September 15, 2004               VOLUME 4

To our readers,

Last month, under the grueling sun of northern Iran in the city of Neka, Atefeh Sahaleh Rajabi, a 16 year old girl was hanged in public. The fundamentalist rulers of Iran are convinced that her death was warranted by their rule of law ignoring all internationally recognized due process.  The court order was issued to publicly hang Atefeh without the presence of an attorney and her name was added to the growing list of those women and young girls executed by the fundamentalist regime in Iran.  While the practice of public executions of men and women in Iran is common, the Iranian regime shows a different nature of brutality and legally unjustifiable accusations towards women.  Like many others, Atefeh’s crime was standing up to the religious clerics by the conviction of her unheeded cry of innocence.

In recent weeks there has been several public hanging and executions of minors in Iran. Yet, Mrs. Shirin Ebadi, who according to Human Rights Watch won the 2003 Nobel Peace Prize for her “fight for women, children, and victims of government’s repression”, responded to Atefeh’s case with total silence.

Dissidents and opposition groups, in particular the Iranian women in exile, have long been seeking to highlight these atrocities including the massacre of the political prisoners in the summer of 1988. However, the international community has not taken notice of such crimes and Iran has once again escaped the review by the UN Human Rights Commission in the spring of 2004. WFAFI calls upon all the women’s activists and advocates, NGO’s and human rights organizations to urge the UN General Assembly, in its fall session, to issue a resolution condemning Iran’s human rights violations and particularly its criminal behavior towards women. WFAFI urges Mrs. Ebadi to personally pursue justice in Atefeh’s case and hold the perpetrators including the leaders of the Iranian regime responsible for their crimes.

 E-Zan Featured Headlines

Women are the prime victims of Islamic Fundamentalism in Iran


State Run - Shargh Newspaper, August 10, 2004

Tabriz University shut down the female dormitories and notified the out of state female students to look for other schools instead while in-state students are forced to live off campus. In a similar move, Kashan University notified the incoming freshman female students that their dormitories are no longer available to women.


State Run - Iranian Student’s News Agency, August 11, 2004

Suicide rate among women in Kermanshah and Ilam has increased by 37-39% in the past two years. Many women are setting themselves on fire as a way of protest and complain about their conditions. Majority of the victims are suffering from depression. According to the Executive Director of the Victim’s Assistance of Iran’s Health Ministry, research in a small city in the state of Kermanshah has indicated that 50% of women are suffering from depression which has many social roots including lack of social rights, jobs, and legal protections.


BBC News, August 17, 2004

Shooting is not Ms Hassanpour's number one sport. Her passion is gymnastics but because of Iran's strict Islamic dress code, she cannot compete in it internationally. Iran won't exempt women from wearing the required Islamic clothing for events such as the Olympic Games. The problems facing women in sport in Iran are not only about wearing the obligatory headscarf and long coat. Women still have limited access to facilities, with most clubs only open for them in the mornings. "Basically in our society, women are not valued the same as men. In the same way, here in sport, we have less" says Ms Hassanpour.


Peik-e Iran Website – August 17, 2004

Drug addiction among women is on the rise. Based on a recent study, female addicts are passing their addiction to their newborns. Drugs such as heroin, hashish, and opium are among the types of drugs women are drawn to because of easy availability and low price.


'The South Africa News - August 18, 2004

Iran's conservative-dominated parliament voted down a bid by its predecessor to support women's rights and enforce gender equality, press reports said on Wednesday. A bill passed earlier this year by the previous parliament had already been sent back by the conservative watchdog body the Guardians Council, which vets all legislation, on the grounds that it was against Islamic law. Conservatives won control of the assembly in controversial elections in February which saw many reformist candidates disqualified by the same Guardians Council, and took office in May. Gender equality in the Islamic republic has been one of the most controversial issues in the past seven years, since Khatami was first elected. "There was no objection from the women MPs of the conservative parliament when the assembly eliminated "gender equality" from the plan," the daily Shargh reported Wednesday.


Agance France Presse - August 19, 2004

Iran's judiciary ordered a man to be released after he killed his unfaithful wife in the courtroom, because the woman's immediate forebears are not alive to claim retaliation, press reports said Thursday.  The man, identified as Mahmoud, had filed a complaint against his wife and her lover when he had found out that she was cheating on him. When she appeared in court in Shahr Ray city in Tehran province in 2003 he lost control and stabbed her to death. But a court sentenced him Wednesday only to pay compensatory "blood money" to the "parents of the victim", who are in fact himself and their three children, because the parents of the murdered woman, Fatemeh, 29, are dead…The court followed an order by the head of Iran's hardline judiciary, Ayatollah Mahmoud Hashemi Shahroudi.


