Release of Three Social Activists Arrested Violently at the Campaign’s Workshop in Khoram Abad
Sunday 16 September 2007
September 17, 2007; Change for Equality: According to reports recieved the three social activists violently arrested on Friday September 14, during a workshop on women’s legal rights, held by the Education Committee of the Campaign, were released yesterday afternoon. Despite the fact that Bahman Azadi, Reza Dolatshah, and Khosrow Nasimpour have been released, we have not been able to talk with them and as such no further information has been received with respect to the manner in which they were treated while in detention, the details of their release or future action to be taken by the courts. Updates on their status will be provided on this site, as they are received.
Arrest of 25 Campaign Members at Educational Workshop in Khoram Abad
September 15, 2007; Change for Equality: An educational workshop on women’s rights in Khoramabad was disrupted after police violently attacked participants and took them into custody. Twenty-five participants spent several hours in prison and were released at around midnight the same day. Three of these participants, Reza Dolatshah, Bahman Azadi, and Khosrow Nasimpour, who are social activists in the city of Khoram Abad who were beaten in the process of arrest remain in prison and despite inquiries by their families and friends, no information has been provided as to their whereabouts and status. Their crime is the holding of an educational workshop in a small house with a limited number of participants with the aim of discussing unequal rights such as polygamy, testimony, blood money, etc. In other words the same legal issues that state officials address and discuss on a regular basis.
What follows, is a moving account of the incident and the inhumane treatment of civil society activists by police and security officials:
On Thursday September 13th, Mansoureh Shojaie, Jelveh Javaheri, Zara Amjadian, Nafishe Azad and Nazli Farokhi, all members of the Education Committee of the Campaign, traveled from Tehran to the city of Khoram Abad, Lorestan Province, to hold an educational workshop on women’s legal rights. The workshop was to be held in the home of Reza and Mahtab Dolatshah, both social activists in the city of Khoram Abad and supporters of the Campaign.
Campaign members from Tehran spent their first day in Khoram Abad familiarizing themselves with the city and the local community as well preparing for the implementation of the workshop.
On Friday September 14, the workshop started with a slight delay. The trainers were still presenting the introductory section and the history of the Iranian women’s movement, when at 11:40 Am they heard severe pounding at the door. When Bahman Azadi, one of the participants in the workshop opened the door, 10 armed police and security officials dressed in uniform and plain clothes and 3 female police officers entered the home forcefully. Bahman Azadi was attacked immediately. He was beaten and kicked and attacked with the stock of rifles, carried by the police. In the midst of the surprise and disbelief of the 25 participants present at the workshop, the police brutally and disrespectfully divided the participants and took them to two separate rooms. In one of the rooms women were forcefully and violently forced to undress and were body searched. The men went through the same ordeal in the other room. Additionally, all the personal belongings of the home owners were searched and seized. The police and security forces were extremely rude and disrespectful toward those present at the workshop.
After an hour of continuous insults, search of property and beatings of participants the security forces and police handcuffed the men and removed them from the premises. The hysterical objections on the part of women, in particular Zara Amjadian, prevented the authorities from handcuffing the women while they were escorted to the detention center. On their way out of the house, the workshop participants in disbelief faced the harassment of a crowd of onlookers, who had gathered outside of the premises at the urging of police. The onlookers had been told that those being arrested had engaged in acts of "pleasure and debauchery" and thus were being arrested for their promiscuity!
The vans transferred the participants to the police station and the detention center which housed addicts and drug traffickers. The arrests were complimented with insults, and threats of beatings and of being handcuffed. "They had taken the men to a different location and the women, 14 of us, were forced to wait for hours in the dark corridors of the police station." Finally the judge arrived and reminded us that "you are the same women who instead of wanting only one husband are seeking to take 4 husbands….you want to enlighten the poor women of Khoram Abad?"
The arrested women were crammed into two cells which were three meters in size. One of the young women who suffered from asthma and experienced an attack during this ordeal, asked for medical attention and to see a physician. She was told to "wait. You will be done here soon." Finally at 3:00 in the afternoon some men arrived with desks and chairs and transformed the dark corridor of the police station into an interrogation room, and the questioning of participants was officially started. "They asked us about our background, the Campaign, and how we came to know the owner of the home [where the workshop was being held]."
After the interrogations were over the women were once again transferred out of the police station, but were forced to keep their heads down while on their way to their new location. "They kept threatening us that if we raised our heads, we would be a smack in the head!!" The next destination was an office affiliated with the Ministry of Intelligence. All 14 women were held in a large bright room
"We waited until 4:30 and nothing happened. We finally started beating on the door and calling for the guards and insisting that our case be attended to. Finally we were taken one by one again for interrogation. After all were done with their interrogations, the security officials insisted, especially of the women from Khoram Abad, that we provide a written guarantee not to participate in any more illegal meetings, without permits. We kept objecting that this meeting was not illegal, but no one listened. The security officials instead insisted that their actions were legal. Of course, they announced that according to Article 498 of the penal code, even gatherings in private homes required a permit. And we kept insisting that according to Article 27 of the constitution we have the right to assemble freely and no permit was required. We explained that we had the right to assemble even in public spaces as long as we were not armed and the gathering was peaceful."
Despite the claims of the Judge, Article 498 of the Penal Code does not address the holding of educational workshops in private homes. Rather it discusses the establishment of groups or societies. According to this Article, "anyone with any aim, who without an official permit, engages in the creation of a group, society or the branch of a society with more than 2 members nationally or internationally under whatever name or title, is subject to a term in prison ranging from 3 months to 5 years." Of course it seems that the honorable judge had invented a new law.
The final scene in this bizarre event was the enactment of the confessional show…"they placed all the women in one room, a few agents entered the room with video equipment and cameras. The judge who was a wearing a turban and was from Isfahan, and who adamantly continued to believe that our aim was to take 4 husbands, and only allow our husbands to take one wife, proceeded to advise us. He claimed that we had been fooled by the Campaign and Mr. Dolatshah, and while dispersing kindly advice, he invited us to listen to the words of Mr. Dolatshah. Two agents escorted Mr. Dolatshah into the room. With swollen and red eyes and shaky legs, the Mr. Dolatshah brought before us, did not resemble our host of previous day. He sat down on a chair before us. Mr. Dolatshah proceeded to apologize for the problems that we had faced. But the interrogator, despite the fact that scrutiny of opinion is illegal, kept pressing Mr. Dolatshah to introduce himself fully, to confess who he really was, and to explain about his ideas and beliefs….finally Reza Dolatshah, with a mild and kind tone, which was the only thing familiar about the man sitting in front of us announced: "I am Reza Dolatshah. I am an activist and I support the rights and demands of workers…"