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Iran Feature: The Week in Civil Society --- Bad Days for Female Political Prisoners (Arseh Sevom)

Nine female political prisoners who recently went on hunger strike over their treatment

The latest review of developments inside Iran from Arseh Sevom, the NGO promoting civil society and human rights:

It has been a bad news week for female prisoners of conscience. Harassment of attorney Nasrin Sotoudeh continues unabated despite international calls for her release. Nine other imprisoned women embarked on a hunger strike to protest unprovoked and aggressive treatment from prison guards. Director Rakshan Bani Etemad's latest film, Stories, remains unheard, while workers continue to bear the brunt of economic hardships and political suppression in Iran.

Praiseworthy Nasrin

In response to continuous harassment from prison authorities, including a recently extended ban on all visitations, imprisoned human rights lawyer Nasrin Sotoudeh went on a hunger strike in mid-October.


As activists called on Sotoudeh to end her hunger strike due to her deteriorating health. Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, The International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran, Reporters Without Borders (RSF), the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), and the Iranian League for the Defence of Human Rights (LDDHI), joined by Shirin Ebadi, renewed their calls for authorities to quash the Sakharov Prize winner’s convictions and release her and other prisoners of conscience unconditionally.

(For more on this story, read Iran: Where the Winner Gets Punished)

Women Behind Bars

Nine female prisoners of conscience began a hunger strike to protest actions by guards at Evin Prison. Justice For Iran provides more details, writing of unnecessary and aggressive body cavity searches of the women.

In an interview with Rooz Online, Amin Ahmadian, the husband of imprisoned student activist Bahareh Hedayat, said:


On Tuesday afternoon, they took the female political prisoners to the prison’s yard while they searched their cells and confiscated some of their personal belongings. It is not yet clear why they did that, but it appears that they were looking for a cell phone or a communication device. The female prisoners were bodily searched in a harassing manner. As a result, and in protest of that harassment, they are staging a hunger strike.


Hedayat, Zhila Baniyaghoub, Mahsa Amrabadi, Hakimeh Shokri, Shiva Nazarahari, Zhila Karamzadeh Makvandi, Nazanin Deyhami, Raheleh Zokaei, and Nasim Soltan-Beigi are the nine prisoners on hunger strike. The blog Women Behind Bars monitors the situation of the women.

[Editor's Note: The women have now halted their strike.]

Another Day Older and Deeper in Debt

With an increasing number of factories going out of business, a large number of workers have lost their jobs and, in some cases, their wages have gone unpaid.

In their most recent activities, the organisers of a petition, with 20,000 signatures attached to it, made their way to the International Press and New Agencies Exhibition in Tehran and demanded serious attention from the media about their work and living situation. The petition, addressed to the Minister of Labor, urged him to review wage rates and the effects of inflation and the Government's subsidy cuts programme on workers’ lives.

No Freedom of Assembly

In October, labour rights activist Pedram Nasrollahi received a 19-month sentence charged with "propaganda against the regime" and "membership in the coordinating committee to help form workers' organisations". This week the Iranian Independent Workers’ Union stated, “While emphasizing workers’ natural right to defend their existence, [we] declare that no worker should be detained or prosecuted on the basis of ridiculous accusations of participating in protests, strikes, gatherings, forming organisations, and endeavouring to achieve his or her human rights.”

Untold Stories

The latest film by award-winning Rakhshan Bani-Etemad, Stories, was scheduled for an exclusive viewing last Friday. The show was cancelled at the last minute for unknown reasons.

Bani-Etemad had predicted a short run for the film, “The screening of ‘Stories’ might only happen this one time.” However, after the cancellation, she assured, “No movie has ever been forgotten in a storage. It will be watched someday, somewhere, whether its director is still alive or not."

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