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Silencing the Women's Rights Movement in Iran

1.2.1 Ahmadinejad's First Term (2005- 2009)

In 2005, the women's rights movement took advantage of the more open atmosphere during the period leading up to the election to raise sensitive issues.50 In a very public and egregious act of civil disobedience, about a hundred women managed to enter Tehran's soccer stadium to watch a game between the national teams of Iran and Bahrain.51 The women's rights movement declared June 12 to be Women's Solidarity Day and held an unauthorized demonstration in Tehran.52 It was the first such demonstration since 1979, and the protestors numbered no more than five hundred. As they chanted, "[w]e are women, we are children of this land, but we have no rights," riot police swarmed them using clubs and dragged away demonstrators." 53 Upon his election twelve days later, President Ahmadinejad changed the name of the Center for Women's Participation to the Center for Women and Family Affairs, and directed that female government employees only work during daylight hours-once again emphasizing the role of women as housewives and mothers.54

Women demonstrated on International Women's Day (March 8) in 2006, and were beaten and arrested by baton-wielding police. They attempted to gather again on June 12 of that year, but were arrested and dispersed before they could assemble. The Judiciary announced the arrest of seventy people including Fariba Davoudi Mohajer, Shahla Entesari, Parvin Ardalan, Noushin Ahmadi Khorasani and Sussan Tahmasebi, and charged them with crimes ranging from acting against state security to propaganda against the state.55

Following that year's June 12 demonstration, activists created the Campaign for Equality that launched the Campaign for the Collection of One Million Signatures to Reform Discriminatory Laws against Women (hereinafter "One Million Signatures Campaign"). Officially launched on August 27, 2006, the Campaign aims to obtain the signatures of one million Iranians in support of amendments to the country's civil and penal codes.56

On March 4, 2007, during a trial of five activists who had been arrested during the June 12, 2006 demonstration, demonstrators gathered outside of the Revolutionary Court insisting on the innocence of the accused, and the illegality of their arrests and detentions." 57 Police surrounded and attacked them. One activist recalls how she narrowly escaped arrest.

In the middle of the protest, I went to run an errand. When I returned, I noticed that security forces had surrounded the demonstrators and would not allow anyone to enter the area. I saw that a van had arrived and they were putting girls in it. Nahid Jafari's teeth were broken because they smashed her face into the van's door when they forced her into the van during her arrest.58

[50] Zahra Eshraghi, a granddaughter of Ayatollah Khomeini explained: "There are certain things that are considered as crimes although the situation is gradually changing … For example, it would have been very dangerous to talk about changing the Constitution, or women's right to choose their dress. There can be no progress if women don't feel they are safe to express their demands." Nazila Fathi, Hundreds of Women Protest Sex Discrimination in Iran, New York Times, June 12, 2005, available at http://www.nytimes.com/2005/06/12/international/middleeast/13womencnd.html.
[51] Amnesty International, supra note 46.
[52] 22 Khordad Ruz-i Hambastigiyih Zanan-i Iran [June 12, Day for Solidarity of Women in Iran], The Feminist School, June 3, 2008, available at http://www.feministschool.com/spip.php?article716.
[53] IHRDC Interview with Parisa Kakaee (April 14, 2010) (on file with IHRDC); Nazila Fathi, Hundreds of Women Protest Sex Discrimination in Iran, New York Times, June 12, 2005, available at http://www.nytimes.com/2005/06/12/international/middleeast/13womencnd.html.
[54] Amnesty International, supra note 46.
[55] Amnesty International, supra note 46, at 4. Ardalan and Ahmadi Khorasani were each sentenced to three years in prison on charges of threatening national security that, on appeal, were both reduced to one year suspended sentences. Appeals Court Reduces Sentence for Parvin Ardalan, Change for Equality, April 14, 2009, available at http://www.campaignforequality.info/english/spip.php?article500.
[56] Afary, supra note 3, at 370-71; IHRDC Interview with Parvin Ardalan (July 6, 2010) (on file with IHRDC).
[57] The Life of Iranian Women's Activists is in Danger, Iranian.com, March 7, 2007, available at: http://news.newamericamedia.org/news/view_article.html?article_id=64119c136edbac4847960d1dea4ce09e.
[58] IHRDC Interview with Parisa Kakaee (April 14, 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