120 Years of Struggle

Children's rights defender Atena Daemi released from Iran's notorious Evin prison 

IFEX Thursday 18th February, 2016 

Children's rights defender Atena Daemi was released from prison in Iran on 15 February in the midst of a 14-year sentence for her peaceful human rights activities. She paid a heavy bail of 700 million Tomans (approximately US$232,000), according to reports, which also stated that the 14-year sentence is still in effect. 

On 20 November 2015, the Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR) joined Front Line Defenders, the Campaign to Free Political Prisoners in Iran (CFPP) and other NGOs to call for the freedom of Daemi and another children's rights defender, Saeed Shirzad, who was sentenced to five years in prison last year. 

They whole heartedly participated in the constitutional revolution and gave their lives for freedom. But they were betrayed by their men who wrote the new constitution in 1906.  The family affairs were left under the control of the powerful Muslim clergies. Soon after, the women established an under ground organization called; “the secret society of the ladies” and continued their struggle for equal rights.  By 1972 the women of Iran had finally accomplished what they had set out to do in 1888, but it was short lived and Moslem clergies took it all away when their Islamic revolution succeeded in 1979.  Today; the next generations of Iranian women are continuing their struggle this time it will be a permanent freedom.

120 Years of Struggle for Human Dignity

By: Banafsheh Zand Bonazzi 

In the late 1800’s Iranian women were the main force behind the constitutional movement and the subsequent revolution. The Qajar dynasty’s kings (1799 – 1925) sat idly by and allowed the intrusion of the British and Russian political and economic domination; Russia in the north, Britain in the south. On top of which, debts to Britain incurred for war indemnities as well as the expenses of various royal frivolities, led to payoff type concessions to Britain; the 1872 Reuter concession to build a railroad and the 1890 concession on tobacco, and the 1901 William D'Arcy concession on oil were made, to name a few. These concessions exacerbated by tax-free foreign merchandise, which saturated the Iranian market, pushed Iranian economy to near collapse and brought everything to a fever pitch. This marked the beginning of the Constitutional revolution of 1906. Militant Iranian women of all walks of life, ethnic and religious minorities and majorities alongside armed men attacked the government. Women carried guns and became solders of the revolution. They marched, spoke and plotted against the dictatorship of kings and clergies and fought to the victory. The new constitution was granted in August 1906, shamefully betraying the women of Iran. 

Compromises were made among the men of the ideals of liberty and modernity with the Shiat clergies. In all; the new constitution only eliminated ½ of the problem that was the absolute power of king but let the clergy’s domination remain intact. Although the Belgium secular constitution was adopted, many social and family affairs, including women, remained under the control of the clergies and the Islamic laws. 

William Morgan Shuster an American accountant who was hired in 1911 to help organize the finances of the newly freed Iran, has said in his book; The strangling of Persia, “The Persian women since 1907 became almost at a bound the most progressive, not to say radical, in the world. That this statement upsets the ideas of centuries makes no difference. It is the fact. It is not too much to say that with out the powerful moral force of women the ill started and short-lived revolutionary movement, however well conducted by the Persian men, would have early paled in to a mere disorganized protest. The Persian women did much to keep the spirit of liberty alive“. 

With the victory of revolution and establishment of the constitution the women expected equal opportunities and gender rights. None was granted in the constitution. Family laws remained within the domain of Shariat with no change. But the women of iran did not give up, on January 20, 1907, The Secret Society of the Ladies was established. A women’s conference was held in Tehran where ten resolutions were adopted, including one that called for establishing girls’ schools sought the abolition of dowries so that the money could be spent on educating the girls instead. 

Women Became involved in all aspect of the country’s affairs, despite the threats of the Islamic clergies, although informally. The patriotic Iranian women tired of the foreign Imperialist interference, marched to the Majlis, Parliament, threatening the members to do the right patriotic things, with pistols under their hijobs and in their sleeves. Boycotting the import of foreign goods as well as raising funds for the establishment of the first Iranian National Bank. Women sold their jewelry and dowries to finance the bank. The members of the Secret Society of women published pamphlets and articles demanding that men should give up their seats in “Majless” and let women run the affairs of the country. By 1913 there were 9 women’s organizations and 63 girls’ schools in Tehran with close to 2500 students. 

