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Amnesty: Women activists seen as ‘enemies of state’ in Iran crackdown

Tehran is carrying out harsh interrogations and increasingly likening any collective initiative relating to women’s rights to criminal activity

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Iranian authorities have intensified their repression of women’s rights activists in the country during the first half of this year, an Amnesty International report has revealed.

In a statement released on Wednesday, the rights watchdog said that the country is carrying out a series of harsh interrogations and increasingly likening any collective initiative relating to women’s rights to criminal activity.

It revealed that, since January 2016, Revolutionary Guards has summoned more than a dozen women’s rights activists in Tehran for long, intensive interrogations and threatened with imprisonment on national security-related charges.

According to the report, many of these women had been involved in a campaign launched in October 2015, which advocated for increased representation of women in Iran’s February 2016 parliamentary election.

“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,” Magdalena Mughrabi, Interim Deputy Middle East and North Africa Program Director at Amnesty International, said.

The women summoned for interrogation were given no reason for the summonses they received, but once inside the interrogation room they were bombarded with accusations of espionage and collusion with “foreign-based currents seeking the overthrow of the Islamic Republic system”.

“Amnesty International understands that the Revolutionary Guards subjected the women to verbal abuse, including gender-related slurs. The activists were not allowed to be accompanied by their lawyers during the interrogations, which lasted in some cases up to eight hours,” the statement said.

Dr Homa Hoodfar

The latest target of this intensified crackdown is the renowned women’s rights magazine Zanan-e Emrooz (Today’s Women) which announced it was suspending its activities on 26 July.

The renewed assault on those working on women’s rights has been manifested most extremely by the arbitrary arrest and detention, since 6 June, of Dr Homa Hoodfar, a Canadian-Iranian national and prominent anthropology professor renowned for her decades of academic work on women’s issues.

“The Iranian authorities must release Dr Homa Hoodfar immediately and unconditionally and stop their relentless harassment of all women’s rights activists in the country.”