Urgent Action: Iranian Women Face Prison For Rights Petition
At any moment, women’s rights activists Fatemeh Masjedi and Maryam Bidgoli could be sent to prison for six months for peacefully collecting signatures for a petition demanding an end to discrimination against women in law in Iran.
FatemehMasjedi and MaryamBidgoli are both members ofthe One Million Signatures Campaign (also known as the Campaign for Equality),a grassroots movement working towards an end to discrimination against women inIranian law. On 29 December 2010, both were summoned to report within three daysto prison officials in Qom to begin serving a six-month prison sentence, butthey remain free pending further legal challenges against their convictions andsentences; however, Amnesty International fears they could be imprisoned at anymoment. They had both been arrested on 7 May 2009 for peacefully gatheringsignatures in support of ending discriminatory laws against women in Iran andwere released after two weeks in detention. They were sentenced to one year’simprisonment by Branch Two of the Revolutionary Court in Qom on 29 August 2010for"spreadingpropaganda against the system in favour of a feminist group (the Campaign) bydistributing and collecting signatures for a petition to change lawsdiscriminating against women, and for publication of materials in support of afeminist group opposed to the system". This was reducedto six months on appeal by Branch Three of the provincial appeal court.If imprisoned, Amnesty Internationalwould consider them to be prisoners of conscience.
Among the reasons for upholding thesentenced given in the appeal court verdict was the fact that the two women had“signed a letter complaining about the situation of human rights in Iran, andstating that Iran’s candidacy for a seat on the Commission on the Status of Womenhad no merit and that the presence of Iran on this Commission would be a threatto world peace and security”. The verdict also referred to an interview givenby Maryam Bidgoli to the opposition website Jaras, and a statement signed by 600members of the women’s movement on the occasion of 12 June [the anniversary ofa demonstration against discrimination against women in law].
PLEASE WRITE IMMEDIATELY in Persian,English or your own language:
- Urgingthe Iranian authorities to not imprison Fatemeh Masjedi and Maryam Bidgoli asthey have been charged and convicted solely for their peaceful exercise oftheir right to freedom of expression and association, including their humanrights activities, such as gathering signatures for a petition to enddiscrimination against women in Iranian law;
- Remindingthe authorities that the peaceful gathering of signatures to petitionsdemanding changes in the law is not a crime and is covered by the right tofreedom of expression, provided for by Article 19 of the International Covenanton Civil and Political Rights, to which Iran is a state party.
PLEASE SEND APPEALS BEFORE 18 FEBRUARY2011 TO:
Leader of the Islamic Republic
Ayatollah Sayed ‘Ali Khamenei
The Office of the Supreme Leader
Islamic Republic Street – End of
Shahid Keshvar Doust Street
Islamic Republic of Iran
Email: Via website:
Head of the Qom Provincial Judiciary
Mr Hamzeh Khalili
Office of the Head of the Judiciary
PO Box 184-37195, Azadegan Square, Shahid Abedi Boulevard,
Islamic Republic of Iran
And copies to:
Governor of Qom Province
Email: In Persian and English, send via feedback form on thewebsite: http://www.ostan-qom.ir/ostandar-c
Also send copies todiplomatic representatives accredited to your country. Check with your section office if sendingappeals after the above date.
The One Million Signatures Campaign, also known as the Campaign for Equality, launched in 2006, is a grassroots initiative composed of a network of people committed to ending discrimination against women in Iranian law. The Campaign gives basic legal training to volunteers, who travel around the country promoting the Campaign. They talk with women in their homes, as well as in public places, telling them about their rights and the need for legal reform. The volunteers are also aiming at collecting one million signatures of Iranian nationals for a petition demanding an end to legal discrimination against women in Iran. Dozens of the Campaign’s activists have been arrested or harassed for their activities for the Campaign for Equality, some while collecting signatures for the petition.
This is the first time that a court in Iran has ruled that the Campaign constitutes a group which “aims to harm national security”. In all previous cases, individuals charged with security offences relating to their collection of signatures for the Campaign were acquitted either by lower or by appeal courts.
Article 19 of the Iranian Constitution provides for equal rights of all Iranians. Article 21 requires the rights of women to be protected and Article 26 allows the “formation of parties, societies, political or professional associations … provided they do not violate the principles of independence, freedom, national unity, the criteria of Islam, or the basis of the Islamic republic.” Members of the One Million Signature Campaign have always stressed that their activities fully conform to Iranian law.
UA: 3/11 Index: MDE 13/004/2011 Issue Date: 7 January 2011