International Women’s Day was marked with great fanfare on Saturday, March 8. Optimistic and inspirational speeches along with quotes were coupled with worrying reports statistics to showcase the need to end gender discrimination where it still exists. Human Rights Watch decided to mark the occasion by publishing a lengthy review of gender discrimination in Iran, “saluting women behind bars”, and calling on its government to “immediately and unconditionally” free three female rights activists “unlawfully detained for their support of women, students and political dissidents.”
The rights organization singled Iran out for its treatment of and legal discrimination against women, noting that just last week one of the three activists, Maryam Shafipour, was sentenced to a seven-year prison term. She joins at least 14 others in the women’s political prisoners ward at Tehran’s notorious Evin Prison. In the words of HRW Middle East and North Africa director Sarah Leah Whitson:
The detention of these women activists is a stark reminder that Iran’s government deprives its people of their most basic and fundamental rights.
Activism on behalf of women is a national security threat, according to the court that sentenced Shafipour.
With the sobering from the celebrations of the so called renewed engagement in the nuclear issue, and awakening to the neglect of Iranian human rights violations, we see increased reports concerning the status of prisoners in the country.
Very telling are the words of Gissou Nia, Executive Director of the Iran Human Rights Documentation Center (IHRDC, in an interview recently. She notes that “the reality is that while President Rouhani was elected, in part, on a human rights mandate from the Iranian people, the conservative elements of Iran’s government and the unaccountable bodies in the political structure, can all stymie reform. The international community has a role to play here by holding a united line on the demand for human rights reform in Iran, and holding Tehran’s leaders accountable for those changes”.
While western media calls for taming the wild, Iranian Judiciary Human Rights Council Head Mohammad Javad Larijani in his interview boasts the country’s execution rate stating Friday that it should be seen as a “positive marker of Iranian achievement.”.