The peaceful women's rights protest demanding changes to family laws and legal discrimination against women, which took place between 5:00-6:00pm on June 12, 2006, in 7 th of Tir square, in Tehran, ended in extreme violence when police attacked the crowd with batons, and pepper gas. A large number of police and security forces arrived at the scene hours prior to the scheduled event in an effort to prevent the protest from taking shape. Despite this, it is estimated that several thousand protesters were dispersed throughout 7th of Tir Sqaure, which is one of the main squares of Tehran.
The female police forces brought to the scene were especially brutal in their treatment of protesters. Even small crowds were attacked and beaten violently in an effort to prevent the protesters from forming a large crowd. Besides female police, there were plain clothes security forces present at the scene. Prior to the protest, a massive campaign of harassment against those who had endorsed the protest was carried out by security forces. Scores of women were summoned to court and interrogated, including women's rights activists, student activists and webloggers, who had spread word about the protest.
In an effort to stop the protest, several prominent women's rights activists were issued summons in the middle of the night on Saturday and on the days leading up to the protest. Since then, others have been summoned for interrogation by phone or in writing. Some of these women include: Noushin Ahmadi Khorasani, Parvin Ardalan, Sussan Tahmasebi, Farnz Seify and Fariba Davoodi Mohajer, to name a few. Only Fariba Davoodi Mohajer received her summons in person. Others were not at home or at their offices when agents arrived to issue summons. Ms. Fariba Davoodi Mohajer was issued a summons in person at 11:00pm on Saturday, and subsequently spent 10 hours in interrogation on the 12th of June. She was then released on her own recognizance. Since then, she has been called in for interrogation again.
On Monday morning, the day of the protest, another endorser of the event, Shahla Entesari, a Women's Rights Activist was arrested in her place of employment. It has been reported that Ms. Entesari was released from prison on July 14th, after countless hours of interrogation. According to reports from the Minister of the Judiciary, Mr. Karimi Rad, 70 persons were arrested during the course of this protest, 42 women and 28 men. These include a large number of women's rights activists, student activists, human rights defenders, and ordinary citizens. According to unofficial reports, those arrested are being held in Evin prison. It is also reported that a small number of those arrested were released on the 13th and 14th of June. It has been reported that those arrested are being charged with actions against national security.
The names of those arrested and released are unsubstantiated. But thus far, the following persons have been reported as arrested: Delaram Ali, Women and student rights activist (reportedly freed on June 14) Jila Baniyaghoob, Women's rights activist and journalist Taraneh Bani Yaghoob, Women's rights activist and journalist (reportedly released on June 14) Farahnaz Sharifi, Women's rights activist and film-maker Bahmane Ahmadi Amouie, Author Shahla Entesari, Women's Rights Activist (Arrested the morning of the protest and reportedly released on June 14th.) Nasim Soltan Beigi, Women's Rights Activist Student rights activists reported as arrested, include:
— Ali Akbar Mousavi Khoini, head of the Alumni Organization of Iran, A leading student rights group, and a human rights defender — Farnaz Moayerian, Allameh University Student Activist — Fereshteh Habibollahi, Sharif University Student Activist — Leila Mohseni Nejad, Amir Kabir University Student Activist — Samira Sadri, Member of the Central Council of the Alumni Organization of Iran (reportedly released on June 14) — Bahareh Hedayat, Head of the Women's Commission of the Office to Foster Unity (leading student organization) — Atefeh Yousefi, Sharif University Student Activist — Ali Roozbehani, Sharif University Student Activist — Siamak Taheri, Journalist (reportedly released on June 14) — Leila Mohsenizadeh, Amir Kabir University Student Activist — Vahid Mir Jalili, Sharif Universtiy Student Activist — Amin Ghole'ie, Isfahan University, Student Activist
The violent dispersal of peaceful protesters and the arrests that ensued is in direct violation of the Iranian constitution which guarantees freedom of assembly and peaceful protest. Furthermore, the violent treatment of these peaceful protesters by police is in direct violation of Article 19 of Universal Declaration on Human Rights, which guarantees freedom of speech and assembly and to which Iran is a signatory.
It should be noted that despite the unprecedented pressure placed on student groups in recent months, they turned out in full support of the women's protest. Mr. Ali Akbar Mousavi Khoini, Head of the Alumni Organization of Iran, and a well known human rights advocate, was violently beaten while being taken into custody. Later in prison, after refusing to put on a prison uniform and objecting to illegal arrests of protester, he was beaten further. It is reported that he has suffered extreme injuries due to these beatings.
This protest was planned by a broad coalition of women's rights activists. In fear of reprisal, no Iranian NGOs sponsored the event. Instead a large number of individuals spontaneously spread word about the protest. Nearly 2000 signatures were collected in support of the protest. Over 50 international organizations expressed their support for women's rights activists in Iran and their protest, including several leading international women's rights organizations and human rights organizations.
Last year, on the 22nd of Khordad (June 12th), a broad coalition of women and women's groups organized a similar protest demanding equal rights under the law. This event was held in front of Tehran University and drew 1000s of protesters. Last year, these women promised to continue to push for their demands, if the government was unresponsive. Many of them were subsequently called in for interrogation and their organizations were pressured and threatened.
Despite the violence they faced, women's rights activists in Iran will continue to press for their rights and changes to Iran's legal code, in the hopes of ending all forms of legal discrimination against women. We urge the international community to press Iranian officials for an immediate release of those detained and to stop its harassment of women's rights activists, human rights defenders and their organizations. We also urge the international community to press the Iranian officials to end all forms of legal discrimination against women.