Free Esha Momeni Now (10/22/08)
We hear about these horrible incidents, often fictionalized in movies and novels. An idealistic, compassionate person is detained and imprisoned. Cold and calculated attempts by repressive regimes to silence critics are as old as history itself. Sometimes it hits so close to home that you can feel it deep in your gut. Such is the current situation involving Esha Momeni, an American-born student of Iranian descent. Since her arrest on October 15th, Esha has languished in the notorious Evin Prison in Tehran. Her supposed crime was conducting video interviews related to issues of feminism, with members of an organization that has experienced consistent harrassment and intimidation by the Iranian government. From the sketchy reports that are emerging, she is now in solitary confinement, and her family is also being harassed.
Esha’s concern for the state of women in Iran is real– all too real it now appears. I, along with other members of Esha’s thesis committee, warned her of the inherent danger of her pursuing this line of research toward her Master’s degree. Esha good-naturedly downplayed the danger, and I remember saying to the committee that it appeared that nothing we could say was going to stop her from her work.
I’ve known Esha as her professor and her friend– she is a lovely person, with the soul of an artist. Esha Momeni is not some political rebel, looking to overthrow or undermine the powers-that-be. She is an advocate only for the rights of women in her home country. And now by forced by circumstances, she also represents the universal human right of Freedom of Expression, artistic or otherwise. To think of her in her present condition is deeply disturbing and frightening. Whatever can be done to help her MUST be done.
Google her name and you will see that her cause is being taken up worldwide. I’m also including some contact information for those who wish to write on her behalf.
The Campaign for Equality, launched in 2006, is an Iranian women’s rights initiative composed of a network of women and men committed to ending discrimination against women in Iranian law. The Campaign gives volunteers basic legal training, and these volunteers travel around the country promoting the Campaign, talking with women in their homes, as well as in public places, telling them about their rights and the need for legal reform. The volunteers are also collecting one million signatures of Iranian nationals for a petition demanding an end to legal discrimination against women in Iran.
DOZENS OF ACTIVISTS AND SUPPORTERS HAVE BEEN ARRESTED IN CONNECTION WITH THEIR ACTIVITIES FOR THE CAMPAIGN FOR EQUALITY, SOME WHILE COLLECTING SIGNATURES FOR THE PETITION DEMANDING AN END TO LEGAL DISCRIMINATION AGAINST WOMEN IN IRAN. AS OF OCTOBER 2008, THE CAMPAIGN’S WEBSITE HAD BEEN BLOCKED BY THE AUTHORITIES AT LEAST 16 TIMES (SEE:HTTP://WWW.CHANGE4EQUALITY.COM). OFFICIAL PERMISSION TO HOLD PUBLIC MEETINGS HAS FREQUENTLY BEEN DENIED, AND CAMPAIGN ACTIVISTS USUALLY HOLD THEIR WORKSHOPS IN THE HOMES OF SYMPATHIZERS, SOME OF WHOM HAVE THEN RECEIVED THREATENING PHONE CALLS APPARENTLY FROM SECURITY OFFICIALS OR BEEN SUMMONED BY THEM FOR INTERROGATION. AT LEAST ONE SUCH WORKSHOP WAS FORCIBLY BROKEN UP BY POLICE, WHO ARRESTED THOSE PRESENT, BEATING SOME.
Two women, Ronak Safarzadeh and Hana Abdi, remain detained in the city of Sanandaj, Kordestan province (see UA 297/07, MDE 13/130/2007, 7 November 2007), while a third woman, Zeynab Beyezidi is imprisoned in Mahabad in connection with their activities on behalf of the Campaign for Equality.
RECOMMENDED ACTION: PLEASE SEND APPEALS TO ARRIVE AS QUICKLY AS POSSIBLE, IN PERSIAN, ARABIC, ENGLISH AND FRENCH OR YOUR OWN LANGUAGE:
- expressing concern at the arrest of Esha Momeni, and urging on the authorities to treat her humanely in detention, and protect her from torture or other ill-treatment;
- asking the authorities to ensure that while in detention she is granted immediate and regular access to her family, a lawyer of her choice, and any medical treatment she may require;
- expressing concern that her arrest was apparently in connection with her peaceful activities in support of equal rights for women in Iran and in the context of her graduate research;
- urging the authorities to release her immediately and unconditionally if she is not to be charged with a recognizably criminal offence and brought to trial promptly and fairly;