Society for the Freedom of Women and Secret Society of Women were the first to be formed in 1907followed by many others. They all played an active part in politics by staging plays which raised funds for schools, hospitals and orphanages. In 1915 the Society of Christian Women Graduates of Iran as well as the Zoroastrian and Jewish Women’s Association were formed in order to educate and organize women in their own communities. All the signs of a progressive civil society. 

In 1910, the magazine Danish (knowledge) was published. This was the first journal published by a woman in Iran, the second and third followed in 1912 and 13. Ms. Sadigeh Dawlatabadi, one of the leaders of the women’s movement in Iran, followed in 1918 and 1919 with Mrs. Fakhafagh Parsa Nesvon magazine, and Zaban-i Zanan (Women’s language) and Zanan-i Iran (Iranian Woman) in Isfahan and Tehran. By the 1930s fourteen women’s magazines were discussing equal rights, education and veiling. 

In 1926 Sadigeh Dawlatabadi attended The International Women’s Conference in Paris. On her return she went public in European attire no Hijob. In 1928 the Iranian Parliament, Majles, ratified the new dress code, giving the women the choice of not wearing Hijob. In 1931 for the first time Majles approved a new civil code that gave women the right to ask for divorce under certain conditions and the marriage age was elevated from 9 to 15 for girls and 18 for boys. The civil code was secular but family laws remained within the domain of Shariat however. In 1933 recommended reforms at Damascus and Tehran conferences were presented to Majlis and women demanded electoral rights and were refused again. Reza Shah Pahlavi intervened and in 1934 the Minister of Education received instructions to establish Kanoun-i Banouvan (The Ladies Center) to affect reforms for women. 

In the morning of January 7th 1935 Reza Shah Pahlavi once again proving to the people of Iran that he was a progressive leader, stepped out of his palace with his wife and daughters in Western attire and without any hijob, “The king stood in support of the women of Iran and therefore the emancipation of women was officially born.” It took 29 more years and two more generations of extra struggle, after the establishment of the constitutional government in 1906, for the women and a progressive patriotic king, to overcome the influence of the Muslim clerics like Ayatollah Khomeini, to shake the foundation of fundamentalism and Gender Apartheid in Iran. 

Unveiling was made compulsory in 1935, since the clergies had been using all means of preventing it, since the Majlis, parliament, had ratified the law. A national education system was formed to educate boys and girls equally. In that same year the first ladies entered Tehran University and Amineh Pakravan was the first female lecturer along with Dr. Fatimah Sayah who was the first woman who became a full professor. 

After The Second World War, independent organizations were formed. In 1942 the National Women’s Society and the newly formed Council of Iranian Women was formed in 1944 which strongly criticized polygamy. In 1944, Our Awakening was published and in 1949 the women’s league was changed to Organization of Democratic Women and branches were opened in all the major cities. The society was later changed to Organization of Progressive Women and in 1951 unsuccessfully lobbied for electoral rights again. In 1949 the Higher Council of Women was formed opening branches all over the country focusing on health and education. 1954 Dr Soghra Azarmi, returned from United States and was appointed to head the Cancer Research Center of Iran. 

In 1951, Ms. Mehrangiz Dawlatshahi (the first female Ambassador) and Ms. Safeyeh Firouz founded the first organization supporting human rights. The two met with the Mohammed Reza Shah and demanded electoral rights. Opposition by Ayatollah Khomeini and the other Islamic clergies, once again, ended that debate as well. However in February of 1962 at last women were given the right to vote and to be elected, by Mohammad Reza shah Pahlavi. In 1968 the Family Protection Law was ratified. Divorce was referred to family courts and huge strides were made in the direction of ratifying equitable divorce laws, polygamy was also severely restricted. Marriage age for girls was set at 18 years and Dr. Farrokhroo Parsa (who was later brutally executed during the first days of the revolution by Khomeini’s executioner) became the first woman member of the cabinet in Iran. Women were drafted to serve in the education corps and go through military service. And finally In 1972, women gained the right of guardianship for their children after their husbands’ death. 

