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Iran continues persecution of women’s rights activists as elections loom

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Laura Bridgestock
WVoN co-editor 

As Iran prepares for parliamentary elections on March 2, women remain hugely underrepresented in the country’s government and continue to face persecution when fighting for their rights through other channels.

At the start of February, the Guardian Council, Iran’s top legislative body, announced the list of candidates approved to stand in the upcoming parliamentary elections.

More than 3,000 were approved. The number of women among them was not announced – but of the 5,395 who registered for candidacy, only 428 were women – less than 8%.

According to 2008 figures, just eight out of 286 parliamentary seats were occupied by women.

Meanwhile women’s rights activists speaking out through channels such as blogging face often brutal repression.

Activist and blogger Fereshteh Shirazi was arrested last September. She has been in prison since and in January an appeals court upheld her three-year prison sentence.

Charges against her included: “creating public anxiety through insulting the authorities”, “acting against national security” and “propagating against the regime”.

Last week, another women’s rights activist, Faranak Farid, was brought to trial, charged with “propaganda against the regime and insulting the leader”.

Farid was also arrested last September, a day before Shirazi, and was the subject of an international human rights campaign following reports that she had been severely beaten and forced to sign a document she could not read.

A translator, poet and editor of the women’s section of banned monthly Dilmaj, Farid had previously been questioned by the Ministry of Intelligence over plans to attend a conference on women in Turkey.

So, blogging and conferences: another two activities to add to the long, long list of things Iranian women are unable to do without fear of recrimination.

At present it looks likely that the next item on the list will be “receiving the same healthcare as men”. There are also plans to even further restrict the already stringent dress regulations for female civil servants.

Find out more from the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran.

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