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Pre-2008 Posts

UPDATE on Ronak Safarzadeh and Imprisoned Iranian Women’s Rights Activists–Interview with Shirin Ebadi


Original post: Ronak Safarzadeh, 21, a member of the One Million Signatures Campaign for women’s rights in Iran and, like Delaram Ali, a participant in the peaceful demonstrations for women’s rights in Iran and mentioned in Delaram’s open letter below,  was arrested a few weeks ago.  Her home was ransacked by authorities and her computer was seized.  Ronak has not been allowed any contact with  her family and officials will not provide her family with any information about her.   They do not know where she is or anything about what is happening to her, although they learned in this past week that her arrest order was renewed and that she has not been provided with an attorney.   On November 3, her mother attempted to ask judiciary officials about her daughter’s condition and location and was beaten by them instead.

Each of these women has been active in gathering signatures in support of women’s family and human rights in Iran.  They spend 15-30 minutes speaking with Iranian citizens about justice for women and asking them to sign the petition.  When officials arrest these women, they are seizing these signatures as well.



Arrest of Delaram Ali (on the ground being dragged) and other Iranian peaceful women protestors last June, blog post here.

Interview with Shirin Ebadi — Ronak and Hana’s only crime is to seek equality
Sunday 6 January 2008

Change for Equality: Over two months have passed since the arrests of Ronak Saffarzadeh and Hana Abdi, two members of the Azar Mehr Kurdish Women’s Society (a women’s NGO in Kurdistan, Iran). They were arrested shortly after they collected signatures for the One Million Signatures Campaign at an event in commemoration of the International Day of the Child. Ronak Safarzadeh was arrested on October 10, and Hana Abdi was arrested on November 4. Lack of information about their condition has concerned many equal-rights and human rights activists in Iran and internationally. Meanwhile, in order to derail efforts designed to ensure their freedom, some news websites have announced that Ronak and Hana were collaborating with terrorist groups [working against the Iranian government]. The girls have not yet been permitted visits with family members or any of the lawyers who have volunteered to take on their cases. Shirin Ebadi, lawyer and Nobel Peace Laureate, offered to take on legal representation of Hana and Ronak but the Sanandaj Revolutionary Court has stated that until the conclusion of the investigations, they will not permit any lawyers to take on the cases of these women’s rights activists. We asked Shirin Ebadi about the allegations against Hana and Ronak and the treatment they have received since their detention. Here is what Ebadi had to say with respect to the case of these two young activists:

Unfortunately we are seeing that these days any small matter is viewed as a threat to national security. Individuals like Delaram Ali, Maryam Hosseinkhah, or Jelveh Javaheri were also arrested or tried with charges of disturbing public order and disrupting public opinion.

Ronak and Hana, who were arrested because of their participation in the One Million Signatures Campaign and volunteering to collect signatures, have committed no crime but that of seeking gender equality. Their crime is that they do not want their husbands to marry other women; their crime is that they say God has created men and women equal and has given them equal rights, so why is the law so biased?

I don’t believe that these two young women have endangered our national security. In my opinion, the court that considers our national security to be so frail and weak as to be disturbed by a signature, is in fact disrupting public opinion. By asserting this position, the court is creating fear and anxiety among the general public who are left wondering how exactly a simple signature on a petition can endanger our national security. The verdict [of endangering national security] in itself can be examined according to the Islamic Penal Code. I hope that judiciary officials realize that after 30 years, the Islamic Republic is strong enough as to not have its national security threatened by the mere act of signature collections [requesting the Parliament to reform certain laws]. This argument [of endangering national security] is not valid and it is somewhat of an insult to the Islamic Republic.

Worst of all, according to our law, it is illegal to publicly announce the charges against someone before their trial and conviction. The person responsible for the public announcement of charges which are not yet official is subject to arrest for slander. This is the law that we must all abide by but unfortunately we sometimes see that the same officials who are responsible for enforcing these laws, don’t respect it. Some press outlets have accused Ronak and Hana of possessing weapons and attempting to overthrow the government; they have gone further to accuse these young girls of collaborating with enemy groups. And yet the cases of Ronak and Hana are still in their investigation phase; their cases have not been referred to court and these accusations are unproven. Unfortunately this conduct is not something new. Mr. Abdolfattah Soltani, a courageous lawyer, was arrested some time ago. Forty-eight hours after his arrest, the spokesperson for the judiciary—the government body responsible for ensuring the correct implementation of the law—announced that there was enough evidence to suggest that Mr. Soltani was a nuclear spy and that he has provided our enemies with nuclear secrets. After enduring 7 months in solitary confinement, they found that Mr. Soltani’s record was clean and he was cleared of all charges.

