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Abuse Of Iranian Women Activists

The Iranian regime continues to trample on the rights of the Iranian people. In recent days, the government’s treatment of women, particularly those peacefully working to end Iran’s discriminatory gender laws, has become a matter of renewed concern.

Amnesty International cites the cases of Hana Abdi and Ronak Safarzadeh, who, according to Amnesty, “are prisoners of conscience, detained solely for the peaceful exercise of their rights to freedom of expression and association.” Both were active members of the Azar Mehr Women’s Organization of Sanandaj, the capital city of the Iranian province of Kordestan. Azar Mehr is affiliated with the Campaign for Equality, whose goal is to end legalized discrimination against women in Iran.

Hana Abdi and Ronak Safarzadeh were arrested in October 2007 by Iranian security agents. Hana Abdi was recently sentenced to five years in prison, to be served in a remote northern city in Ardbil province, far from her home and family. She was convicted of “gathering and colluding to commit a crime against national security.” The lawyer for both women, Mohammad Sharif, says he is shocked and dismayed at Ms. Abdi’s harsh sentence.

Ronak Safarzadeh has been charged with the even more serious crime of “enmity against God.” A conviction on that charge could result in the death penalty. According to Mr. Sharif, Ms. Safarzadeh’s purported “confessions” to so-called “crimes” were made under duress during months of solitary confinement.

Amnesty International reports that the head of Azar Mehr, Negin Sheikholeslami, spoke to Hani Abdi and Ronak Safarzadeh by phone in February. The two women said that their “only crime was to work for the equality of human beings, human beings who are discriminated against in this country because of their gender or ethnicity ... Don’t forget us,” they added.

U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice says that the way a society treats its women is a bellwether [indicator] of its attitude toward the rule of law and the dignity of human beings.

The U.S. calls on Iran to stop its abusive treatment of peaceful women’s rights activists. The U.S. stands with the women of Iran who courageously struggle for basic rights and justice.