Amnesty International announced that Iran has intensified their repression of women’s rights activists during the first half of 2016 by threatening, interrogating and imprisoning women connected to collective initiatives relating to women’s rights.
The most extreme case is that of Dr. Homa Hoofar, a Canadian-Iranian national who is a prominent anthropology professor and has worked for decades on women’s issues.
Hoofar was arrested and thrown into the notorious Evin Prison in Tehran on June 6, where she has been held in incommunicado with the exception of one brief meeting with her lawyer.
According to the prosecutor general of Tehran, Hoofar was engaged in “criminal” activity, including “entry into fields concerning feminism and national security offenses.”
Hoofer was active with WLUM (Women Living Under Muslim Laws), an organization described by Amnesty as an “international feminist network whose stated aim is to strengthen women’s struggles for equality and their rights in Muslim contexts.” She was also involved with the Campaign to Change the Masculine Face of Parliament, a movement to promote women being elected to public office.
Amnesty reports that, supporting the prosecutor’s announcement, “media outlets affiliated with the Revolutionary Guards ran articles claiming that Dr. Homa Hoodfar was ‘the Iran agent of a feminist network building operation…’ The articles also claimed that her work with WLUM to promote feminism and women’s equality in Muslim countries and enhance women’s bodily autonomy was aimed at ‘disrupting public order’ and ‘prompting social-cultural changes that can ultimately pave the ground … for a soft overthrow.’”
Other feminist activist involved in WLUM and the campaign to elect women to the parliament have been detained and harshly interrogated and bombarded with accusations of espionage and collusion with “foreign-based currents seeking the overthrow of the Islamic Republic system.”
Pressure has been placed on these two and other feminist collective initiatives and the women behind them to close or suspend their activities.
Amnesty notes that the Feminist School website has not been updated since February and the well-known women’s rights magazine Zanan-e Emrooz (Today’s Women) announced on July 26 that it was suspending its activities.
“Speaking up for women’s equality is not a crime. We are calling for an immediate end to this heightened harassment and intimidation, which is yet another blow for women’s rights in Iran,” said Magdalena Mughrabi, Interim Deputy Middle East and North Africa Programme Director at Amnesty International.
“Rather than addressing Iran’s disturbing record on women’s rights the Iranian authorities have once again opted for repression, accusing women’s rights activists of collusion in Western-orchestrated plots in a bid to maintain their discriminatory practices towards women.”