My question is this: who must pay for the consequences of these actions? They arrest a lawyer and keep him in custody for 7 months, his family is distressed, his clients are stranded, and then they rule that in fact he was innocent all along. The same thing is happening to Hana and Ronak today. Two young girls who have no motives other than gender equality are arrested and before their case goes to court, fabricated news about charges against them appears in the press accusing them of possessing weapons, attempting to overthrow the government, and collaborating with enemy groups. I am certain that these young women will be acquitted on all these charges if they are tried in a just, fair, and public trial.

The question here is why is it that some officials prefer to introduce a social critic as an armed enemy of the state? Attracting supporters is not such a difficult task. So, why is it that some officials act in ways that result in the increase of their enemies, rather than an increase in their supporters? I hope that the judiciary understands that our country can only thrive on the power of young people. They should engage in attracting young people as their supporters. This is the main challenge, because throwing young people into jail is easy.

Via Ettehade Jomhourikhahane Iran (EJI)

Previous Women’s Space posts about the Iranian Women’s Rights activists:




5 thoughts on “UPDATE on Ronak Safarzadeh and Imprisoned Iranian Women’s Rights Activists–Interview with Shirin Ebadi

  1. As to the dominators of the type to do this sort of thing (“On November 3, her mother attempted to ask judiciary officials about her daughter’s condition and location and was beaten by them instead”), I now invoke my religious heritage in which Jesus, by gospel report, cursed “woe” to hypocrites.

    Who says a radical feminist can’t invoke this as the power of Christ?

    Fierce Love,

    Posted by JBSproull | November 9, 2007, 4:50 am
  2. Right on, JB. Can I tell you again how happy I am that you are here! Dang, I’m so glad to have met you in the other place. 🙂

    Yesterday I posted this as a regular blog post, then learned that I was responding to a hoax site, so I took it down. I did not need to be taunted with nah-nah-na-nah-nah, gullible, you fell for it! But it so fits with what you’ve said there so I’m going to post it in this comment. I think you’ll appreciate it, JB, we have common backgrounds.


    Their idols are … the work of men’s hands…They that make them are like unto them; so is every one that trusteth in them.

    I checked out an incoming link a day or two ago which led me to a website entitled Net Authority. Perusing the website, the above passage of scripture came to mind, something that happens on occasion when I encounter people from my old world.

    Net Authority, to wildly understate, is a piece of work.

    It describes itself as “an organization dedicated to the removal of offensive material from the Internet.” Says it, “The online world is teeming with pornography, depravity, blasphemy, and all kinds of hate propaganda. It is our mission to define a set of guidelines to which all information posted on the Internet must adhere, and to hold responsible those who would knowingly break those guidelines.”

    NA (I kinda like the acronym, like “Not Applicable”) urges everyone to report “offending sites,” and directs “offenders” to a page full of ” badges they are supposed to post to their sites, identifying themselves as offenders, and if not, report them as out of compliance!

    Yes, it’s funny in a horrifying sort of way, and eminently mockable, also eminently serious.

    The database of NA’s “offenders” includes Greenpeace, the Desmond Tutu Peace Foundation, Planned Parenthood, AllAfrica, the Green Party, The Nobel Foundation, the Free Mumia Abu-Jamal Coalition,the National Coalition for the Homeless, Free the Jena Six, The Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Tree Hugger, Save Darfur, the Nelson Mandela Foundation, the United Negro College Fund, Men Can Stop Rape, Abyss2Hope (Marcella Chester), Save the Children, National Center for Missing & Exploited Children, Amnesty International, Habitat for Humanity International, the Huffington Post, Angry Black Bitch, Daily Kos.

    And Women’s Space.

    In order to, I guess, be random, vent the owners’ spleen in various ways over what are probably internecine church feuds or consumer disputes, possibly in order to allow the owner to vex and rend the garments after having indulged in various debates over angels dancing on heads of pins, also included are Nickleodeon, Blockbuster Online, Wikipedia, Pat Robertson, Focus on the Family, the Internal Revenue Service, Patrick Henry College, Hustler, Playboy and Penthouse (to which I am not linking for obvious reasons).

    There are total of 121 sites in the database as of today.

    The criteria for determining an “offensive site”, the owners say, is the Ten Commandments, which, the owner says, happily, “everyone knows and follows (or should!)”. But to make things easy for us, the owner condenses and edits the critical ten down to the owner’s critical “five,” which he or she believes represent the true heart of the “God” — the God, that is, of the owner’s imagination, the Deity created out of male heterosupremacist hubris, arrogance, misogyny, racism, ugliness. The Deity that looks just like them:

    Internet Acceptable Use Policy

    Posting information or content in any form on the Internet constitutes acceptance of and agreement to the Net Authority Internet Acceptable Use Policy.

    Thou shalt not post pornographic material.
    There is a common misconception that pornography is limited purely to images or textual descriptions of an explicit sexual nature. This is not the case. Anything that can evoke impure thoughts in the mind of the beholder is pornographic.

    Thou shalt not post hateful material.
    Any material that promotes or inspires hatred or violence towards any other person or group of people is strictly forbidden.