Iran Focus News – August 25, 2004

After initially denying that a 16-year-old girl had been hanged in public in the northern town of Neka on Monday, August 16, the Iranian government has admitted for the first time that the hanging took place. The Tehran-based daily Etemad quoted today an official of the judiciary involved in the case, who confirmed that Atefeh Sahaleh was hanged in Neka last Monday. News of the hanging of this girl, first reported by Iran Focus, was met with outrage from the international community. In a press statement on Monday, Amnesty International expressed its ‘outrage’ at the execution of this minor. After seeing that its initial denial of the hanging backfired, the Iranian government is now trying to evade international outrage and condemnation by claiming, falsely, that Atefeh was 22. Several residents of Neka, including one of Sahaleh’s close relatives, have emphasized that she was 16 years old.


Reuters News Agency – September 3, 2004

About 500 hardline vigilantes have taken to the streets in Tehran, demanding authorities crack down on women who wear colorful headscarves and figure-hugging coats which they denounce as "prostitution". "The promotion of bad dress codes is the desire of arrogant powers, shame on the government," chanted the crowd, punching the air with their fists on Friday. "Arrogant powers" is hardline rhetoric usually referring to the United States, Britain and Israel. "We object to street prostitution and vice," read one placard brandished by protesters.


Iran Focus News – September 3, 2004

A court in Mashhad on Thursday sentenced two young sisters to lashes, suspended jail terms and fine for not adhering to proper Islamic dress code. Vice squads had arrested the two as a part of a nationwide enforcement campaign. The arrests, jailing and lashes has had a reverse effect, and women no longer care what the government might do…