By 1978, 33% of university students were women with over 3 million professionals with university degrees in the workforce. There were 333 women in the local councils, 22 in Majlis, Parliament and 2 in the Senate. The women of Iran had fought a hard and long battle with the Islamic clergies and Ayatollahs and had won. 

William Morgan Shuster says in his book: “ When the Mjles, Parliament, was threatened by the Russians and the members were giving in to them the Persian Women supplied the answer; Persian mothers, wives and daughters marched in hundreds to the Majles, exhibited threateningly their revolvers, tore aside their veils, and confessed their decision to kill their own husbands and sons, and leave behind their own dead bodies, if the deputies wavered in their duty to uphold the liberty and dignity of the Persian people and the nation. May we not exclaim: All honor to the veiled women of Persia …They drank deep of the cup of freedom’s desire, and offered up their daily contribution to their county’s cause.” 

This generation of Iranian Women has learned the lessons of the past and work together for their human dignity and freedom again. Women of all ethnic and religious background are fighting for their rights, keeping up with the tradition of their grandmothers.

Women of Suffering and Torture

Monday, April 6, 2015 

An exclusive interview with Shiva Ganji an Iranian women rights activists who lives in Turkey since 2013.

Gharchak prison is one of the prisons in Iran to hold especially female prisoners with general crimes. The prison is located in the eastern deserts nearby the capital city of Iran that its geographical location of the prison caused difficult conditions of prisoners to visit their loved ones. 

The prison is reportedly held the criminal prisoners including murders, armed robbers and drug traffickers which is estimated more than 1.200 inmates.

Some of women political prisoners including Atena Faraghdani, Hakimeh Shokri, Roya Saberinejad, Ghonche Ghavami, Shabnam Madadzadeh, Negar Haeri … had been exiled to the prison to bear more pressure after excruciating life among criminal prisoners they have undergone.

“It is a prison after all. It is not a five-star hotel. My wife says it would have been better if she was sent to Evin. But I don’t think so. Of course, I hope that Evin would be better than Gharchak Prison as I have seen it” as Marzieh Vafamehr, an Iranian filmmaker and actress, told her husband Nasser Taghvai has acknowledged the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran.

“Prisoners of Conscience Will Not Be Transferred to Gharchak Prison, Says Sotoudeh’s Husband Reza Khandan to the campaign.”

The report has mentioned excruciating life of prisoners in Gharchak prison which has been hidden from the perspective of Human Rights activists.

Gharchak prison was originally a chicken farm, then turned into a drug rehabilitation center nearly 4 years ago. In April of 2011 transfer of female prisoners from Rajai Shahr and notorious Evin prison had been begun.

The prison consistent of ten halls build to hold prisoners which divided into two parts; the jail where monitoring by the Bureau of Prisons and counseling in the prison.

The prison section included four wards which known as hall as the worst part of the prison.

First hall of the section is placed the prisoners who are convicted to long term imprisonment which estimated more than 15 years due to drug-related crimes.

The second one is occupied by short term imprisonment of the prisoners who are suspended by the tribunal of the regime in no date for trial. “They are generally sentenced to prison less than 15 years” Shiva Ganji said.

The third one is especially for the criminals who have been convicted on the charge of murder, robbery, brothels operating, fraud, forging and adultery.

The fourth hall which is known suspension section for the inmates are suspended, and they have not been still sentenced. The hall is the worst one in the prison hold the inmates who came lately. The number of the inmates are nearly 260-270 that 90% of them are addicted. However, there are no more than 90 bed what led them to sleep on the ground.

Shiva had answered smoking and self-harm is not illegal in the halls when I asked her about the condition in the sections.

She added that the other halls are for consultation which chaired by Mohammad-Baqer qalibaf the mayor of the capital of Iran.

The women rights activist has expressed that the fifth hall is also used to keep the prisoners in suspension, although, there are significant differences as hygiene and cleanness. The prisoners are divided with the others due to their appropriate behavior affirmed by prison officials.

The sixth and seventh halls are motley hold the definitive convicts in the short term imprisonment.

The eighth one known “Mothers Ward” including ten pregnant women and 20 children who are not more than three-years-old living with their mothers. The children are fed with rice milk two times per week, on every Thursday both mothers and children are given a Danish Pastries.

