In the days leading up to International Women's Day, the Iranian government once again demonstrated its lack of respect for the basic rights of Iranian women.
On March 4th , security forces arrested approximately thirty women who were peacefully protesting in front of a courthouse in Tehran. The women had gathered to show support for five Iranian women on trial for organizing an equal rights demonstration in Tehran in June 2006. That demonstration had been violently broken up by baton-wielding police and more than seventy people were arrested. Five women were later charged by the government with “acting against national security by participating in an illegal gathering.”
The women standing outside the courthouse on March 4th held signs that read, "Holding peaceful gatherings is our absolute right" – - a takeoff on the Iranian government's oft-repeated slogan about nuclear energy. As in last summer's violent reaction, police reportedly used force against the courthouse demonstrators, too, beating them and taking more than two dozen to Evin prison.
The human rights organization Amnesty International says it believes the Iranian government took action against the protestors this week to discourage Iranian women's rights' activists from organizing further events to mark International Women's Day. "Rather than arresting peaceful demonstrators, the Iranian authorities should be taking seriously women's demands for equality before the law and addressing discrimination against women wherever it exists in the Iranian legal system," said Irene Khan, Amnesty International's Secretary General.
The brutal treatment by the Iranian government of peaceful women's right's activists is another example of the repression referred to recently by U.S. State Department spokesman Sean McCormack:
"The regime's repression affects religious minorities, students, women, labor unions, journalists, and academics."
"The Unites States," says Mr. McCormack, "calls on the Iranian regime to cease the systematic oppression if its citizens, respect the human rights of all Iranian people, and to release those arrested and imprisoned for insisting on their universal rights to freedom of speech, press, assembly, worship and fair labor standards."