Another Senseless Arrest
19 Jul 2009 15:11
By LEILA MOURI in New York | 19 July 2009
[TEHRAN BUREAU] Comment At first I thought I had it wrong. I was not yet properly awake when I checked the headlines on my iPhone yesterday. The news of the arrest of Shadi Sadr, a distinguished women's rights activist and a human rights lawyer, was too horrifying and close to home to be true.
I have known Shadi since 2001, when I started volunteering as a journalist for "Women in Iran," a news website about Iranian women. She was the editor. As posted at the top of the website, "Women in Iran" followed this motto: "Women's Rights is Human Rights." It was the first website based in Iran that covered issues of women's social, political, economic, legal and human rights inside the country. In a short time, under her supervision, the website became the only reliable source of news on these topics.
Shadi and a group of other women's rights activists were on their way to Friday prayers in Tehran, when several members of Iran's security forces snatched her and forced her into a car. These men were lebas-shakhsi, which means they do not wear police uniforms. In Persian, lebas-shakhsi means "dressed in civilian clothes," or plainclothes officer. Wearing regular clothes helps them blend into the crowd.
Her friends tried unsuccessfully to help Shadi as she screamed and tried to escape. Her manteau and headscarf, which had come off in the struggle, were left behind.
Shadi was allowed to call her husband and talk to her 10-year old daughter. She told them that she was all right. Based on this conversation, her husband said he believed that she had been taken to Evin Prison, in north Tehran. Some hours later, members of the security police went through Shadi's office and also searched her home. They seized some documents and both her personal computer and her husband's.
This was not the first time that Shadi has been arrested. The government also arrested her in 2007, along with 33 other women's rights activists, while protesting in front of the Revolutionary Court calling for the release of their friends, who were on trial at the time.
In fact, for at least ten years now, Shadi has been at the forefront of the struggle for human rights and women's rights in Iran. As a lawyer, she represented many women who were sentenced to stoning. She was able to save the lives of some of them. She initiated the "Stop Stoning Forever" campaign and the Meydaan website, which also covered women's rights issues. Her campaign against stoning was so successful that the Judiciary Committee in Parliament has taken a major step toward removing this punishment from the Penal Code; the bill awaits ratification in parliament.
Shadi Sadr was also the head of the Rahi Institution, which provided assistance to women who have been victims of violence. The Rahi Institute also provided legal and economic assistance, as well as psychiatric and social services to these women.
Shadi also represented other women's rights activists, who have been under severe pressure over the last four years, especially since Mahmood Ahmadinejad has become president. They have been repeatedly attacked, increasingly put under arrest and held in solitary confinement for weeks at a time. They have been denied access to lawyers and subjected to severe interrogations.
Shadi won the Ida B. Wells Award for Bravery in Journalism in May 2004. As a person who has worked closely with Shadi for years, I have seen this bravery exhibited firsthand. I know I've learned so much from her myself. This is a woman who takes initiative, but also exhibits a great deal of patience. I am still in shock from the news. I don't know why they would subject someone like Shadi to such brutality.
I hope to receive news of her release soon. I'd like to hear that she has safely returned home. I know Darya misses her mother very much and is in great need of her embrace.
Copyright (c) 2009 Tehran Bureau