Interview with Sussan Tahmasebi Regarding the Imprisonment of Alieh Eghdamdoust

Sussan Tahmasebi: If Alieh belongs in Prison, then all Women should be Imprisoned

Tuesday 10 February 2009

Change for Equality: Alieh Eghdamdoust is the first woman to be sentenced to prison in the 30 year history since the Islamic Revolution because of her activism on behalf of women’s rights.

The effort to free Alieh from prison continues. Eghdamdoust is a 60 year old woman who was transferred to the women’s section of Evin Prison. Sussan Tahmasebi, a member of the One Million Signatures Campaign, has a similar charge pending against her in court in relation to the June 12, 2006 protest. In an interview with the site of Change for Equality, Tahmasebi explains that if they are to incarcerate Alieh for three years for participating in the peaceful protest on June 12, 2006, then they have to imprison all women. The hidden violence in the implementation of this sentence is a key issue which Tahmasebi addresses.

The discrepancies in the sentences issued in the cases against those charged with participating in the June 12, 2006 protest are noteworthy. Despite the fact that 70 persons were arrested during the protest in Haft-e Tir Square, some like Alieh have received heavy mandatory prison terms of three years, while others have been acquitted, received suspended sentences or short mandatory prison sentences.

About her own sentence Tahmasebi explains: "in relation to the peaceful protest in Haft-e Tir Square I received a sentence of two years, one and a half years of which was suspended and six months of which was a mandatory prison sentence. My case is currently in appeals court. But even if my sentence which I believe is unjust is upheld in appeals, it is still two and half years less than the sentence issued in the case of Alieh Eghdamdoust. How is it, that two people charged with the same crime receive such different sentences? Additionally many of those charged in this case have been acquitted. The discrepancies in these sentences demonstrates that the courts have not followed a similar judicial process in examining these cases and in issuing sentences and as such have not acted in a just or legal manner. In my opinion these heavy sentences demonstrate the intent of officials to retaliate against women they view as ’uppity’ and who have acted outside the norm expected of women. The sentence issued in the case of Alieh demonstrates a departure from the strategy of ’limiting and punishing’ women’s rights activists designed to render them inactive, which officials had taken up in the past. Despite the fact that Alieh participated in the Haft-e Tir protest, for the most part, she did not have a continued and active presence in the women’s rights movement. This sentence has certainly been issued in light of her political activities during the 1980’s and seems retaliatory in this sense."

Tahmasebi continues further: "I am very disappointed about the implementation of this sentence. I am surprised every time there is a crackdown against women’s rights activists. It is surprising and shameful that while women’s rights activists try to utilize the most peaceful and legal means available to them to express their demands, officials are set on treating violently those who demand the most basic of their human rights."

"Alieh Eghdamdoust was the first women’s rights activist who was issued a lashing sentence in response to her participation in the Haft-e Tir protest in support of women’s rights. When this sentence was issued many felt that the sentence was intended to disparage women’s rights activists. I believe that lashing sentences are a source of shame and constitute disparagement for all Iranians who believe in justice and equality. Further these types of sentences are a sign of the violence which is perpetuated against women in our society. Lashings are a continuation of that violence, which officials this time have utilized against women’s rights activists in response to their just demands. Again I want to stress that I am shocked and disappointed about the implementation of such a sentence and I can’t believe that our officials insist on portraying themselves in such a harsh manner. The recent violent response to women’s rights activists takes place at time when all sectors of society, including the grassroots and lawmakers alike are engaged in a discussion on women’s rights and the need to reexamine the laws which govern the lives of women."

"In the end I have to stress that the sentence against Alieh Eghdamdoust and its implementation is extremely unjust. If Alieh belongs in prison, then all women who suffer from the existing discrimination and inequality in our society should also be imprisoned."

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