The Official Statement of Women’s Cultural Center in response to the imprisonment of Nahid Keshavarz and Mahboubeh Hosseinzadeh, and the atrocious conditions in “Block One” of the women’s prison in Evin.

Tuesday 10 April 2007

On April 2, 2007, five members of the Campaign to Collect One Million Signatures were arrested while collecting signatures in Laleh Park (a popular urban park in Tehran). Three of the detainees were released within 24 hours of the arrest. However, Nahid Keshavarz and Mahboubeh Hosseinzadeh were kept in custody and ultimately transferred to the notorious Evin Prison. The Campaign to Collect One Million Signatures to reform women’s legal rights is an entirely peaceful action, which aims to raise the public’s awareness about their legal rights. This action is not only not criminal, but is in fact the civic responsibility of each and everyone one of us.

The Women’s Cultural Center NGO in Iran strongly condemns the continuing illegal detainment of Ms. Nahid Keshavarz and Ms. Mahboubeh Hosseinzadeh, who were arrested for collecting signatures, and demands their immediate and unconditional release. Furthermore, we demand an end to the intimidation tactics and threats, which are being made against individual women’s rights activists on a daily basis.
The arrest of the Campaign’s activists has raised our awareness about the equally important issue of women’s dreadful conditions within the penal system. Our prison facilities are filled with women who have wound up in prison as a result of those unjust laws that are targeted by the Campaign. Ultimately, it is ordinary women who pay for our country’s illogical and discriminatory laws. The demand to reform laws to support women is not only justifiable, but is urgently necessary. Ignoring these demands will undoubtedly bring disastrous consequences to society as a whole.

Nahid Keshavarz and Mahboubeh Hosseinzadeh were taken to Block One of Evin Prison on the first day of their detention. Known as the punishment or non-reformed section, it is the worst section of Evin Prison. The women live under terrible conditions while prison authorities go about their usual business, without accountability. Some of the women are suicidal while others violently lash out against each other. Yet prison officials turn a blind eye to these conditions.
These condemned victims are inhabitants of a forgotten land that lead to nowhere as far as the courts and officers of the law are concerned. Our friends’ exposure to Block One has opened our eyes to the endpoint of our unjust legal system, since journalists and social activists have had practically no access to the prison block notoriously referred to as an "apocalyptic no-man’s land.”

The Women’s Cultural Center calls for the country’s penal system to immediately remedy the living conditions of the women in Evin Prison’s Block One. The failure to respect the rights of these women, regardless of their legal convictions, is a violation of their human rights.

Since our political leaders are too preoccupied with the "greater" international issues to address the "lesser" concerns of women’s conditions of Block One, we demand that they allow non-governmental organizations such as the Women’s Cultural Center to visit the prison to evaluate the situation and needs of the women inmates and to provide expertise and resources such as free social services, legal advice, and health care. If Evin Prison administrators are not committed to improving the life of these women - condemned for being a “danger to society” - they should at least allow non-governmental women organizations to take on some of that responsibility.

We are not only greatly concerned for the health and well-being of the Women’s Cultural Center member, Ms. Nahid Keshavarz, and Ms. Mahboubeh Hosseinzadeh, but we are also alarmed at the fate and conditions of the hundreds of women inmates who deserve more decent living conditions.

The women inmates did not create the frightening conditions of Block One. If authorities are able and willing to use legal measures (and sometimes extra-legal measures) to deprive people of their freedom, they must also ensure their mental and physical safety while incarcerated in state custody. Imprisonment, in and of itself, is punishment enough for humans who are born free. Subjecting inmates to subhuman conditions in state penitentiaries is reprehensible and unjust.

Therefore, not only do we demand for the immediate release of Nahid Keshavarz and Mahboubeh Hosseinzadeh, we also demand that authorities immediately begin a prompt review and assessment of living conditions in Block One of Evin Prison’s Women Section.

Lastly, we ask other concerned citizens, particularly our fellow journalists, social activists, and members of civil society organizations, to join us in spreading the news about the reprehensible state of the prison. By doing our small share together, we can make a difference in the lives of women who are subjected to inhumane and brutal conditions behind bars.

Women’s Cultural Center
Saturday April 8, 2007

Written by: “herland”,04,08,06,47,57/



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