Persian, March 8, 2010, available at http://www.bbc.co.uk/persian/iran/2010/03/100308_l38_simin_behbahani_ban.shtml.
[265] Poet Simin Behbahani: Neda is ‘Voice of People in Iran ', NPR interview with Simin Behbahani, June 26, 2009, available at http://www.npr.org/blogs/thetwo-way/2009/06/poet_simin_behbahani_says_neda.html.
[266] Zhina Modares Gorji, Fa'al-i Campaign-i Yik Million Imza Mamnu'ul Khuruj Shud [Zhina Modares Gorji, One Million Signature Activist Was Exit Banned], Change for Equality, Nov. 15, 2009, available at http://www.campaign4equality.info/spip.php?article4989.

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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