Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Violence to Suppress Women’s Rally

Rooz Online:
The peaceful rally by Iranian women to protest gender discrimination was suppressed, in the words of a journalist, “by unprecedented violence. The following is a report by the journalist who was witness to the event and the accompanying violence.

The presence of the police was overwhelming. All the streets leading to 7 Tir Square in Tehran where the rally was planned to be held were blocked by the police. At a park closest to the square, some 30 special guard agents sat on the ground, waiting for the women to arrive. At about a quarter to five, about 10 women arrived and sat on the grass and the benches. Soon their numbers increased and some carried placards without handles. Some of them even had slogans written on pieces of paper that they displayed. At this time some of the police agents approached the women and forcefully snatched the placards that the women were holding. The women had not even started chanting slogans before they were attacked. Women police wearing black veils too were present and sprayed the demonstrating women’s overcoats and their scarves with red paint. This of course soon differentiated the protesting women from others. The rule was that if you remained stationary in the park or the streets, the police considered you to be a participant in the rally. If you moved around or walked, then you may have been deemed to be a passerby. I was told to leave the scene by the police as well, as I stood watching. When I returned a few minutes later, there was no trace of the women demonstrators. I asked some people who were there and they said that the women were attacked with batons, causing some of them to leave the scene while some were forced into police vans and taken away. READ MORE

Dana Shahsavari, the Rooz Online reporter in Tehran continued her report as follows. After the attack, those who were in the park moved to the square. Soon their numbers grew so large that it was impossible to simply pass through the square. But as the number of women participants increased, so did the number of police and security agents. Agents mistreated anyone they suspected of being a participant in the rally, regardless of their gender. The policewomen, 200 of whom had recently been promoted to the rank of officer, were even harsher than their male colleagues. One policewoman chased a man while shouting insulting words at him, words that were insulting from a man’s perspective. Near Kutchak Park a policeman chased a young woman. When he finally reached her, he grabbed her scarf and hair at which point about 150 bystanders shouted at the policeman, calling him to let her go.

But the rally did not comprise of women alone. Men accompanied many women. At the Metro station near the square, there were more men and they too shouted slogans in support of women’s rights.

This meeting was held despite the fact that a group of Iranian women activists had been summoned to courts and security/intelligence offices and warned about the rally, calling it illegal. Women still went and made their calls known. Shahsavari reports that for about 2 hours the complete square was blocked from through fare because of the number of participants in the rally, which included women and men.

While initially women had planned to limit their gathering to the northern end of the square, but because of the pressures exerted by plain-clothes-men, uniformed police and security/intelligence agents, people from the whole area joined the rally. The tactic that the police used to disrupt the rally was that as soon as they would see a women break away from a group, policemen would rush to her and spray her veil and face, and then detail her. The police were so violent in their methods that many women’s scarves or even overcoats would be torn. According to Shahsavari, the police had brought in a large number of vans and filled them with whoever they could arrest.

The Student Human Rights Committee announced that about 70 individuals had been arrested in connection with the rally at 7 Tir square. Those arrested include ayatollah Mousavi Khoeiniha (general secretary of a student organization), Samira Sadri (a woman activist), Bahareh Hedayat (secretary of the women’s committee of Daftare Tahkim Vahdat student organization), Jila Bani-Yaghoub (journalist and woman activist), Bahman Ahmadi Amouie (writer), Atefeh Yusefi (secretary of the Islamic Society of Sharif University), Ali Roozbehani (student activist at Sharif University), Siamak Taheri (journalist), Leyla Mohseni (student activist from Polytechnic University), Vahid Mir-Jalili (student activist from Isfahan University), Massoumeh Loghmani (student activist from AlZahra University), Amin Fatemeh (student activist from Isfahan University), Delaram Aramfar, Delaram Ali (student activist from Tehran University), Leyla Farhadpout (journalist), Azam Elhami (human rights and children’s rights activist), Shohre Keshavarz (human rights and children’s rights activist), Zahra Hayat Gheybi (wife of mansour Hayat Gheybi, member of board of directors of Sherkat Vahed bus company, etc

Ayatollah Mousavi Khoeiniha, the prominent cleric once an aide to ayatollah Khomeini, was arrested at the rally while being violently beaten and pushed to the ground by the police. There are conflicting reports as to where the arrested individuals are being kept, with Evin and 7 Tir detention centre as possibilities. Some such as Shahla Entesari were even arrested from their homes and taken to a prison. The homes of Noushin Ahmadi Khorasani and Pavin Ardalan too were stormed by security agents with the purpose of arresting them, but they were not at home. Unconfirmed reports say that other family members of Parvin Ardalan were arrested with the purpose of pressuring the family for Parvin’s arrest.

Fariba Dawoodi Mohajer a woman human rights activist told Rooz reporter in Tehran that she did not take part in the rally because she had to be in court for a hearing. She said she had received a summons by the 14the bench of the revolutionary court and had decided to appear before the court to prove that their rally was not political in nature. While she felt there must have certainly been individuals who had been arrested, she said she was not aware of the number.