Mar 10, 2008

Iran: Where Are Women’s Rights in the Republic?

Escorted from an Air France jet on the Tehran apron, the case of award winner Parvin Ardalan shows the lack of rights for women in Iran today.

Escorted from an Air France jet on the Tehran apron, the case of award winner Parvin Ardalan shows the lack of rights for women in Iran today.

Below is an article written by Fredrik Dahl, edited by Caroline Drees and published by Reuters:

An Iranian women's rights campaigner said police prevented her from flying out of Tehran on Monday [3 March 2008] to pick up a $75,000 human rights award in Sweden.

Parvin Ardalan, who was awarded the Olof Palme Prize for 2007, said she had boarded the Air France plane at Tehran's international airport when aircraft crew told her that police had informed them she could not leave.

Airport police waiting outside the plane said they were acting on a judge's order and took her passport, Ardalan told Reuters by phone.

"I think they didn't want me to attend the prize ceremony because ... it was a good opportunity for me as an activist, a member of the women movement," the 41-year-old journalist said.

Ardalan is a leading figure in a campaign to collect 1 million signatures in favor of greater women's rights in the conservative Islamic Republic, which rejects Western accusations it is violating human rights.

Activists say many of them have been detained since the drive began in 2006. Most were freed within a few days or weeks.

Another member of the campaign said Ardalan was handed a partly-suspended three-year jail sentence for taking part in a banned protest in Tehran in 2006 but that it had been appealed.

The Olof Palme Memorial Fund, set up in memory of the former Swedish prime minister assassinated in 1986, last month said Ardalan "succeeded in making the demand for equal rights for men and women a central part of the struggle for democracy in Iran".

An official of the fund said he still hoped Ardalan could attend the March 6 [2008] prize ceremony in Stockholm. "There must have been some misunderstanding," he said from the Swedish capital.

Western diplomats see the detentions of women activists in Iran as part of a wider crackdown on dissent, which they say may be in response to international pressure over Iran's nuclear work. Iran rejects accusations it wants to build an atomic bomb.

The women activists say they face institutionalized discrimination that makes them "second-class citizens" in divorce, inheritance, child custody and other aspects of life.

Iran rejects the allegations and says women in Iran are protected from the sex symbol status they have in the West.

Women are entitled to hold most jobs, but Iran remains dominated by men. In recent years women have started to work in the police and fire departments and there are female members of parliament, but they cannot run for president or become judges.