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News | Sotoudeh in Critical Condition; 'Maturity' Test for Women's Passports?

by DAN GEIST and TEHRAN BUREAU CORRESPONDENTS

04 Dec 2012 04:55Comments

Press Roundup provides a selected summary of news from the Farsi and Arabic press and excerpts where the source is in English. Tehran Bureau has not verified these stories and does not vouch for their accuracy. Any views expressed are the authors' own. Please refer to the Media Guide to help put the stories in perspective. You can follow breaking news stories on our Twitter feed.

SotoudehPanahiEuroparl.jpgHuman Rights Story of the Day

Sakharov Prize winner Nasrin Sotoudeh critically ill as prison hunger strike nears 50th day

Lawyer, author, and women's and children's rights activist Nasrin Sotoudeh, who is serving a six-year prison sentence on charges of spreading "propaganda," "acting against national security," and "not observing Islamic dress code," is reportedly in critical condition as she enters the 48th day of a hunger strike. Sotoudeh undertook the hunger strike -- her fourth since her incarceration began in September 2010 -- to protest the obstruction and denial of her rights to visits from and telephone calls with her husband, Reza Khandan; 12-year-old daughter, Mehraveh; and four-year-old son, Nima. A case has also been filed against Mehraveh that bars the girl from traveling abroad. According to Khandan, who was able to see his wife on Sunday, her weight has dropped below 94 pounds and fellow prisoners said that she is no longer physically capable of accepting fluids.

Sotoudeh, 49, ran afoul of the Islamic Republic's ruling system through her extensive work as a human rights attorney and leading role in the Campaign for One Million Signatures, which seeks the abolition of laws that discriminate against Iranian women. Following the completion of her prison term, she will be banned from employment in the legal field and from international travel for ten years. Her original sentence, handed down in January 2011, of 11 years of imprisonment followed by 20-year bans on employment in the legal field and international travel bans was later reduced by an appeals court. She has been serving her sentence in Tehran's Evin Prison, specifically in Ward 209, which is directly supervised by the Islamic Republic's Intelligence Ministry.

In October, shortly after she began her latest hunger strike, Sotoudeh was honored with the Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought, awarded by the European Parliament; the prize also went to Iranian filmmaker Jafar Panahi, who has also been sentenced to six years of incarceration (he has yet to be summoned to prison to begin his sentence) and 20-year employment and travel bans, to which he is already subject. Images of Sotoudeh and Panahi are currently displayed over the main entrance to the European Parliament in Brussels.

On Sunday, dozens of women's rights activists demonstrated in front of the office of Tehran Prosecutor-General Abbas Jafari Dolatabadi, demanding Sotoudeh's immediate transfer to a hospital. Meanwhile, Majles deputy Mohammad Hassan Asfari told the Iranian Labor News Agency that a group of legislators was preparing to visit Evin to examine the conditions of her detention. "If the stories regarding Ms. Sotoudeh are true, we will request an explanation from" the judiciary, Asfari said, adding that they would not intervene if they determined that her hunger strike was motivated solely by the desire to "create a controversy."

In an email he sent to Reuters on Monday, Khandan said that he welcomed news of the Majles deputies' planned visit to Evin. "In this situation of silence and ignorance and indifference on the part of those involved, this is good news," he wrote. "My wife has a clear condition for stopping her hunger strike, and that is the suspension of the judiciary's case against our daughter.... [T]his is a legal request."

Audio of the Week

Neda Soltani, interviewed by Brooke Gladstone of National Public Radio's On the Media. Soltani's Facebook picture was disseminated internationally as an image of Neda Agha-Soltan, whose death in the street protests that followed the Iranian presidential election in June 2009 was captured on a cellphone video seen around the world. Soltani describes how several major news organizations refused to acknowledge or correct the error even after repeated pleas and explanations. She was forced to flee Iran when she refused to cooperate with Islamic Republic officials who wanted her to claim that Agha-Soltan's death was itself a hoax. Soltani, author of My Stolen Face, also recently gave an account of her experience to BBC News.

Quote of the Day

"We don't think everyone should have the unconditional right to leave the country because it will have consequences, and neither do we think that everyone must be stopped from leaving the country. We believe that permission to leave the country should be granted after maturity is established."

-- Majles deputy Laleh Eftekhari tells the Islamic Students News Agency (ISNA) that the women's bloc in parliament has proposed that women under 40 be permitted to leave the country if they are found to be "mature." The legislature's National Security and Foreign Policy Commission drafted a bill last month that would prohibit the issuance of passports to single women under the age of 40 without the permission of their father or a religious judge. The proposal from the women's bloc would presumably create an additional avenue for a woman wishing to travel abroad to attain permission. According to ISNA's account, Eftekhari said that a "mature woman is defined as a girl who can tell right from wrong and what is in her interest, a girl who can manage her affairs and there is no fear that she will be manipulated. By another definition, a mature girl is one who can for example make important deals and...who will not act based on her emotions."

Video Grab of the Day

PressTVMohseniEjeiOnBeheshti.jpg

Iranian Prosecutor-General Gholam Hossein Mohseni Ejei, as seen on state-run Press TV. In a press conference Monday, Ejei, who is also the spokesman for the national judiciary, stated that "seven people from Iran's police force have been arrested in the Sattar Beheshti case, some of whom have been interrogated and are out on bail. It is clear that the police have acted with negligence.... There should have been direct supervision over the interrogation." According to the Press TV report, Beheshti, a dissident blogger arrested by Iran's cyber police on October 3, died while in custody at Evin Prison on November 6. Previously available information has indicated that he died on November 3. On Saturday, it was announced that Tehran cyber police chief Colonel Mohammad Hassan Shokrian had been fired in the case.

Statistic of the Day

105 percent

-- The semiofficial Mehr News Agency reports that international airlines providing service to Iran have more than doubled their prices since last Wednesday -- hiking them an average of 105 percent -- to offset the rial's recent collapse in the foreign exchange open market. The Islamic Republic's nationalized carrier, IranAir, is expected to follow suit.

Chart of the Day

AirlineTicketPrices.jpg

Current prices of round-trip flights between Tehran and various international destinations, according to Mehr. As often in Iranian sources, prices appear in tomans -- one toman is equal to ten rials. While the Islamic Republic maintains an official bank exchange rate of 12,600 rials to the U.S. dollar, that rate is available almost exclusively to government agencies and importers of designated "essential goods." Most other entities doing business in the country must conduct their transactions at the mandated over-the-counter rate of 28,500 rials per dollar. (Individuals who wish to acquire hard currency have great difficulty finding money traders willing to sell dollars even at that price, and the effective -- if nominally criminal -- exchange rate for the average private citizen is probably closer to 40,000 rials per dollar.) At the 28,500 rate, an average round-trip ticket from Tehran to London on either Emirates or Qatar Airways is valued at approximately $840.

Photos of the Day

ISNATehranSmog1.jpgISNATehranSmog2.jpg

Along Tehran's Enghelab Avenue. Yousef Rashidi, the capital district's air quality control director, declared Monday that air pollution in the city had reached alarming levels for the second successive day. According to the Tehran Times, Tehran Province Governor-General Morteza Tamaddon announced that all government offices, universities, and schools in the city would be closed on Tuesday and Wednesday due to the acute pollution.

Copyright © 2012 Tehran Bureau

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