E-Zan Featured Reports

Execution of a 16 year girl in public

Iran Focus News

August 31, 2004

Neka– The orphaned 16-year-old girl hanged in front of residents in this town close to the Caspian Sea on August 15 suffered years of brutal violence, exploitation and torture in the hands of relatives, local officials and plain strangers, and in a country where girls are the most vulnerable members of society, she had no one to go to for help. The tragic picture emerges from dozens of interviews conducted by an Iran Focus correspondent with Atefeh Rajabi’s classmates, friends, relatives and neighbors in this humid, overcrowded industrial town that sits on a busy highway linking Tehran with the north of the country. The hanging of Atefeh Rajabi has shocked the residents of Neka, who still differ widely in their assessment of the girl, but none voices support for the punishment that she has received. An air of tension and eerie silence hangs over the town’s smoke-filled tea-houses, or chaikhanehs, where men spend hours chatting quietly in clusters of three or four over tea. In a summer month like August, business should be booming in this town as thousands of Tehran residents flock to the sandy beaches of the Caspian. But right now, the visitors are for the most part not holidaymakers. “There are lots of strangers who come and we are used to them,” says Askar, a young shopkeeper who sells a variety of citrus fruit jams. “But right now, all of them are asking about the girl. They want to know who she was and how she died.” The shock of Atefeh’s execution has gone far beyond this town. Even in a country that has the highest number of executions in the world and routinely executes minors, Iranians across the nation have been bewildered by accounts of the hanging of a 16-year-old girl. The fact that the religious judge himself put the rope around her neck and the letters of “congratulations” from the town’s governor to the judge, commending him for his “firm approach” have only added to the torment and pain many say they have felt. “Atefeh was not a well-behaved girl, that’s for sure. But do you hang a girl for having sex with an unmarried man?” asked Fariba, a girl in Atefeh’s neighborhood, who like many others did not want to be identified. According to judicial records, by the time Atefeh was 16, she had been convicted five times of having sex with unmarried men. Each time she spent some time in jail and was given 100 lashes (Under Iran’s law, punishment for having sex with a married man would have been far heavier.) Atefeh’s father is an unemployed drug addict whose whereabouts are not known. Her mother died when Atefeh was still a child and she was left in the care of her octogenarian grandparents, which meant no care at all. “She was abused by a close relative,” says Mina, one of the few girls in Neka who identify themselves as Atefeh’s friends. “But she never dared even to talk about it to anyone. Tell your teachers? They’ll call you a whore. Tell the police? They lock you up and rape you. Better keep your mouth shut.” Mina sobs as she recalls her friend’s tormented life, but many of these horrendous experiences are everyday facts of life for girls being brought up under a rigid theocratic regime that has institutionalized misogyny in its laws and practices. “She sometimes talked about what these ‘Islamic moral policemen’ did to her while she was in jail. She still had nightmares about that. She said Behshahr Prison was the Hell itself.” Alijan, a local grocer with graying hair, said many parents did not want Atefeh to socialize with their kids, because they thought she would have a corrupting influence on other young girls. “Who can blame them?” he said, with a deep sigh. “In this country, if you’re a man and you go to jail, you can forget about having a future. Now imagine if a girl goes to jail. She was hopeless.” “I knew this girl very well and she did not deserve what they did to her,” explains a middle-aged woman who once taught Atefeh in the local girls’ school. “She was lively, intelligent, and, of course, rebellious. She wouldn’t take injustice from anyone. But the authorities here equate these qualities in a girl to prostitution and evil. They wanted to give all the girls and women a lesson.” Hamid was one of those fathers in the neighborhood who did not want her two daughters to befriend Atefeh, but with hindsight, he feels the guilt of not having done anything to help the girl. “I think the most devastating event in her life was the death of her mother,” Hamid said. “Before that, she was a normal girl. Her mother was everything to her. When she died, she had no one to look after her.” A pharmacist, whose shop is not far away from the Railway Square, where Atefeh was hanged, recalls her final, painful hour. “When agents of the State Security Forces brought her to the gallows, I felt cold sweat running down my back. She looked so young and innocent, standing there in the middle of all these bearded men in military fatigues. Judge Reza’i must have felt a personal grudge against her. He put the rope around her neck and left her dangling on the gallows for 45 minutes. I looked around and everyone in the crowd was sobbing and damning the mullahs for doing this to our young people.” Atefeh had no access to a lawyer at any stage and her death sentence was upheld by a Supreme Court that is dominated by fundamentalist mullahs. Haji Rezaii, the religious judge, was reportedly so incensed with Atefeh’s “sharp tongue” during the trial that he traveled to Tehran to convince the mullahs of the Supreme Court to uphold the death sentence. The tragically short life of Atefeh Rajabi its brutal end are a reminder of the plight of millions of girls in a country where, according to state-owned newspapers, 75 percent of the population live below the poverty line, 66 percent of women are victims of some form of domestic violence, and over 70 percent of women suffer from varying degrees of depression. Iran remains, in the words of UN Human Rights Rapporteur Maurice Copithorne, “a prison for women.”


More restrict dress code for women

Voice of America

August 23, 2004

The purpose of the proposed dress code is to combat what the supreme leader of Iran, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, calls a corrupting cultural invasion. He says there are dangers in imitating foreigners, and said Iranians need to design their own styles. But according to Iranian expert, Amal Hamada who teaches at Cairo University, the proposed dress code is mostly aimed at Iranian women who are already required to wear veils in public and clothing that covers most of their body. "It is adding further anger to the women of Iran because they were hoping the restriction on the dress code would be lessened more and more with the advancement of the reformers," she says. "But, even they may have their dream that there will be no enforcement to wear a veil. Women would be free to choose what they want, what they wear. But now it's not only the law but increasing restrictions."  The chief of police in Tehran recently warned women not to dress, as he put it, like models. And, over the past few months police have been arresting Iranian women for wearing what were deemed to be flimsy headscarves, shortened trousers and coats that revealed the shape of the body. Iran's cultural commission recently stated there is a need in Iran for what it called a national costume for both men and women that adheres to an Islamic dress code.


The fundamentalist regime remains closed to the idea of women in art

Agance France Presse

August 27, 2004

When entering a music hall in the Iranian capital to hear a performance by folk diva Pari Zanganeh, one could be forgiven for thinking the venue was a top secret military installation. At the door, uniformed security guards demand entrants to surrender cameras, mobile telephones and tape recorders. The aim is for nothing to leak out from the Jasmine festival, a series of singing performances by women that began in 1999. All men are also kept out of the Wahdat Hall. This ban also applies to sound technicians and the security guards themselves, who after a final sweep of the premises are also locked out, leaving behind an audience of some 1,000 women. "We have been fighting for years," she said. "Gender does not mean anything in art. And everybody's first experience with music is with their mother's lullaby," says Zanganeh, who sees the regime's efforts to silence women singers as a contradiction. After all, she reasons, "authorities who are worried about morality must also know that a woman is also likely to get aroused by a man's voice."Men do not trust themselves. They are afraid that women will grow stronger and flourish," is her view on the restrictions she faces. But despite the limited career prospects of singing, many women are still learning privately at home with teachers, including Zanganeh. "Women have not been convinced by this ban. They would have quit singing if they had," said Zanganeh, one of the few professional female singers who has not fled Iran for the US. The teaching - as well as her love of classical music - has kept her behind in the Iran. "Nature has given men and women equal rights. One day the authorities will realize that," Zanganeh said.


