Iran Holds American Women’s Rights Activist
Saturday 25 October 2008
An American student and women’s rights activist has been arrested in Iran while visiting her family and conducting research into the Iranian women’s movement.
Esha Momeni, a masters student at California State University, was seized last week while driving in Tehran, according to Amnesty International.
She was initially arrested for a traffic offence on October 15, but then her computer and other materials were confiscated, and she was taken to Evin prison, which is notorious for holding political prisoners.
Her family was told by an Iranian court on Monday that her case was still being investigated and no details would be released until after the inquiry was completed.
Iranian judicial officials have not commented on the case, and no other details were immediately available in Iran.
Momeni is a member of the Iranian women’s rights group Change for Equality.
The university has called for her to be released.
"Anyone who values knowledge and the role of academic inquiry in shedding light on the human condition should be concerned," said the university’s president, Jolene Koester.
The US state department said it was aware of reports of Momeni’s arrest and was seeking more information.
Friends of Momeni have launched a website and Facebook group calling for her release.
Melissa Wall, Momeni’s thesis adviser, said the student was aware of the risks of her work.
"We talked about the dangers. But in the end, it was her decision to go. She was interested in communicating to Americans a broader image of Iranian women."
Amnesty said dozens of other activists and supporters have been arrested in Iran in connection with their work on the Change for Equality campaign, launched by Iranian women activists in September 2006.
The campaign is seeking to collect a million signatures in support of changing laws that deny women in Iran equal rights.
Momeni was born in Los Angeles. Her father moved to the city in 1977 to pursue a civil engineering degree but later returned to Iran with his family.