Nabz News Review - May 16, 2014
This week in human rights in Iran
Women in Iran
The right of Iranian women to choose whether they cover their hair and body in an Islamic traditional manner emerged as a major topic again recently. It has been the subject of heated debate since the earliest days of the Islamic Republic in Iran, especially following the famous order by Ayatollah Khomeini requiring women to wear the hijab (the mandatory Islamic covering) in all governmental offices.
Prominent London-based Iranian journalist Masih Alinejad posted an uncovered photo of herself driving in her car back in Iran two weeks ago, sparking an online movement by other Iranian women to share their moments of freedom in public places, or as they call it, their “stealthy freedom”. Within two weeks, the corresponding Facebook page went viral, attracting more than 230,000 followers with many personal photographs from women who sent them voluntarily to Alinejad to post on the page. In response to this trend, a group of almost one thousand conservative women staged a rally in Tehran to protest the action of their counterparts, calling it immoral. Although the rally was not formally sanctioned by the Interior Ministry, it was not stopped by police and according to some reports, free transport was provided for the demonstrators to return home. In response, Alinejad called the high number of followers on her Stealthy Freedom Facebook page an online demonstration by people who have never have a chance to raise their voice in Iran.
Since the Revolution, expatriate Iranians have often been concerned about their ability to travel to Iran without negative consequences for themselves and their relatives. President Hassan Rouhani has pledged to ease travel restrictions for Iranians abroad, and in a surprising move, retweeted Negar Mortazavi’s call for “[t]he right to return to our homeland without the fear of arrest.” The retweet shocked many, as Mortazavi is a noted journalist who worked for Voice of America’s Persian-language service. Yet this occurred just one day after Iranian authorities detained Serajeddin Mirdamadi, a reformist journalist who earlier this year was accused of spreading propaganda against the regime. Mirdamadi lived in Europe from 2009 to 2013 and had only returned to Iran last summer, following Rouhani’s election.
On May 13, Kaleme released a photo of Mir Hossein Mousavi, the Green Movement leader who has been under house arrest since 2011. The photo, the first of Mousavi in three years, shows the former presidential candidate in a hospital bed, suggesting it was taken when Mousavi was rushed to hospital for heart problems around two weeks ago. Mousavi’s daughter has repeatedly brought attention to her father’s deteriorating health and lack of access to proper medical care.
Monday, May 19 marks 1,000 days of imprisonment for Amir Hekmati, the ex-U.S. Marine who has been held in Tehran’s Evin Prison since 2011. The Iranian government accuses Hekmati, who is of Iranian descent but was born in the United States, of espionage and working for the CIA. Originally, the Islamic Revolutionary Court sentenced Hekmati to death, but the Supreme Court overruled the decision. Recently, Hekmati was sentenced to 10 years’ imprisonment. Family members and others calling for Hekmati’s release are organizing vigils in Washington, D.C. and his birth state of Arizona to mark the 1000-day milestone.
Evin Prison is also in the news due to continued international condemnation of the April 17 attack on its Ward 350, which targeted political prisoners and prisoners of conscience and resulted in injury to dozens of them. On May 15, Amnesty International called for a proper investigation into the events of what activists have termed “Black Thursday.” The statement describes the details of the attack, its consequences on prisoners, and how authorities are pressuring the prisoners’ family members to not speak out.