Two other halls are holding the prisoners who sentenced to death on execution row including 63 inmates on the charge of murder.

All the halls are covered with poor carpet that inmates suffer the colors. Fourteen rooms form the halls which divided by bed-seated, whereas, 12 inmates are kept in a room with four three-floor bed seated, so that, there is no place to seat or to eat.

The prison has not water piping as Shiva said. Water is sterilized by a very high percentage chlorine which causes the loss of color when the inmates wash their clothes. 90% of the prisoners cannot buy mineral water due to poor financial.

There are only 12 unclean toilets for all halls; moreover, the consultation hall including 70 inmates have just four bathrooms.

“Unfortunately the nutritional condition is indescribable as the prisoners have frequently expressed concern about quality and time of the feeding division.” Shiva has mentioned about the lack of vitamins and protein in food, however, noted the food dilemma both quality-quantity as uncooked beans, no dairy, etc.

The inmates have frequently seen “cockroaches” in food which is informed from many prisons in the Islamic Republic of Iran.

But it is not the end of the hardness of the prisoners in Ghrachak; drug dealing is the other tragedy which shocks Human Rights activists when the reports disclosed by Shiva Ganji.

Crystal Meth is used by some of the prisoners which led them sleeplessness and nervous cause the interior clashes between them that officials have blind their eyes to the events have done in the prison.

Unaccountable H.I.V and Hepatitis statistics in the prison have increased concern among the reports which received by Human Rights activists. This makes the prison situation even more unbearable.

Rape is the other norm in the prison is suffered by the feeble inmates, however, the officials have blinded their eyes on the misfortune. The head of the gang leads the rabble prisoners to stuck the victims to rape at midnight.

The prisoners who are on death row use sedative pills which led them to sleep all day in the first hall of consultation that known “the hall of the dead” as Shiva said.

The prison clinic is weak for medical treatment and moreover, the prisoners have to wait on the row for dentist and ophthalmologist more than three months on their own coast.

Gharchak prison never has appropriate temperature both winter-summer due to no heater and air-condition available there.

Many reports have been received from prisons throughout Iran about the lack of health care facilities, clean water, poor nutrition, and sanitation.

These reports have been received from Karoon, Adel Abad, Bandar Abbas, Vakil Abad and many other prisons in Iran.

By: Kaveh Taheri


According to the joint appeal, Daemi "set up training classes for street children and organised painting exhibitions to raise awareness about the issue of street children in Iran. She also participated in demonstrations in solidarity with children in Kobani and Gaza." 

Daemi was arrested at home on 21 October 2014 by the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) and taken to the notorious Evin prison, where she was initially held in solitary confinement for three months. 

t the system." Other charges included allegedly "concealing evidence" and "insulting the founder of the Islamic Republic of Iran and the Supreme Leader."

“They sentenced her to give a warning to human rights activists and give her a lesson not to trespass against the regime’s imposed red lines,” Ramesh said.

to sin by silence, when we should protest, makes cowards out of men. 
- ella wheeler wilcox 
Their children have been killed by the clergy rulers’ revolutionary injustice, because they wanted freedom.
Two Iranian women one inside Iran and one actor outside Iran. 

One is protecting her face from Acid throwing thugs unleashed by the regime, the other has fled the tyranny to be free.

One lives under the laws of slavery as the property of men, the other displays her pride and independence.Where are the western feminists to support the women inside Iran?
Nasrin Setudeh the legal mind and defender of the Iranian women’s right

The students of the "only women" university embarked on showing all the creative costumes they had made. A Fashion show was held in the campus and for the students and faculty only. The regime did not approve the show and the costumes they had made and displayed on their bodies.  All the students involved in designing and displaying of creativity were arrested and taken to prison.
Thank you President Obama for empowering tyrants against the women of Iran.

They almost succeeded in a few days to collect one million signatures against the Gender Apartheid Islamic laws, but the oppressors barged in to their homes, beat them up in front of their husbands and children, arrested, imprisoned and tortured them.  The signatures were confiscated and destroyed.
Fereshteh Toosi, a women’s rights activist who has been in prison is very sick and according to the prison doctor he is prevented from dispensing medicine to her.

