So far, a new day has not dawned for the women of Iran, who have long been at the frontlines of efforts to secure peaceful political and legal reform in their country.
The thirteen-day spring festival of Nowruz is now in full swing in Iran. But so far, a new day has not dawned for the women of Iran, who have long been at the frontlines of efforts to secure peaceful political and legal reform in their country.
Earlier this month, authorities withdrew the permit they had granted for an event in which women’s rights activists were scheduled to speak on International Women’s Day, March 8.
When European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton met with several Iranian women human rights defenders at the Austrian embassy in Tehran on that day, Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman Marziyeh Afkham called the meeting “unhelpful,” and a formal complaint was sent to Austria for hosting an “unsanctioned” meeting.
On March 2, a revolutionary court found another young Iranian woman, student rights activist Maryam Shafipour guilty of “propaganda against the regime,” and “collusion against national security.” Sentenced to seven years in prison, Ms. Shafipour joins student and women rights defender Bahareh Hedayat, who was sentenced in May 2010 to 9 years on similar charges. According to the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran, the two are among 10 women now held in Evin prison’s political prisoners’ ward Nesvan.
When Hassan Rohani was campaigning to be Iran’s president last year, he pledged to improve the overall human rights situation in the country. And since he has been in office, he has promised to “empower and elevate” women in Iran. Unfortunately, as recently released reports on human rights conditions in Iran from the United Nations and the U.S. State Department have confirmed, these promises remain unfulfilled.
“Human rights defenders and women's rights activists continue to face arrest and persecution," said U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon’s report on Iran. "Women are subject to discrimination, entrenched both in law and in practice."
In this regard, the State Department noted “legal and societal discrimination and violence against women”; including the prohibition against certain areas of study; the censoring of information concerning women’s rights; the prosecution of women activists for crimes against national security.
As U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for International Organization Affairs Paula Schriefer said recently at the United Nations Human Rights Council meeting in Geneva, a shift in the Iranian government’s rhetoric concerning human rights cannot substitute for its living up to its promises and obligations to respect the fundamental rights of all Iranians.