By Ben Turner Impunity Watch Reporter, Middle East
LONDON, England – In a new report, Amnesty International claims that Iran continues to harass activists working to promote women’s rights.
Kurdish Iranian activists Ronak Safarzadeh and Hana Abdi are currently detained without charge or trial and denied access to a lawyer.
According to the report, the two activists were arrested in October and November 2007 for peacefully exercising their rights. Both were working for the Campaign for Equality, an Iranian women’s rights initiative launched in 2006.
Currently, the Campaign for Equality is attempting to gather one million Iranian national signatures for a petition demanding the end of legal gender discrimination in Iran. The Campaign for Equality also provides legal training to volunteers who talk to women across the country about the need for reform.
The Amnesty International report said that those involved with the Campaign have been harassed and intimidated. Dozens of women who worked with the Campaign have been arrested and the organization’s website has been blocked at least seven times.
There are several Iranian laws that discriminate against women. According to Ann Harrison, a spokeswoman for Amnesty, women are discriminated against in the civil code and in areas of marriage and divorce. For example, women can be married at the age of 13 or younger if the girl’s parents apply to a court.
According to Harrison, a woman’s weight of testimony in an Iranian court is worth half that of a man’s. In addition, women are likely to receive half the amount of compensation for injuries that a man receives. Also, women are excluded from serving in the most senior positions in the government and as judges.
The recent backlash against women’s rights may be in response to an increase in women attending the country’s higher education institutions. Women currently outnumber men at universities and the disparity is greater at medical schools.
Recently, Iran imposed a new law instituting a gender quota for university classes. The quota requires each class to consist of at least 30 percent men and 30 percent women, while the remainder of the spots will be determined competitively.
According to a Pakistani news organization, the Daily Times, the quota was put in place in part to prevent women from dominating the medical profession. The quota will increase the amount of women in some fields, such as mathematics and engineering, where there are fewer female students. But the quota will also reduce the amount of women in the medical profession.
For more information, please see: Amnesty International – Women Act Against Repression and Intimidation in Iran – 28 February 2008
Amnesty International – Iran: Persecution of Women’s Rights Campaigners Rife – New Report – 28 February 2008
BBC – Iran ‘Targeting’ Women Activists – 28 February 2008
VOA – Amnesty International Calls for Iran to End Gender Discrimination – 28 February 2008
FOX Business News – Iran Continues to Intimidate and Harass Women Human Rights Defenders According to Amnesty International – 27 February 2008
Daily Times – Iran Plans University Quotas Based on Gender – 26 February 2008
Campaign for Equality’s website: http://www.we4change.info/english/spip.php?article144