April 9, 2009
President Dr. Mahmoud Ahmadinejad
Palestine Avenue, Azerbaijan Intersection
Tehran, Islamic Republic of Iran
We, the undersigned members of the Women Human Rights Defenders International
Coalition, submit this statement to express our deepest concerns regarding the imprisonment
of Alieh Eghdamdoost, as well as the recent arrest of 12 other human rights defenders in Iran.
Alieh Eghdamdoost, together with dozens of other activists, was arrested at a women’s rights
demonstration in Tehran in June 2006. On July 6, 2007, she was sentenced to a prison term of
three years and four months, and 20 lashes. On appeal, the prison term was reduced by four
months, and the judge overturned the lashings. Her sentence of three years is now being
implemented, making her the first woman to have a sentence related to women’s rights
activism actually implemented. Eghdamdoost was taken from her home on January 31, and
has been held in Evin prison since. The fact that Eghdamdoost has been sentenced to a threeyear
sentence that she is now forced to serve, while some others arrested on the same day
faced no charges, were acquitted, or received suspended sentences, demonstrates the
completely arbitrary nature of these judicial proceedings. Her imprisonment also sets a
dangerous precedent for all women engaged in human rights activism in Iran.
The implementation of Eghdamdoost’s sentence is taking place against a backdrop of
increased repression of all human rights defenders, including women’s rights activists.
Reliable sources have reported that on March 26 Iranian security forces detained 12 members
of the One Million Signatures Campaign and Mothers for Peace, as they were sitting in their
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cars on a street corner in Tehran, preparing to make New Year’s visits to the family members
of some prisoners of conscience.
The One Million Signatures Campaign, launched in August 2006, is a grassroots movement to
raise awareness about gender-based discrimination in the law and to promote gender equality.
Mothers for Peace are a diverse coalition of women seeking to promote a culture of peace in
Iran and who condemn all forms of military aggression. Both groups employ peaceful
methods to promote their message, whether through disseminating petitions, collecting
signatures, or organizing and presenting lectures. As such, we consider members of both
groups to be human rights defenders.
The twelve individuals arrested on March 26 were: Ali Abdi, Delaram Ali, Bahara Behravan,
Farkhondeh Ehtesabian, Shahla Forouzanfar, Arash Nasiri Eghbali, Mahboubeh Karami,
Khadijeh Moghaddam, Leila Nazari, Amir Rashidi, Mohammad Shoorab, and Soraya
After three days, ten of them were released on bail, but two activists, Mahboubeh Karami and
Khadijeh Moghaddam, were kept in detention.
On April 5, the ten released activists were charged with “disturbing of public opinion,” and
“disruption of public order,” charges all ten deny.
The two others, Karami and Moghaddam, who were also due to be arraigned on April 5, did
not appear in court on that day. The deputy prosecutor informed their attorneys that they
would be brought the following day, but in fact were kept in jail. In the end, Karami was
released on April 7, and Moghaddam on April 8. Moghaddam faces charges in connection
with a protest Mothers for Peace held on January 11, against Israeli attacks on the Gaza Strip.
We strongly object to the arrest, detention and prosecution of these human rights defenders.
The frequent arrest and prosecution of human rights defenders for non-violent exercise of
their freedom of expression has been inconsistent with Iran’s obligations under international
Even more concerning, based on the facts as we understand them, the persons arrested on
March 26 were not engaged in a public activity, but were planning visits to private residences
at the start of the New Year, as is customary amongst Iranians. The circumstances of their
arrest simply do not even remotely support lodging charges such as “disrupting public order,”
or “disturbing public opinion,” and appear as deliberate efforts to silence and intimidate these
activists. We note, with great concern, that since the One Million Signatures Campaign has
been launched, dozens of its members have been arrested, summoned for interrogation,
monitored, banned from travel and prosecuted.
The efforts of these activists to promote gender equality and a culture of peace should be
applauded, not hampered. The U.N. Declaration on Human Rights Defenders stipulates that
“everyone has the right, individually and in association with others, to promote and to strive
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for the protection and realization of human rights and fundamental freedoms at the national
and international levels.” The actions of the Iranian authorities stand in stark violation of this
We urge the authorities to reverse their ruling on Eghdamdoost’s case and release her from
Furthermore, we call upon the authorities in Iran to drop all charges against all 12 activists
arrested on March 26, and further, to cease the repression and prosecution of all peaceful
human rights defenders in Iran.
Thank you for your attention to these urgent matters.
Asia Pacific Forum on Women Law and Development
Asian Forum for Human RIghts and Development (FORUM-ASIA)
Baobab for Women’s Human Rights
Front Line, The International Foundation for Human Rights Defenders
Human Rights First
International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran
International Women's Rights Action Watch Asia Pacific
Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders