Rights Activists, Mahboubeh Hossein Zadeh and Nahid Keshavarz, who remain in prison since April 2, 2007 for collecting signatures in support of the "One Million Signatures Campaign" demanding changes to discriminatory laws against women, have recorded their experiences among female inmates. Here is what Mahboubeh Hossein Zadeh has to say. 4/17/07

Mahboubeh Hosseinzadeh

"Our husbands are lying in enclosed graves and we are in open graves. We too ceased to live the very day that we killed our husbands." These are the words of a woman who spends her nights on the three story bed across from me. Her nights are filled with nightmares about the death of her husband—a husband she stabbed to death.

This is Evin prison—the women’s ward. Nahid and I do not fully comprehend which national security we have undermined, nonetheless with this charge we spend our days in limbo in the midst of these women. Ten of the 16 women with whom we have shared a cell for over a week, are here on charges of murdering their husbands. These women, having lost faith in a legal system that offers no hope and no protection, weave their days to the darkness of the night that lingers behind the tall walls of Evin. If our laws had the capacity to defend women charged with murder, they would not be here now, spending their time idly in waiting for the day that would swallow them—a term used by female inmates to describe execution day.

These women, they all seem kind and patient to me. They are women forced into marriages they did not choose, women who were forcibly married off at the age of 13 and 14, women whose husbands were chosen by their fathers…one of these women was forced into marriage through physical violence bestowed upon her by her father, who slapped her repeatedly until she accepted her fate. Until she accepted to marry a man who was 45 years her senior. Another woman continues to have nightmares about that doomed day four years ago, when she took matters into her own hands and murdered her husband. She worries about her daughters whom she turned over the state welfare organization for care. Others too, have similar stories.

Woman, mother, requests for divorce, discriminatory laws, murderers…all but one of them is under 40 years of age. She asks "why doesn’t anyone listen to our problems or pains?" "Where was the judge when my husband forced me onto the streets, into prostitution, in an effort to earn enough money to support his habit of addiction? What is one to do? Which laws were meant to support me? Which laws were intended to save me? Why didn’t the judge listen to my pleas? I grew weary. The law provided me with no refuge. I defended myself. Yes! I killed him!"

Another woman explains "my father said that we will lose face. I cried. I asked my father didn’t you marry me off by force at age 13? Now I want a divorce. My father refused. But when I saw my husband that night with another woman, in my own bed, I could no longer take the abuse." The victims are not just the women with whom I share a cell. The victims are all women in this land.............

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