Shirin Ebadi: Prison Sentences Issued to Women’s Rights Defenders, are in Response to their Activism on Behalf of Women

Monday 19 November 2007

Change for Equality: A press conference was held on November 4, 2007at the office of the Society of Human Rights Defenders with the intent to bring attention to the increased pressure on women’s rights defenders. The news about the sentence issued to Delaram Ali for her participation in the protest objecting to discrimination against women in the law in Hafte Tir Square was released right before the start of this press conference. Since this press conference, women’s rights activists, including Delaram herself, her mother, members of the Campaign and Delaram’s lawyers, have been able to effectively lobby with authorities. The Head of Judiciary, Ayatollah Shahroudi ordered a stay with respect to the execution of Delaram’s sentence so that a two week investigation could be conducted on November 10. However, the pressure on women’s rights activists involved in the Campaign has not subsided. Maryam Hosseinkhah a member of the Campaign was arrested on charges related to her work in the Campaign and particularly on the site of the Campaign as well as the site of the Women’s Cultural Center, which was shut down on order of the Judiciary and the Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance. Two other women’s rights defenders, Ronak Safarzadeh and Hana Abdi, remain in prison in Kurdistan province. Both were arrested subsequent to collection of signatures in support of the Campaign’s petition. Ronak and Hana have had no access to their lawyers or family since their arrests.

The following is the text of the speech provided by Noble Peace Prize Laureate, Ms. Shirin Ebadi, at the press conference objecting to increased pressures on women’s rights activists:

Our enlightened men have also come to this conclusion that they must stand side by side with their sisters in their efforts to gain equal rights. That is why Women’s rights and democracy are two sides of the same coin. Women are sentenced because they are asking for their basic rights and are accused of action against the security. Iranian courts are not willing and do not have the courage to admit that these women are just saying that they are human beings and they have rights. They label them [as political] and charge them acting against the state or endangering national security.

A clear example of this approach is [the treatment of] my client, someone who I consider to be like my own daughter and whom I am very proud of. She is more courageous than I am. She went to the street to demand equal rights for women, rights equal to that of men. She is someone who does not believe in polygamy and does not want to share her husband with another woman. Delaram Ali has been sentenced to two years and 6 months in prison. She was just informed of this sentence and has been asked to report immediately prison. She volunteered to go to prison just as Socrates drank the hemlock poison.
That’s OK. The imprisonments will come to an end. But I am directing these words [and criticisms] at the courts which do not have the courage to admit that these women are going to prison because they do not accept [discriminatory laws such as] polygamy and do not want to share their husbands with others.

I am addressing those who have harassed an educated female doctor by sending her to prison, where she faced severe mistreatment, just because she was talking to a male colleague and face outrageous behavior. She had talked to her parents in Hamedan just half and hour before she ended up dead, only a half hour later her corps which was bruised was turned over to her parents. You tell me how could she commit suicide within half an hour? How many more Zahra Kazemis [must we produce]? In half an hour? Worst of all the judiciary ignores the case all together. Why don’t they have the guts to say that all we want is equality in marriage? How long must this cover-up go on? How long do we have to talk and explain that these laws do not favor women or their rights? Where have they taken us to and who will listen to us?
We go to the streets to celebrate women’s day. Did you see what they did to us? This same Delaram was attacked [during one of these peaceful protests] and had her arm broken. We took Dr’s evidence, pictures, we produced witnesses, I launched a complaint with the public court against the chief of police. Do you know what happened? Three times the investigator asked the chief of police chief to appear in person and provide an explanation. His only response was that public gatherings were illegal. Let us assume that his explanation is correct. Still this explanation does not justify [violence] and the breaking of arms. Alas, reason does not work. Eventually the court investigator bravely requested an arrest warrant for the officer who broke Delaram’s arm. But instead [of acting on the order of the investigator, officials] are sending Delaram to prison!

The One Million Signatures Campaign was launched. This Campaign included certain demands and for each of these demands we provided evidence and justifications. But from the start the members of the Campaign were targeted and sentenced to prison on the charge of endangering national security. When they do not have the courage to declare that they are against equal rights for women, they label us with endangering national security.

Ronak, another campaign activist has been in jail for the last month in Sanandaj. They claim she was working with certain [political] organizations. This is lie. They have searched her house and have found nothing. They have taken this 21 year old girl to an undisclosed location. They constantly threaten her family not to say a word otherwise their situation [and Ronak’s situation] will get worse. They have informed Zahra’s [the doctor that was killed mysteriously in prison] family if they select Shirin Ebadi as their attorney things will get even worse. What does this mean? Do they want to kill her twice? They threaten her family. While proclaiming that girls should continue with their education, they seem to not want them to benefit from intelligence. Why do you treat women like this?

I pronounce from this tribune to the people of the world, our women are sent to jail just because they are supporting women’s rights, just because they are against polygamy. We want equality and justice. Do not label us with endangering national security. We will tell the whole world about our plight.

Read this report in its original Farsi:


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