Iran: Women calling for equal rights beaten, arrested in Tehran

The Siasat Daily
Police dispersed the protesters who were calling for a ban on polygamy, equal child custody rights, and within marriage, freedom for women to work where they please and to travel freely.
They also appealed that the testimony of women in court be accorded equal value.
A rally held by women in Tehran to call for equal rights and amendments to civil and criminal law ended up with one protester injured and a dozen or so arrests. “We are women, we are human, but we don't have any rights,” chanted the protesters who started their rally at 5pm yesterday afternoon in the heart of the Iranian capital

An hour after the protest got under way, a hundred or so police officers, including women (see photo) attacked and dispersed the protesters, carrying out at least 23 arrests, apart from four or six women who had been arrested already before the protest started. One of the protestors was injured.

Some journalists could openly film the event and were not been prevented from doing so by the security forces. Iranian state-run media reported on the protest too, insisting on the fact that these women were dressed in an indecent way, that is, they were “not perfectly veiled”.

The protesters, linked to a hitherto unknown “Labour and Communist Party”, bore a list of requests endorsed by 400 writers, journalists, human rights activists, artists and intellectuals, men and women. They were calling for a ban on polygamy; the revoking of men's uncontested right to divorce; equal child custody rights for mother and father; equal rights in marriage, such as a woman's right to choose where she works, and to travel freely, and that equal value be accorded to a woman's testimony in court.

They were also calling for the elimination of temporary work contracts, which discriminate against women, and for the legal employment age to be raised to 18 years. Currently, girls are considered to be adults when they are nine years and boys when they reach 15, making them theoretically eligible to be tried as adults. This ambiguity undermines Iran’s application of the Convention on the Rights of the Child and makes it possible for judges continue to condemn juvenile offenders to death.

Requests like access to soccer stadiums by women are much more popular and present in the media; such calls have been openly supported by the populist President Ahmadinejad, but will not be enforced after having been vetoed by the mullahs. Another important and well-known problem in Iran is that of the compulsory Islamic dress code. However, the real problem of the status of women is rooted in the law and in a system which has a negative impact on prevailing mentalities. It was these legal discriminations that protesters were drawing attention to.

Yesterday’s was not the first feminist demonstration in Tehran. In March, 300 human rights protesters, men and women, held a rally in a park. Then too, police forces attacked the demonstrators, beating some of them.

The Siasat Daily, Tuesday, 07 November 2006