Arseh Sevom–It’s been a bad news week for female prisoners of conscience. Harassment of attorney Nasrin Sotoudeh continues unabated despite international calls for her release. Nine other imprisoned women have embarked on a hunger strike to protest unprovoked and aggressive treatment from prison guards. Director Rakshan Bani Etemad’s latest film, Stories, remains unheard, while workers continue to bear the brunt of economic hardships and political suppression in Iran.
In response to continuous harassment from prison authorities, including a recently extended ban on all visitations, imprisoned human rights lawyer Nasrin Sotoudeh went on a hunger strike in mid-October. Activists called on Sotoudeh to end her hunger strike due to her deteriorating health. Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, The International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran, Reporters Without Borders (RSF), the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), and the Iranian League for the Defence of Human Rights (LDDHI), joined by Shirin Ebadi, renewed their calls to authorities to quash Sakharov prize winner’s convictions and release her and other prisoners of conscience unconditionally. (For more on this story, read Iran: Where the Winner Gets Punished)
Women Behind Bars
Nine female prisoners of conscience began a hunger strike to protest actions by guards at Evin Prison. Justice For Iran provides more details, writing of unnecessary and aggressive body cavity searches of the women. In an interview withRooz online [en], Amin Ahmadian, Bahareh Hedayat’’s husband stated:
On Tuesday afternoon, they took the female political prisoners to the prison’s yard while they searched their cells and confiscated some of their personal belongings. It is not yet clear why they did that, but it appears that they were looking for a cell phone or a communication device. The female prisoners were bodily searched in a harassing manner. As a result, and in protest of that harassment, they are staging a hunger strike.
Bahareh Hedayat, Zhila Baniyaghoub, Mahsa Amrabadi, Hakimeh Shokri, Shiva Nazarahari, Zhila Karamzadeh Makvandi, Nazanin Deyhami, Raheleh Zokaei, and Nasim Soltan-Beigi are the nine prisoners on hunger strike. They join attorney Nasrin Sotoudeh, who is in the third week of a protest against the constant harassment of her and her family by authorities. The blog Women Behind Bars [fa] monitors the situation of the women.
Another Day Older and Deeper in Debt
Workers have been the primary victims of the economic mismanagement and crippling sanctions lodged against Iran. With an increasing number of factories going out of business, a large number of workers have lost their jobs and, in some cases, their wages have gone unpaid. Labor activists have frequently voiced their concerns over the situation and warned about the alarming unemployment rate in the labor society. In their most recent activities, the organizers of a petition, with 20,000 signatures attached to it, made their way to the International Press and New Agencies Exhibition in Tehran and demanded more serious attention from the media on the subjects concerning their work and living situation. The petition is addressed to Iran’s labor minister urging him to review workers’ wage rates and the effects of targeted cash transfer plan and the associated inflation on the workers’ lives.
Freedom of Assembly #Not
Last month, labor rights activist Pedram Nasrollahi received a 19-month sentence charged with “propaganda against the regime” and “membership in the coordinating committee to help form workers’ organizations.” This week theIranian Independent Workers’ Union stated, “The Iranian Independent Workers’ Union, while emphasizing workers’ natural right to defend their existence, declares that no worker should be detained or prosecuted on the basis of ridiculous accusations of participating in protests, strikes, gatherings, forming organizations, and endeavouring to achieve his or her human rights.”
HSBC may be surprised that so many women in Iran make films, but we’re not. The latest film by award-winning Rakhshan Bani-Etemad, Stories, was scheduled to be screened last Friday at an exclusive viewing. The show was canceled at the last minute for unknown reasons. Radiozamaneh [fa] reports that Bani-Etemad had predicted a short run for the film. She is quoted as saying, “The screening of ‘Stories’ might only happen this one time.” In reaction to the last minute cancellation, the director quoted a line from the script saying, “No movie has ever been forgotten in a storage. It will be watched someday, somewhere, whether its director is still alive or not…”
Do your part to lift the pain of sanctions on Iranian families.
Dear Catherine Ashton:
We, the undersigned, are concerned about the effects the implementation of sanctions are having on average Iranians. We are particularly concerned that items that are not sanctioned, such as medication and humanitarian goods are not reaching the people in Iran.
This is a time of great suffering in the region. We want to ensure that we are not further contributing to the suffering because of the denial of access to a payment channel for humanitarian items. We know the intention of the sanctions is to put pressure on Iran’s ruling elite. We worry that this is not the reality.
The brunt of the suffering falls on women and children and the most vulnerable in society. They suffer the consequences in very real ways. They lose their incomes, their homes, and their access to life-saving medication. Some of this suffering can be alleviated by facilitating the seamless implementation of the existing humanitarian exemptions. These include financial transactions related to medications, basic needs, and other items that are currently not sanctioned.
We ask the European Union to create a payment channel to accept transactions from Iran. This channel should be closely scrutinized. This will allow much needed financial transactions for medications and basic needs to take place.
It is crucial at this time when the people of Iran are desperately trying to make their own voices heard that we show we are listening. They went to the polls in an attempt to show their own government that they wanted reform and better relations with the outside world. We need to show we are listening.
Please help to avert a humanitarian disaster. Allow Iranians access to the international banking system to purchase medications and humanitarian goods.