    Thou shalt not post blasphemous material.
    Any material that would lead one astray from the righteous path of the one true God must not be permitted on the Internet. These days children are gaining access to the Internet at younger and younger ages—a time when they are most vulnerable and susceptible to blasphemous viewpoints and suggestions.

    Thou shalt not post materials of an offensive political nature.

    Thou shalt not post materials concerning bestiality, including interracial relationships.
    God did not intend for different species or races to intermingle sexually. Any content that contradicts this natural law, directly or indirectly, is strictly forbidden.

    So there we have it. Interracial relationships constitute “bestiality.” “Offensive political” ideas — those tawdry notions, I guess, of justice, peace, compassion, love, full civil and human rights for all people, respect for the earth and its creatures, as embodied in the offensive sites in the first paragraph of “offenders” listed there — must be carefully hidden from the eyes of all children, who are obligated to follow the owner’s “righteous path” to the “one true God”, i.e., the owner himself, or herself, and all who have similarly “made unto themselves idols who look just like them.” I won’t provide the reference, of course. Look it up.

    I titled this post the way I did, and made reference to Bible verses, because I know the website owners will be reading this. And there are words for human beings like the Net Authority people.

    Woe to you… you hypocrites! You shut the kingdom of heaven in men’s faces. You yourselves do not enter, nor will you let those enter who are trying to… You travel over land and sea to win a single convert, and when he becomes one, you make him twice as much a son of hell as you are. [neglecting] justice, mercy and faithfulness…you…strain out a gnat but swallow a camel. …You clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence… You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of dead men’s bones and everything unclean. …you are full of hypocrisy and wickedness. …

    You snakes! You brood of vipers! … I am sending you prophets and wise men and teachers. Some of them you will kill and crucify; others you will flog in your synagogues and pursue from town to town. And so upon you will come all the righteous blood that has been shed on earth, I tell you the truth, all this will come upon this generation. — Jesus of Nazareth

    It is views, politics, theologies, fundamentalisms, like yours, NA, which are responsible for the way the world looks this moment, teetering on the edge of disaster, awash in human misery, despair, hopelessness, poverty, disease, groaning for the redemption your own vile acts make imperative. It is views like yours which are by and large responsible for the hate, violence, murder, rape, misery in this world. Though your God is indeed bogus, an idol you created with your own hands, who looks just exactly like his daddy — you — the “thought forms” (thanks, BB), the “principalities and powers,” which have resulted from your idols are lethally dangerous. They are deadly destructive — to men, women, children, creatures, the earth, the seas, the skies, to all beneficent life on and off of the planet. The whole earth groans under the weight of what you have done to her. The whole earth groans.

    But, I’m glad you’ve been reading here. And in a few of those other “offensive” sites on your database as well.

    Because we, here, are the prophets, the teachers, and the wise women, come to you, sent to you, to warn you, as was prophesied by your teacher. We speak on behalf of all of the people and beings and the earth your community has burned, tortured, murdered, raped, battered, incested, violated, bombed, destroyed, colonized, enslaved over millennia. We will resist your abuse and violence with every bit of energy we have.

    Come the Revolution, we’re going to set things right. You can count on it.

    I suggest you consider what I have written to you.


    Posted by womensspace | November 9, 2007, 5:43 am
  3. “… and daughters will prophesy …”

    (Don’t remember the chapter and verse; in two biblical places, if memory serves.)

    Heart, I love your passion, and your articulate ways of enlightening.

    You’ve quoted my favorite of the rants attributed to Jesus. The best propaganda always contains some truth. Kernels of truth-telling around which disinformation was scribally written: That’s the “new testament.” That’s also why I haven’t excised all of the bible from my mind, choosing to take what I like and leave the rest. (This followed my adult surprise at learning that biblical “inerrancy” occurred as churchmen’s response to first-wave feminism.)

    Enjoyed reading your NA piece very much. Glad to have been a catalyst for it being seen on your blog, as more of your good work.

    In Truth,

    Posted by JBSproull | November 9, 2007, 6:22 am
  4. JBSproull! You have provided some of my favorite comments on this site, and I hope you will make many, many more. You are a talented thinker and writer.

    “Because we, here, are the prophets, the teachers, and the wise women, come to you, sent to you, to warn you, as was prophesied by your teacher. We speak on behalf of all of the people and beings and the earth your community has burned, tortured, murdered, raped, battered, incested, violated, bombed, destroyed, colonized, enslaved over millennia. We will resist your abuse and violence with every bit of energy we have.” That is so beautiful, Heart, and represents the essence of our prophetic work as feminists.

    Posted by Level Best | January 8, 2008, 2:41 pm
  5. Level Best, you always encourage me so much!

    Yeah, I love JB Sproull’s writings. Sadly, she decided the internet was not for her, though she did send me her phone number, so maybe I will call her and try to twist her arm to come back.

    Posted by womensspace | January 8, 2008, 5:12 pm

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