Iranian authorities arrested two women solely for promoting women’s rights. They are at risk of torture.
AI Index: MDE 13/130/2007
07 November 2007
Prisoners of conscience/ Fear of torture or other ill-treatment
Ronak Safarzadeh (f)
Hana Abdi (f), aged 21, student
Women's rights activists Ronak Safarzadeh and Hana Abdi have been detained in the city of Sanandaj, in the north-western province of Kordestan, and are believed to be held in a Ministry of Intelligence detention facility. Neither is known to have been charged. They are at risk of torture or other ill-treatment. Amnesty International considers them prisoners of conscience, detained solely for the peaceful exercise of their rights to freedom of expression and association.
Both women are active members of the Campaign for Equality, which is seeking an end to legalised discrimination against women, and of the NGO Azar Mehr Women's Organization of Sanandaj, which is affiliated to the Campaign for Equality.
Ronak Safazadeh had attended a meeting on the International Day of the Child in Sanandaj on 8 October, during which she had collected signatures in support of the Campaign for Equality. The following day, men understood to be agents of the Ministry of Intelligence reportedly came to her house at 8.20am, confiscated her computer, copies of the campaign’s petition and a booklet it had produced, and detained her. After six days, her mother was permitted a brief telephone conversation with her.
In an interview with the Campaign for Equality (http://www.we4change.info/english/spip.php?article152), Ronak Safarzadeh’s sister said, "On Thursday [25 October] court proceedings were held in the case of Ronak and the authorities informed us that during these court proceedings the arrest order of Ronak was renewed for the period of one month." She also said that family members had not been allowed to attend her court hearing and that they had been told that Ronak Safarzadeh is being held in the detention facility of the Sanandaj Office of the Ministry of Intelligence, although they were not sure whether this was true. According to the Campaign for Equality, Ronak Safarzadeh’s mother was beaten by officials in the local office of the judiciary on 30 October when she went to try to find out about her daughter.
Hana Abdi is studying psychology at Payam-e Noor University in Bijar. She was arrested on 4 November by seven Ministry of Intelligence agents at her grandfather’s home in Sanandaj. The agents then searched her father’s home where they confiscated Hana Abdi’s computer and pamphlets explaining the aims of the Campaign for Equality.
The Campaign for Equality, launched in August 2006, aims to collect one million signatures from Iranians in support of an end to legalised discrimination against women. So far, 13 of its members have been arrested while collecting signatures, though this is not forbidden under Iranian law.
On 5 November, a 28 month jail sentence passed on Campaign for Equality activist Delaram Ali, 24, was upheld by an appeal court. She was reportedly one of around 70 people arrested in June 2006, following a peaceful demonstration against laws discriminating against women. Five other women activists who organised the protest were earlier this year given shorter jail terms of up to a year and suspended sentences of up to three years. She is expected to start serving the sentence immediately. In an interview, Nobel laureate and Iranian lawyer, Shirin Ebadi said: "Why should a woman who wants equal human rights be charged with acting against national security?"
Iranian authorities intend to unlawfully detain and possibly flog a human rights defender for her peaceful activities in promoting women’s equality.
AI Index: MDE 13/131/2007
8 November 2007
Prisoner of conscience / Flogging
Delaram Ali (f) aged 24, social worker and women’s rights activist
Delaram Ali has been told to present herself to court in order to start serving a prison sentence which has not formally been conveyed to her. She has been told that if she does not attend court by 10 November, she will be arrested. There is also a risk that she will be flogged. If she is detained, Amnesty International would consider her to be a prisoner of conscience, detained solely for the peaceful exercise of her right to freedom of expression and association for her activities promoting women’s rights in Iran. The Head of the Judiciary has the power to suspend Delaram Ali’s sentence and to order a reinvestigation of the case.
Delaram Ali, a social worker, was arrested on 12 June 2006 during a peaceful demonstration in the capital, Tehran, which called for an end to discriminatory legislation against women. She and other demonstrators were beaten by police, and her left hand was broken as a result. She was released shortly afterwards, but was tried in June 2007 by Branch 16 of the Revolutionary Court in Tehran, which found her guilty of "participation in an illegal gathering", "propaganda against the system" and "disrupting public order and peace". In July 2007, the court sentenced her to 34 months’ imprisonment and 10 lashes. Delaram Ali has said that her defence lawyer was not allowed to speak during her trial.
She remained free pending an appeal, but on 4 November 2007, reports indicated that judiciary officials had told Delaram Ali and her lawyers by telephone that an appeal court had ruled on her appeal. The verdict has not been sent in writing to Delaram Ali. Some reports suggest that the appeal court has overturned the flogging sentence, and reduced the prison term to 30 months. Delaram Ali was told to report to the court for implementation of the verdict, at the latest by 10 November, or face arrest. Under Iranian legislation, it is illegal for a person to serve a sentence prior to it being delivered in writing to the person concerned.
Delaram Ali lodged a complaint against her ill-treatment during arrest, along with the others who were beaten, but in October 2007, a court dismissed all charges against the police officers who had been present at the demonstration.
In July, Delaram Ali said in an interview that her sentence of flogging, although “not much when compared to the prison term, [was] an insult to civil society and the women’s movement”. She also said in another interview that “[t]his verdict bears a huge cost for me. I, like our attorneys, could only think that this sentence is more like a warning for other women’s rights activists. ..Another issue is the allegations against me which are the same three allegations that other activists have been accused of. However, other activists have been cleared of two of the charges: “propaganda against the state” and “disrupting the public order”. I was convicted on these charges as well and received a sentence for them. This is a discrepancy, because I, alone, could not distribute propaganda against the state or disrupt public order. These verdicts are more like a warning from the state to remind us that this is also one of the positions the state can take against us, so that others get intimidated and learn their lessons”.
On 12 June 2006 the Iranian security forces forcibly broke up a peaceful demonstration by women and men advocating an end to legal discrimination against women in Iran. The demonstrators had gathered in the "Seventh of Tir" Square in Tehran to call, among other things, for changes in the law to give a woman's testimony in court equal value to that of a man; and for married women to be allowed to choose their employment and to travel freely without obtaining the prior permission of their husband. Delaram Ali was among 70 people arrested during the demonstration on 12 June 2006 Several others were also beaten during their arrest. Photographs of their arrest can be seen at http://www.khosoof.com/archive/281.php#000281. Most, including Delaram Ali, were released shortly afterwards, but Sayed Ali Akbar Mousavi-Kho’ini was held for over four months and alleges that he was tortured in detention (see Urgent Action 181/06, AI Index: MDE 13/075/2006, 30 June 2006 and follow ups). Several other participants in the demonstration have also been sentenced, although none is currently detained.