As the world focuses on claims by Iran of new and expanded nuclear capabilities, the clerical regime continues to repress the Iranian people. Earlier this month, five women's rights activists were arrested in a Tehran park. The four women and one man had been collecting signatures for a campaign to change Iranian laws that discriminate against women.
Human Rights Watch reports that the five were taken to a branch of the Revolutionary Court and told their activities amounted to acting against Islam and the state. The authorities asked the detainees to sign a pledge to end their activities on behalf of the petition campaign. Two of the women, Mahboubeh Hosseinzadeh and Nahid Keshavarz, refused. The other three detainees were released on bail. Ms. Hosseinzadeh and Ms. Keshavarz were transferred to Evin prison. It was their second incarceration in Evin in a month. Both were among the thirty-three women's rights defenders arrested by Iranian authorities in early March. That group was taken to Evin after participating in a peaceful protest of the trial of five Iranian women who had helped organize an equal rights demonstration in Tehran in June 2006.
A statement about the plight of Ms. Hosseinzadeh and Ms. Keshavarz was issued by Yakin Erturk, Special Rapporteur of the United Nations Human Rights Council on Violence against Women, Ambeyi Ligabo, U.N. Special Rapporteur on the Promotion and Protection of the Right to Freedom of Expression, and Hina Jilani, U.N. Special Representative of the Secretary General on the situation of human rights defenders.
The three called on Iranian authorities to "immediately and unconditionally release [Mahboubeh Hosseinzadeh and Nahid Keshavarz]." They said that "the arrest of the five persons acting as human rights defenders is not a singular incident, but forms part of an ongoing, worrying trend. . .to deny women's rights defenders their human rights to freedom of expression, to peaceful assembly, and to liberty and security."
U.S. Under Secretary of State for Democracy and Global Affairs Paula Dobriansky spoke to the importance of women's rights:
"The denial of women's voices and rights remains the norm in far too many nations. The best guarantor for the rights for women is freedom and democracy, and all members of society, men and women, benefit as a result."
In a statement, U.S. State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said, "The United States stands with the women of Iran who courageously struggle for their universal rights and justice in their country."