<\body> Stories in America: Peaceful March in Iran Turns Violent

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Peaceful March in Iran Turns Violent

A peaceful gathering of approximately 1,000 women's rights activists in Tehran ended in violence yesterday after they were attacked by anti-riot forces, soldiers and police. Protesters held signs reading, "Discrimination Against Women is an Abuse of Their Human Rights," "Women Demand Their Human Rights," "Iranian Women Demand Peace," and "Injustice Means Discrimination Against Women."

The ceremony which started at 4:00 pm, and was scheduled to last one hour, was charged by security forces shortly after it began, who relentlessly beat the protesters, in an effort to disperse the group.

Ten minutes into the protest, after security forces had managed to fully film and photograph the protesters for follow-up and interrogations at a later time, the women were asked to disperse, on the grounds that their assembly was illegal and did not have a permit. At this point, the protesters started singing the anthem of the women's movement, which again calls for changes in their human rights status. At 4:20 the final statement of the sit in was read, during which the security forces dumped cans of garbage on the heads of women who were seated in an effort to prevent easy dispersal. The security forces then charged the group and began beating the protesters. Even after the protesters had dispersed many were followed by the security forces and beaten. Some of the female protesters were beaten repeatedly with batons, and some male protesters were beaten severely by security forces who administered the beatings in teams.

Ms. Simin Behbehani, feminist poet, who is elderly and has difficulty with her vision did not escape the wrath of the police either. She was beaten by a baton and then kicked repeatedly by security guards, amidst objection by women protesters. Female and male pedestrians passing by the protest also received beatings by the police.

Journalists, including several foreign correspondents, who had filmed and photographed the event, were rounded up, held in custody and released only after their films and photographs had been confiscated.

While the Iranian constitutions allows for peaceful gatherings without permit, the government requests a permit for public gatherings. Women's rights groups have been repeatedly denied requests to hold public gatherings, and so they have chosen to exercise their rights of assembly in organizing peaceful gatherings without obtaining permits.

Iranian women have in solidarity with their sisters internationally been publicly celebrating international women's day for several years. The pressure has increasingly grown on groups who which to commemorate this event. This latest development is part of a growing pressure on women's groups and women's rights activists as well as human rights defenders and civil society leaders in Iran.
Women's rights activists believe that interrogations, harassments, and pressure on their organizations, including closure and arrests will increase as a result of this latest event:
We hope that the international community, especially women's groups and human rights organizations will stand in solidarity with Iranian women, to condemn this violent attack of women's rights defenders in Iran. We especially urge women's groups in the region and from Islamic countries to protest the violent actions of the security forces against women's rights activists and defenders.


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