Iran is the second most prolific executioner in the world after China

By; Judith Bergman

On the UN's Human Rights Day, observed December 10, an Iranian woman was sentenced to death by stoning in the Islamic Republic of Iran.

Since the Islamic Revolution in 1979, Iran is believed to have imposed death by stoning on at least 150 people, according to the International Committees against Execution and Stoning.

"Stoning," Iranian human rights activist Shabnam Assadollahi said, "is an act of torture. There are 15 countries in which stoning is either practiced and authorized by law or tolerated. One of those 15 countries is Iran. The last known execution by stoning was in 2009. In Iran under the Islamic law, stonings, hangings, and executions are legal torture.

"In Islam under Sharia law, the stoning (Rajm) is commonly used as a form of capital punishment, called Hudud," Assadollahi explained.

"Under the Islamic Law, it is the ordained penalty in cases of adultery committed by a married man or married woman with others who are not her/his legal partner. Stoning is carried out by a crowd of Muslims who follow the Sharia law by throwing stones (small and large) at a convicted person until she or he is killed. The international community must pressure Iran, Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Sudan, Somalia, Pakistan, and other countries where stoning is legally carried or tolerated. Why cannot the public loudly cry out and advocate for women oppressed by those regimes?"

Instead of cries of outrage, the West, in the wake of the nuclear "deal" Iran has not even signed, has been scrambling to ingratiate itself with the Iranian regime. Countries such as France, Germany, Austria and Switzerland have barely been able to contain themselves at the prospect of doing business with them. It has been years since the Europeans could legally engage in trade with the murderous regime of the mullahs, who still cry, "Death to Israel, Death to America" -- the "Little Satan" and the "Great Satan' -- and they have not been wasting time.

In fact, the P5+1 negotiators (the five permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany) had just finished signing the "deal" with themselves, when Germany's Vice Chancellor, Sigmar Gabriel, hurried himself and a group of representatives from German companies and industry groups onto a plane for a visit to Iran.

The French Foreign Minister, Laurent Fabius, who usually knows better, likewise, found it "... completely normal that after this historic deal was signed, France and Iran should restart normal relations."

Before the sanctions took effect in 2011, French companies such as Renault and Peugeot were making billions of euros from their involvement with Iran's auto industry. Similarly, the French company Total was heavily involved in the oil sector. France was evidently not going to miss a beat in bringing this lucrative trade back to la République.

How ironic that the country of "liberté, egalité and fraternité" finds it "completely normal" to have normal diplomatic and trade relations with a country that treats its own citizens, especially women, worse than the mud under the mullah's feet; that executes whoever disagrees with the regime, and that hangs homosexuals from cranes. How ironic that Europeans have no problem stuffing themselves with syrupy Iranian dates exported by this smiling regime, knowing full well that there are thousands of Iranian prisoners being tortured in Iranian prisons while awaiting their execution day.

Iranian authorities are believed to have executed 694 people between January 1 and July 15, 2015 -- an average of three executions a day. Since the election of the "moderate" President Hassan Rouhani in 2013, the number of executions has markedly gone up. According to a July 2015 Amnesty International report:

"Death sentences in Iran are particularly disturbing because they are invariably imposed by courts that are completely lacking in independence and impartiality. They are imposed either for vaguely worded or overly broad offences, or for acts that should not be criminalized at all, let alone attract the death penalty. Trials in Iran are deeply flawed, detainees are often denied access to lawyers in the investigative stage, and there are inadequate procedures for appeal, pardon and commutation."

The report goes on to state that the majority of those put to death in 2015 were people from disadvantaged backgrounds, who were convicted on drug charges. "This is in direct breach of international law, which restricts the use of the death penalty to only the 'most serious crimes' – those involving intentional killing. Drug-related offences do not meet this threshold."

Among those executed in Iran this year are members of ethnic and religious minorities convicted of "enmity against God" and "corruption on earth." These include Kurdish political prisoners and Sunni Muslims. On August 26, 2015, Behrouz Alkhani, a 30-year-old man from Iran's Kurdish minority, was executed despite awaiting the outcome of a Supreme Court appeal.

