Women's Rights & Movements in IranIranian women's rights campaigners imprisoned

Iranian women’s rights campaigners imprisoned

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ImageThe Guardian: Four women's rights campaigners in Iran have been sentenced to six months in jail just as activists were celebrating a rare success, having persuaded MPs to shelve a bill that would have made it easier for men to have more than one wife.

The Guardian

Robert Tait

ImageFour women's rights campaigners in Iran have been sentenced to six months in jail just as activists were celebrating a rare success, having persuaded MPs to shelve a bill that would have made it easier for men to have more than one wife.

A court convicted Parvin Ardalan, Maryam Hosseinkhah, Jelveh Javaheri and Nahid Keshavarz of spreading propaganda against Iran's Islamic system. The sentencing is the latest in a series of draconian punishments meted out to campaigners who claim women suffer systematic discrimination.

The four, who intend to appeal, are leading members of the One Million Signature campaign, which wants Iranians to sign up to a pledge of support for equal rights for women.

Ardalan, 41, gained international recognition this year when she was awarded the Olof Palme prize, named after the late Swedish prime minister, for her work. She was travelling to Sweden to receive the prize when her passport was confiscated at Tehran's Imam Khomeini airport.

For the past three years she has edited Zanestan, an online women's rights magazine. She received a two-year suspended sentence this year for her part in a gathering in March 2007 that was violently broken up by police, and was also given a partially suspended three-year sentence for her role in another demonstration a year earlier.

About 50 campaigners are believed to have been detained or sentenced since the One Million Signature campaign started two years ago.

Activists say women are relegated to second-class citizen status by laws which, for example, give men the custody of children in divorce cases, restrict females to half the inheritance rights due to males and require a wife to seek her husband's permission to travel abroad.

News of the sentences emerged after Iran's conservative-dominated parliament bowed to campaigners' pressure by effectively rejecting the family support bill, tabled by President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's government, which would have allowed husbands to take a second wife without the consent of the first. Polygamy is widely frowned upon in Iranian culture, although men are allowed up to four wives under the country's Islamic laws.

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