Iran: Free Bahareh Hedayat!

The campaign to free Bahareh Hedayat received a new lift of international solidarity from the CP of Britain and many other parties at the International Women’s Day Celebrations at Marx House in London organised by the Co-ordinating Committee of Communist Parties in Britain.

In this article Committee for Defence of the Iranian Peoples Rights (CODIR) National Campaigns Officer, Jane Green, highlights the plight of women political prisoners in Iran. This article appeared in the Morning Star.

Bahareh Hedayat will be 32-years-old next month. She looks likely to mark that birthday in prison unless the Iranian government can be persuaded to free her.

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Hedayat is one of the leaders of the powerful student movement in Iran and a women’s rights activist. She was a member of the executive committee and spokeswoman for Iran’s pro-democracy student movement, the Daftar-e Takhim-Vahdat (Office for Consolidating Unity). She was also an initiator and active in the One Million Signatures Campaign that seeks to end legal discrimination against women in Iran.

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Hedayat has been sentenced to nine-and-a-half years in prison and is incarcerated in the notorious Evin prison in Tehran.

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Around midnight on December 31 2009 she was arrested by the intelligence ministry of the theocratic regime in Iran for the fifth time in four years and taken to unit 209 of Evin prison.

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Her punishment is one of the harshest ordered against the student activist movement over recent years.

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In fact the sentence was for participating in legal, peaceful activities and for challenging the existing discriminatory laws against women.

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The injustices and oppression inflicted upon Hedayat are a retaliation for her student activism.

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The sentence imposed by a Tehran court consists of two years for “insulting the supreme leader,” six months for “insulting the president” and five years for “acting against national security and publishing falsehoods.”

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She was also sentenced to an additional two years in prison for “acting against national security through holding a protest gathering for women” which is currently suspended.

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Hedayat is suffering from serious health issues that require urgent medical attention without which her life could be in danger.

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As well as Hedayat at least 14 other highprofile women campaigners are incarcerated in Iran’s political prisons for demanding their rights.

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In recent weeks, we have witnessed the passing of inhumane long-term jail sentences against a number of women activists.

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One such example is Mariam Shafi’ Pour, a university student activist who was arrested in 2010 in Qazvin. She was was expelled from university in her eighth term.

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Shafi’ Pour was given one year’s suspended sentence, but this was extended to seven after 67 days in solitary confinement. She’s been tortured and beaten, because she refused to admit crimes she had not committed. Her interrogator threatened that she would get a long sentence and the seven-year sentence reveals the power of the interrogators within the judicial system.

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This year, the Democratic Organisation of Iranian Women celebrates the 71st anniversary of its foundation. In all these years the organisation has campaigned tirelessly for women’s rights and freedoms, against traditionalist and reactionary laws.

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However, the Tehran regime continues to pass laws that worsen the lives of women in Iran and marginalise them in the economic and social arenas.
In March last year, the employment of women by the state became limited to those prepared to work part-time. Their salaries, benefits and pensions were halved pro rata.

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The presence of women in places of work has been limited further by the introduction of home working for women. This is publicised as a progressive move to enable women to look after their children while working from home.

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The last government initiated a policy for increasing the population by closing down the Family Planning Unit in 2010 – the minister of health at the time said, “the ministry’s pregnancy prevention programmes have been removed completely. No birth control is promoted anymore – on the contrary – the Ministry of Health’s new policy is population growth…’

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In the education sphere the regime has introduced the strict segregation of sexes at universities. The opening of 10 women-only universities in different towns and cities was heralded as the dawn of the Islamisation of universities.

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There has been a significant reduction in enrolment of women in universities.

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Against this background women such as Hedayat, who are prepared to make their voices heard and speak out for the rights of Iranian women, continue to be dealt with aggressively.

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Since his election as president in August 2013, Hassan Rouhani has been trying to present a more liberal face to the West, to give the impression that conditions for the opposition in Iran are not as harsh as solidarity movements suggest.

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It is worth noting that the security forces prevented hundreds of women from holding an International Women Day’s celebration last Saturday.

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While some political prisoners were freed in September and on the eve of Rouhani’s much publicised appearance and speech at the General Assembly of the United Nations, many are still languishing in prisons – the continued incarceration of Hedayat and others gives the lie to Rouhani’s claims of liberalisation.

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The women’s movement in Iran has attained a prominent place in the struggle of the Iranian people for freedom and equal rights. It has been intelligent in its choice of tactics to reach the masses and to publicise its demands. Over the last decade the women of Iran have been at the forefront of major campaigns against the reactionary rulers of Iran. The One Million Signatures Campaign organised by progressive women against discrimination and inequality against women was very successful in galvanising women, gaining international recognition and support and forcing the regime to take notice.

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The persecution and imprisonment of the activists has not succeeded in silencing it.

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On the occasion of the 2014 International Women’s Day, the Committee for the Defence of the Iranian People’s Rights (Codir) renewed its call for the release of Hedayat, renewed its call for the Islamic Republic of Iran to grant equal status in law to its female citizens and reaffirmed its solidarity with women in particular, and the people of Iran in general, in their struggle to achieve true peace and democracy.

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Codir calls upon all those concerned about women’s rights and freedom in Iran to put pressure on the Iranian government to free all political prisoners, and particularly to release Hedayat.
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If the claims of President Rouhani to be leading a more liberal regime are to have any credence, such action would be a small but necessary first step.

VIST CODIR’s WEBSITE AND LEND YOUR SUPPORT!

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