Iran is the second most prolific executioner in the world after China, according to Amnesty International's latest global death penalty report.

Iran also tops the global list statistically for executioners of juvenile offenders, even though it is a state party to the Convention on the Rights of the Child and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, both of which prohibit the imposition of the death penalty against persons who were below 18 years of age at the time of the crime, without exception. (Of course Iran was also a signatory to the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, which it also violated repeatedly.) Iran continues to impose the death penalty against juvenile offenders, frequently deferring the execution until after they pass the age of 18. In 2015, at least four juvenile offenders are believed to have been executed: Javad Saberi, Vazir Amroddin, Samad Zahabi and Fatemeh Salbehi.

Iran is scheduled to be reviewed by the Committee on the Rights of the Child on January 11-12, 2016. The Committee has already expressed deep concerns about the use of death penalty against juvenile offenders and asked Iran to provide information on the progress and outcome of the cases of juvenile offenders undergoing re-trial.

Despite all the atrocities that Iran commits towards its citizens, women hold a special place of denigration and humiliation in Iranian society. Young women are reported brutally arrested by the thousand every week for not wearing a "proper hijab." A woman in Iran is de facto first her father's property, then after marriage, her husband's property. According to the UN Secretary General's February 2015 Report on the Situation of Human Rights in Iran, child marriage is prevalent. The legal age of marriage for girls is 13; some as young as 9 may be married by permission of the court. In 2011, about 48,580 girls between the age of 10 and 14 were married; in 2012, there were at least 1,537 girls under the age of 10 who were reportedly married. Pedophilia is thereby widespread and legal.

Married women may not work, attend sporting events or leave the country without their husband's permission. When arrested, they suffer unspeakable torture in prison. Rape is commonly used as torture in prison against both women and men.

Forced "virginity testing" is also commonly used in prison, a serious violation of international law. It violates women's and girls' human rights to physical integrity, dignity, privacy and right to be free from torture and cruel and inhuman and degrading treatment. According to Amnesty International, satirical cartoonist Atena Farghadani, held in prison since January 2015, was sentenced in June 2015 to twelve years and nine months in prison for her peaceful activism, including meeting with families of political prisoners, and for drawing a satirical cartoon depicting legislators as monkeys, cows, and other animals. The cartoon was to protest a bill that sought to criminalize voluntary sterilization and restrict access to contraception and family planning services.

In December 2014, when Farghadani was out on bail, she released a video message on YouTube, detailing how female prison guards at Evin prison had beaten her, verbally abused her and forced her to strip naked for body searches. She was rearrested in January 2015, and in the fall of 2015 she was forced to undergo a "virginity and pregnancy test" prior to her trial. The charge? "Illegitimate sexual relations" for having shaken hands with her lawyer.

Iran nevertheless won a top seat on the U.N.'s Commission on the Status of Women in April 2014. Not a single UN member, not even the US, objected, to that election.

An exhaustive account of the atrocities that the Iranian regime continues to commit against its own people would require volumes. Nevertheless, the West, seems to remain unfazed in furthering its lucrative relations with the murderous regime.

Those politicians and executives scrambling to do business with the mullahs should realize that Iran's intercontinental ballistic missiles can tomorrow be aimed at them. Those who comfort themselves with the thought that Iran only wants to annihilate Israel might do well to think again. Iran has tested a two-stage solid-fuel missile, the Sejjil-2, with a range of more than 2,000 km, allowing it to target southeastern Europe. In addition, Iran recently unveiled the Soumar cruise missile, reportedly a reverse-engineered version of the Russia's Raduga Kh-55 -- which was designed as a nuclear delivery system. It has a claimed range of 2,500-3,000 km.

Nevertheless, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has acceded to Iran's demands to close its 12-year investigation into whether Iran had a secret nuclear weapons program. The IAEA produced a report earlier this month that strongly suggested Iran did have a nuclear weapons program for the years up until 2003.

The West clearly not only fails to care about the plight of the Iranians -- it does not even care about its own populations being within Iranian missile range.

Judith Bergman is a writer, columnist, lawyer and political analyst.