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UN Experts warn on the ongoing crackdown of women’s rights defenders in the Islamic Republic of Iran


27 November 2008


GENEVA – “Over the past two years, women’s rights defenders have faced an increasingly difficult situation and harassment in the course of their non-violent activities in the defence of women’s rights in the Islamic Republic of Iran,” warned a group of two UN human rights experts.

In a joint statement, Special Rapporteurs Margaret Sekaggya (situation of Human Rights Defenders) and Yakin Ertürk (Violence against Women, its causes and consequences) expressed deep concern regarding the ongoing crackdown of women’s rights defenders in the Islamic Republic of Iran.

“Women and men active in the ‘One Million Signatures Demanding Changes to Discriminatory Laws’ campaign, a grass-roots movement aimed at promoting full equality between women and men in Iranian law, have been particularly targeted,” said the UN experts.

While the group leading the campaign seeks to work within the existing system and regulations and insists it is in no way a group in direct opposition to the government; the group has met with serious repression from the authorities.

“Peaceful demonstrators have been arrested, detained and persecuted with prison sentences having been imposed on many of them,” said the UN Special Rapporteurs. “The Government of the Islamic Republic of Iran continues to harass and intimidate women’s rights activists involved in the campaign and prevent them from travelling.”

“To date, 18 joint communications have been sent to the Iranian authorities concerning violations committed against over 70 human rights defenders involved in the campaign, and on 5 April 2007 a press release was issued on the situation,” said the UN experts. “Until now, we have received only three responses from the Government of the Islamic Republic of Iran”.

“The repression against the women’s rights defenders participating in the campaign most regrettably continues,” stressed Ms. Sekaggya and Ms. Ertürk.
For the UN Special Rapporteurs, “women’s participation in public life to promote an equal treatment of women and men in the Islamic Republic of Iran should be encouraged as a means to build a stronger and healthier society, in which women’s unique contributions can flourish.”
In their joint communiqué, the two UN experts urge the Government of the Islamic Republic of Iran “to abide by its obligations under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the International Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination against Women, and respect the rights of women’s rights activists to freedom of association and peaceful assembly, and to freedom of opinion and expression.”
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For more information on the work and mandate of the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders write to defenders@ohchr.org, or to urgent-action@ohchr.org, or visit the website http://www2.ohchr.org/english/issues/defenders/index.htm

For more information on the work and mandate of the Special Rapporteur on violence against women, its causes and consequences write to vaw@ohchr.org, or visit the website http://www2.ohchr.org/english/issues/women/rapporteur/index.htm