It's good news that the Iranian regime has released detained Iranian actress and reform movement supporter Pegah Ahangarani; actress and filmmaker Mahnaz Mohammadi; and photojournalist and women's rights activist Maryam Majd. With the release of these three women, it is hoped that Iran will show similar compassion to those still detained. As much as this move by the Iranian government is welcomed, there are still outstanding concerns in regard to its human rights record.
Iranian actress Marzieh Vafameher, who was detained by authorities in June and is reportedly housed in the notorious Gharechak prison in Varamin, has not been released.
The arbitrary arrests and imprisonment of distinguished female cultural figures in Iran coincide with a statement signed by 500 women's movement activists and supporters decrying an escalation of violence against women in Iran, including violence perpetrated by state security forces. The signatories cite "systematic violence, constant insults and humiliation."
The treatment women face in prison is coupled with the limitations they face in Iranian society in general. Women in Iran face discrimination under Iran's legal system, as well as limitations in terms of dress code, academic quotas, and freedom of mobility.
Women are not the only ones to face barriers; repressive treatment extends to many members of Iranian civil society, including religious minorities, artists, independent trade unionists, journalists, human rights defenders, and university students and professors.
In a statement to Congress, U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs Jeffrey Feltman and U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights and Labor Michael Posner called the Iranian government's behavior "shameful" and "depraved." They pledged that the U.S. would continue to shine a spotlight at the gross violations of human rights taking place in the country. It is essential, they said, that human rights abusers in Tehran "know that we are watching them. Until such time as they are held accountable by domestic authorities, it is our responsibility to hold them accountable at the international level."
As many more citizens remain detained, the U.S. government, along with many across the world, hopes that the Iranian government will extend a similar show of good will to them as they did to Pegah Ahangarani and Mahnaz Mohammadi.