Iran Bans Display of Lingerie in Showroom

Agance France Presse

August 29, 2004

Window shoppers in Iran will no longer have the pleasure of looking at women’s lingerie or buying a variety of pets, according to new police rules reported yesterday. According to the student news agency ISNA, shops have been barred from displaying lingerie in their windows - with the display ban also applying to “unveiled mannequins with noticeable curves”.  In addition, men have also been banned from employment as salesmen in women’s underwear stores - with offending shop owners facing the loss of their licenses. In other measures reported by Isna, commercial centers and restaurants have also been told not to keep or sell dogs, and monkeys - animals. The measures are contained in a new manual for police, ISNA said. Another rule includes women being banned from taking driving lessons with male instructors unless they are accompanied by an immediate male relative.


The fundamentalist regime of Iran must change

Atlanta Journal-Constitution

September 1, 2004

On Sunday, Aug. 15, a 16-year-old girl in the town of Neka, Iran, was executed by hanging. During her trial for charges of "engaging in acts incompatible with chastity," the teenage victim did not have a lawyer. She defended herself. She told the religious judge that he should punish the main perpetrators of moral corruption, not the victims. After her execution, the judge said he had her executed for her "sharp tongue."…In summer 1988, the Iranian regime massacred about 30,000 political prisoners in the course of a few months. According to a report by Amnesty International at the time, a mass grave was discovered when the rain washed away the soil in one of the shallower graves. People started digging up the graves in the middle of the night to recover the bodies of their loved ones. The Iranian regime is now more than a local tyranny. It is a global threat that has to be dealt with urgently. Yet, it seems that policy-makers cannot come to a solid conclusion regarding Iran, perhaps because the stakes are too high. However, without an objective and firm policy, the next global disaster could be a nuclear Iran. The option before the world community is not one of appeasement vs. military action. Both options completely ignore the crucial role Iranians have to play in their country's future. There is a resilient pro-democracy movement in Iran that has been demanding regime change. Last February, Iranians overwhelmingly boycotted the parliamentary elections. In addition, Iran has a very strong and well-organized opposition movement. Supporting the Iranian people's demands for regime change and reaching out to the Iranian opposition movement is a wise and prudent approach. This has to be augmented by firm and clear action, including the removal of the terror tag against the opposition movement and sending Tehran's nuclear file to the United Nations Security Council.


A survivor tells of 1988 massacre in Islamic Republic Thousands of men, women, children secretly executed

Toronto Star

September 5, 2004

Payam lives alone and never talks about the past. The 46-year-old Iranian with gentle brown eyes and a quiet smile is haunted by the smell of fear and death. Now working as an engineer in England, he walks with special soles in his shoes because his feet have been damaged by torture.  For 16 years, he has carried unspeakable memories with him. And Payam is not his real name — he asked for an alias because he believes his life could still be in danger. In the summer of 1988, most of his school friends, as well as thousands of other men, women and children — possibly as many as 30,000 political prisoners — were secretly slaughtered in prisons across Iran. Places like the large prayer hall in the dreaded Evin prison were turned into gallows. Children as young as 13 were hanged six at a time. Prisoners were loaded on forklift trucks in groups and hanged from cranes and beams in half-hourly intervals. Others were killed by firing squads. "At midnight," Payam says, "we heard a big thump under our cell's window, then another one, and another one. "We counted 50 thumps before we realized these were bodies being dumped into lorries. "For two months at midnight, lorries carried people we knew and loved into mass graves." The execution of such a large number of individuals within such a short time, without any due process or trial, violates many articles of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, to which Iran is a signatory, as well as several other international treaties. Yet the international community has never recognized this massacre as a crime against humanity. Since the Islamic Republic of Iran came to power in 1979 (and earlier under the Shah regime), Iranian prisons have been full of political opponents. Some were members or supporters of the People's Mojahedin Organization of Iran, an Islamic armed group fighting against the regime.

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Volume 4, September 15, 2004

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