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June 13, 2006

Women's Rights Protest Broken Up in Tehran

Human Rights First condemns the use of force by police to break up a peaceful demonstration of women in Tehran on June 12, 2006. A coalition of hundreds of women and men gathered peacefully in a downtown square to protest the discriminatory laws of the Islamic Republic of Iran, and to demand legislative change to ensure equal rights for women, especially in marriage and divorce, child custody, inheritance, and other areas.

Repeating the violence which has been used to quell dissent in previous years, about 100 police officers attacked the demonstrators, using pepper spray and beating them with batons, seriously injuring one woman. Witnesses claimed that women were dragged along the ground by their hair and savagely beaten.

According to the Minister of Justice in a press conference on June 13, 42 men and 28 women were arrested, for having organized an “illegal” gathering. Although most have been release, Ali Akbar Mousavi Khoini, head of the Alumni Association of Iran, a former student leader and member of parliament who has been a leading critic of the government’s human rights practices for several years, remains in detention.

In the days prior to the demonstration, several women human rights defenders were visited at their homes by security officials, interrogated, and threatened in an attempt to prevent them from participating in the protest. Several organizations suspected by the authorities of involvement in the protest were threatened with closure.

Preventing demonstrators from peacefully gathering to express their views is a violation of the Iranian government’s obligations under international law as a state party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and other human rights instruments.

Human Rights First calls for the immediate release of Ali Akbar Mousavi Khoini, and for the investigation into the use of force against nonviolent protestors. We call on the government of the Islamic Republic of Iran to uphold its obligation to protect citizens exercising their fundamental right to freedom of assembly and expression, and extend our support to the women of Iran in demanding immediate reform of discriminatory laws.

View Pictures of Protest