Shirin Ebadi’s Sister taken Hostage to Silence Her

(5 January 2010) Numerous women’s rights campaigners, female journalists and relatives are being arrested and persecuted as authorities in the Islamic Republic of Iran attempt to repress masses of Iranians from advocating for their civil rights in recent weeks, the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran said today.

“It is evident that the authorities are singling out women’s rights activists and arbitrarily arresting them, as well as female journalists, in the context of recent public demonstrations,” stated Aaron Rhodes, a spokesperson for the Campaign.

Dr. Nooshin Ebadi, the sister of Nobel Peace Laureate Shirin Ebadi, was arbitrarily arrested on 28 December. Nooshin Ebadi has no record of political or human rights activism and her arrest is a blatant attempt to intimidate and silence Shirin Ebadi.

“The arrest of Shirin Ebadi’s sister is an act of hostage-taking by the state and should be strongly condemned by the international community,” Rhodes said.

Some activists have been threatened with execution, while others have disappeared, with no official record of their arrest or whereabouts provided.

Atieh Yousefi, one of the most active members of the One Million Signatures Campaignin the city of Rasht, was arrested on the Shiite Holy day of Ashura (27 December). According to information provided to the Campaign, Yousefi was arrested while trying to assist a young man who had been severely injured by plain clothed agents who had beaten him. Still in detention, a judge has denied her family permission to visit her.

On 2 January 2010, Parisa Kakaie, a member of the Committee of Human Rights Reporters, who had been summoned to the Intelligence Ministry and threatened in telephone calls, was arrested when she appeared at the Intelligence Office. On 3 January, Kakaie called her home and said that she was in ward 209 of Evin prison. Previously, Kakaie was summoned to Branch 3 of the Revolutionary Court, along with other women’s rights activists, and was questioned at the Investigation Office of the Intelligence Ministry.

Bahareh Hedayat
, a women’s rights advocate and a leading student activist, was arrested on 30 December 2009, by intelligence agents who presented a written order to detain her. Her home was searched and many of her personal belongings, including her computer and books, were confiscated.

Zohre Tonkaboni, 62, a former teacher and member of Mothers for Peace, was arrested on 28 December. Mahin Fahimi, another member of Mothers for Peace, was arrested on 8 December 2009, along with her son, Omid Montazeri. Fahimi’s husband was executed in 1988 while he was a political prisoner.

On 20 December 2009, Shiva Nazarahari, a leading member of the Committee of Human Rights Reporters, was arrested on a bus en route to Qom for Grand Ayatollah Montazeri’s funeral, when the bus was stopped by Security Forces in Enqelab Square in Tehran. Nazarahari went on a dry hunger strike after she was arrested, and was transferred to the health clinic of Evin prison’s ward 209 on 1 January, where she was warned that she would be executed if she continued her hunger strike. Previously, on 14 June 2009, Nazarahari had been arrested at her office but was released after 100 days on bail of $200,000, and is waiting for her trial. Before  these detentions, she had been arrested in August 2004, in a gathering of  political prisoners’ families in front of the UN building, and was sentenced to a one-year suspended prison term.

Somayeh Rashidi, a women’s rights activist and member of the One Million Signatures Campaign, was arrested on 20 December 2009 while she appeared before the Revolutionary Court following her summons. She was questioned in court without her lawyer being allowed to accompany her; later, she was transferred to Evin prison. Her home was subsequently searched by agents who took her personal belongings and those of her roommate. Rashidi was previously denied the possibility to pursue her graduate work in women’s studies because of her activities.

Maryam Zia, a women’s rights activist who is the director of an organization devoted to children’s welfare, and is the wife of Mansour Hayat Ghaybi, a member of the Executive Board of the Bus Workers’ Union, Vahed Syndicate, was arrested on 31 December at her home. She wasn’t at home when the plainclothes came to arrest her, but her son was forced to call her and ask her to come home. She was taken to an unknown location. Previously, she had been arrested during the women’s rights gathering in Haft Tir square in 2006.

Mansoureh Shojaie, a member of One Million Signatures Campaign and the Women’s Cultural Center, has been arrested, but no information about her location or legal status has been released.

In addition to these cases, the following female journalists have also been imprisoned:

Badrossadat Mofidi, General Secretary of the Journalists Association, was arrested on 28 December 2009 at her home.

Nasrin Vaziri, a journalist and reporter for ILNA and other publications, was taken into custody by unknown persons on 28 December at 22:00. According to her family, there is no information about her whereabouts and her name is not on any detainee list. Her family, in an interview with the Committee of Human Rights Reporters, said that the Tehran prosecutor’s office had informed them that the office didn’t issue any order for her arrest, so she has effectively been “disappeared.”

Mahsa Hekmat, a reporter for the daily Etemad Meli, was arrested on 1 January 2010. She was visiting Ali Hekmat, a well- known journalist at his house in Saveh. The agents had apparently ordered the arrest of Ali Hekmat, but after they coordinated with their superiors, they arrested Mahsa as well.

Other women have also been jailed, some apparently based on their relationships to political and civil society activists. Two daughters of Mohammad Tavasoli, a member of the Freedom Movement (Nehzat e Azadi), Layla and Sara Tavasoli, were arrested in the last four days. Tavasoli’s daughters are not activists and they were reportedly arrested to force Tavasoli to announce the closure of the Freedom Movement.

Some of the other female political activists arrested include Azar Mansouri, the deputy of the Iran Participation Front, and student activists Niloufar Hashemi Azar, and Atefeh Nabavi and Shabnam Maddadzad.

The Campaign calls on the Islamic Republic authorities to immediately release all women’s rights activists and others who have been arbitrarily arrested.