Solidarity with Women political prisoners in Iran

CODIR calls for the release of Iranian human rights lawyer, Nasrin Sotoudeh, serving 38 years in prison for simply doing her job!

On the eve of 8th March CODIR appeals to the trade union and labour movement in Britain to challenge the theocratic regime’s “intensified crackdown against women’s rights defenders in Iran.”

On 17 December 2020, the European Parliament issued a damning indictment of human rights abuses by the Iranian regime, cataloguing systemic violations and calling on both the EU and its member states and the government in Tehran to take immediate action. Its text is unequivocal, calling on those in power in Iran to:

“…immediately and unconditionally release the hundreds of people arbitrarily detained for peacefully exercising their rights to freedom of opinion and expression including protesters, journalists, media workers, political dissidents, artists, writers and human rights defenders, including lawyers, women’s rights defenders, labour rights activists, minority rights activists, conservationists, anti-death penalty campaigners and others including those demanding truth, justice and reparation for the mass extrajudicial executions of the 1980s.”

Resolution 2020/2914 (RSP) takes as its starting point and focus the case of 2012 Sakharov Prize Laureate, Nasrin Sotoudeh – a world-renowned lawyer, human rights activist and political prisoner. In detailing her case it states that Sotoudeh “has fought for the rights of women, children, religious minorities, journalists and artists, as well as those facing the death penalty, and as a result, has been continuously targeted and harassed by the Iranian authorities and has been arrested and imprisoned several times” and that her family has also been targeted to silence their campaign for her release. The resolution sets out clearly and condemns her treatment by the Iranian authorities which has so shocked the world, including her arbitrary detention in June 2018 for taking on the cases of women’s rights campaigners who had protested against Iran’s hijab law and her sentence in March 2019 to 33 years in prison and 148 lashes.  It notes that Sotoudeh tested positive for COVID in early November 2020 and was temporarily released but was returned on 2 December to the notorious Qarchak women’s prison and that this “may have life-threatening consequences for her and further extends her arbitrary imprisonment in violation of Iran’s obligations under international human rights law.” This too is condemned. The resolution notes that a week later the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) issued a statement [so far ignored] calling for Nasrin’s immediate release. The EU parliament calls on the authorities of the Islamic Republic of Iran to immediately and unconditionally release Nasrin Sotoudeh…and allow her to receive the healthcare she requires”.

In its resolution, the European parliament declares the arrest of Nasrin Sotoudeh to be “part of an intensified crackdown against women’s rights defenders in Iran…[in which they] have suffered harassment, arbitrary arrest and detentions, and [their] rights to a fair trial… have been violated.” It notes that this group is particularly vulnerable, being exposed to “specific and gendered risks” from which they are unprotected. It cites the recent case of human rights campaigner, Golrokh Iraee, who was physically assaulted and forced to return to Evin prison on 13 December 2020. It urges the Islamic Republic of Iran to eliminate “in law and in practice” all forms of discrimination and other human rights violations against women and girls. The resolution also calls on the Islamic regime to address discrimination against Christians, Bahais and other religious and ethnic minorities and LGBTI people and to unconditionally release all those incarcerated on the grounds of their faith or sexual orientation. It further denounces the ongoing practice of arbitrary imprisonment of EU-Iranian dual nationals.

Iran’s high number of executions is condemned, and the resolution picks out the execution of juveniles as a special cause for concern, together with the regime’s use of the death penalty as “a weapon of political repression”. Olympic wrestling star, Navid Afkari, was summarily executed on 12 September 2020 for charges he completely denied, without notice being given to his family and legal team. On 12 December 2020, journalist Ruhollah Zam, charged with ‘corruption on earth’ after he ‘confessed’ under torture, was hung after a Supreme Court decision only four days earlier. The execution of Afkari and Zam are condemned and targeted measures against those responsible for their deaths demanded. The execution of Ahmadreza Djalali, an Iranian-Swedish doctor and university lecturer, is said to be immanent. Djalili was sentenced to death on trumped-up spying charges in October 2017. The resolution asks for an urgent stay of execution and his immediate release.

Together with execution, the “cruel and inhuman punishments” enshrined in Iran’s Penal Code, such as flogging and amputation are denounced, as are prisons not fit to house human beings and confusions extracted by torture.  

The document “condemns in its strongest terms the crackdown on the rights to freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly”, highlighting the severe repression with which protests are met, as was the case in November 2019 when security forces used “excessive and lethal force” against demonstrators which led to hundreds of deaths of men, women and children. It calls for a UN-led enquiry into “the crimes under international law and other serious human rights violations” that took place at this time and in January 2020 when there were further mass protests.

It also calls on EU member states to work together to do three key things. They should issue joint statements on the situation in Iran, organise diplomatic missions to monitor unfair trials and visit prisons in which human rights activists are being held.

The resolution strongly supports “the aspirations of the Iranian people who want to live in a free, stable, inclusive and democratic country”. It calls on the Council to “raise human rights violations as a core component of its bilateral relations with Iran.”

CODIR asserts that this dire situation cannot continue. We appeal, on International Women’s Day 2021, to the labour and trade union movement to campaign with renewed vigour for an end to gender-based oppression in Iran, for cessation of the violent suppression of the women’s movement and for the release of all political prisoners with immediate effect.

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