PSA: Release Iranian Women’s Rights Activists Immediately

by matttbastard

Human Rights Watch:

Iran: Release Women’s Rights Activists Immediately
Government Should Drop All Charges, End Harassment
(New York, December 17, 2007) – Iran should drop politically motivated charges against two women’s rights activists facing trial this week because of their participation in a peaceful protest, Human Rights Watch said today. The authorities should release Jelveh Javahari and Maryam Hosseinkhah without delay.

Human Rights Watch learned that court officials have set court dates of December 18 and 19 to try Javaheri and Hosseinkhah on charges stemming from their involvement in a March 4 peaceful gathering to protest the prosecution of other women’s rights activists.They were among 26 women arrested at that time and released from detention over the following weeks.

However, authorities have been holding Hosseinkhah and Javeheri in Unit 3 of the general women’s ward of Evin prison since November 17 and December 1, respectively, on separate charges relating to their peaceful activities on behalf of the One Million Signatures Campaign to End Discrimination Against Women.

“There seems to be no end in sight to the Iranian government’s persecution of women’s rights activists,” said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East director at Human Rights Watch. “They are bringing new charges against women faster than they can try them.”

On November 17, Hosseinkhah responded to a written order to appear before a branch of the Revolutionary Court in Tehran in connection with her advocacy for the One Million Signatures Campaign. Officials charged her with “disturbing the public opinion” and “publishing lies” and set a heavy bail of 100 million tomans (approximately US$100,000) for her release. As a result of her inability to provide bail, authorities transferred her to Evin prison.

On December 1, Javahari responded to a written order to appear before a branch of the Revolutionary Court in Tehran, also stemming from her involvement with the One Million Signatures Campaign. The court charged her with “disturbing the public opinion,” “propaganda against the order,” and “publishing lies via the publication of false news,” and then transferred her to Evin prison. According to interviews with Javahari’s mother, which are available on the website of the One Million Signatures Campaign to End Discrimination Against Women, the court initially set a bail of 50 million tomans (approximately US$50,000) but withdrew it on grounds that investigations into the case would first have to be completed.

It is not clear if the trials on December 18 and 19 will also address the new charges against them.

Two other women’s rights activists with the One Million Signatures Campaign to End Discrimination Against Women, Ronak Safazadeh, 21, and Hana Abdi, 21, remain in detention on charges of “endangering national security.” Authorities arrested and detained Safazadeh on September 25 and Abdi on October 23 in Sanandaj, a city in the Kurdish region of northwestern Iran.

“The government has not provided a shred of evidence to suggest that Ronak Safazadeh and Hana Abdi have done anything except campaign peacefully for the rights of Iranian women,” Whitson said.

Take action now. Further background here and here. Once again, more on the still-ongoing One Million Signatures Campaign for Equality from Change For Equality (more here) and Ms. Magazine.

If you haven’t done so already, be sure to add your name.

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King Pardons Saudi Gang Rape Victim

by matttbastard

Some good news for a change:

Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah has pardoned a Saudi woman sentenced to 200 lashes after she was gang raped.

The woman, known only as “Qatif girl” after the area where the crime occurred, was raped at knife point by seven men as a former boyfriend drove her home.

She had been sentenced in October 2006 to 90 lashes for being alone in a car with a man who was not a relative but had her [punishment] increased to 200 lashes and six months in jail after she spoke out about her case.

As noted in yesterday’s LA Times, the move was not entirely unexpected:

Saudis are used to the public beheadings of murderers and amputations of the hands of pickpockets, but the Qatif girl’s ordeal embarrassed the country at a time Riyadh is negotiating major international business deals and emerging as a potential broker in Middle East peace talks. The government has said it will review the case, an indication that the king may move to overrule Islamic fundamentalists.

But:

“Don’t expect big changes and sudden successes, but reform has taken root,” said Mishary A. Alnuaim, the vice dean of law and political science at King Saud University. “Modernizing religion is still slow. That’s the million-dollar question. You still find a lot of messages of intolerance.

Yeah, modernization sure moves at a glacial pace sometimes. Let’s hope it quickens, for the sake of all women who reside in the kingdom. Melissa further highlights the half-full aspect of the ruling:

According to the Saudi justice minister, Abdullah bin Muhammed al-Sheikh, the King remains “convinced and sure that the verdicts were fair.” Saudi Arabia remains a US ally, despite its appalling treatment of women and other widespread human rights abuses.

What, you didn’t actually expect institutional mistreatment of women and “widespread” human rights violations to actually mean something, when balanced against (short term) regional stability (and, of course, that sweet, sweet crude)? But at least we can be all but assured that Dubya went to bat for the victim at some point during all this, right?

Right?

President Bush expressed anger at the sentence earlier this month, saying he wondered how he would react if it had been one of his daughters. But he said he had not made his views known directly to the Saudi king, a U.S. ally.

Feminist Peace Network acidly observes that “[e]xpressing astonishment and wondering how he would react if it was his daughters and failing to lodge a protest directly with the King himself is not an acceptable expression of “anger”, the word used by the article to describe his reaction.”

Hey, it’s the thought that counts.

Update: CAP’s Mara Rudman comments on the ruling:

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2007 Lefty Blog Award Results!

by matttbastard

Here is the Top Ten:

1. POGG’eh

2. April Reign

3. Canadian Cynic

4. Galloping Beaver

5. Sooey Says

6. Stage Left

7. Unrepentant Old Hippie

8. Liberal Catnip

9. Vanity Press

10.Red Jenny

Congratulations to everyone!

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