Women's Human Rights Activists in Iran Arrested

December 7, 2000

May 2, 2000

The Women’s Learning Partnership (WLP) has learned that two leading women’s activists may be in danger in Iran. Please help by forwarding this notice to your friends and associates, and by writing to the officials below to express your concern for the welfare, safety, and lawful treatment of Mehrangiz Kar and Shahla Lahiji, and others who have been arrested.


On Sunday April 30, 2000, the Islamic Republic of Iran formally indicted and imprisoned Mehrangiz Kar, a lawyer, writer, and human rights advocate, and Shahla Lahiji, director of Roshangaran, a prominent publishing house of women's books, as well as four other activists and intellectuals, because they had participated in a conference on the future of Iran held in Germany a week before. They have been denied access to their lawyers and have not been allowed to receive medicine.
Ms. Kar and Ms. Lahiji are charged with "acting against the internal security of the state and disparaging the sacred order of the Islamic Republic." The charges are severe and the range of possible punishments is broad. This action follows the closing during the past week of all newspapers and magazines associated with a popular movement that seeks pluralism and reforms within the framework of the constitution of the Islamic Republic.

In recent years, there have been reports of numerous cases of assassination, assassination attempts, and threats against proponents of democracy, as well as suspicious deaths within Iran's prisons. During the past weeks, there have been several inflammatory statements by the leaders of the Islamic Republic condemning supporters of reform generally and the participants in the Berlin conference specifically. We are therefore gravely concerned about the safety of the imprisoned activists, particularly Ms. Kar and Ms. Lahiji, who have often been singled out by the regime as foremost proponents of women's human rights in Iran.

Please send your letters of concern to the following officials:

1. Your Country's Ambassador to Iran

2. Your Foreign Office

3. Hojjatoleslam Mohammad Khatami
President of the Islamic Republic of Iran
Office of the President
Palestine Avenue, Azerbaijan Intersection
Tehran, The Islamic Republic of Iran
Fax: 98-21-646-4443
Email:khatami@president.ir or president@khatami.com

4. H.E. Ambassador Najad Hosseinian
Iranian Mission to the United Nations
622 Third Avenue
New York, NY 10017, USA
Tel: 1-212-687-2020
Fax: 1-212-867-7086

5. Mary Robinson
UN High Commissioner for Human Rights
Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights
CH 1211, Geneva 10, Switzerland
Tel: 41-22-917-9000
Email: webadmin.hchr@unog.ch

UPDATE: June 29, 2000

Mehrangiz Kar and Shahla Lahiji released on bail; Shirin Ebadi arrested and imprisoned.

Early last month WLP sent out an urgent notice regarding two leading women's activists in danger in Iran. We reported then that on Sunday April 30, 2000, the Islamic Republic of Iran arrested and imprisoned Mehrangiz Kar, a lawyer, writer, and human rights advocate, and Shahla Lahiji, director of Roshangaran, a prominent publishing house of women's books, because they had participated in a conference on the future of Iran held in Berlin, Germany a week before.

We are pleased to inform you that on June 21, 2000 Mehrangiz Kar and Shahla Lahiji were freed on bail. They had to each post the equivalent of US $60,000 for their release. Both women are home now, resting and waiting for news of their trial date. They were initially represented by attorney Shirin Ebadi until she resigned in protest for not being permitted to meet with her clients. We are distressed to learn that on Wednesday, June 28, Ms. Ebadi was arrested and imprisoned.

Among the others arrested for participating in the Berlin conference, student leader Ali Afshari was released on US $62,500 bail on Sunday, June 25, 2000. Magazine editor Ezatollah Sahabi was imprisoned on Monday, June 26, 2000 and Journalist Akbar Ganji still remains in prison

UPDATE: July 14, 2000

Dear Colleagues,

As you may know, Shirin Ebadi, lawyer and human rights activist will be tried in closed court in Tehran, beginning July 15th. I am sending below the available information regarding her case. Please take whatever action you deem appropriate individually or through your organization on her behalf and on behalf of the other prisoners of conscience in Iran. We would appreciate any suggestions for action you may share with us.

Mahnaz Afkhami
Women's Learning Partnership

The case against Iran's pro-reform lawyers Shirin Ebadi and Mohsen Rahami is scheduled to open in a Tehran revolutionary court on July 15. The two lawyers are in jail, accused, among others, with "disturbing public opinion" by making and distributing videocassettes of remarks made by a former Islamic militant, Amir Farshad Ebrahimi, against certain members of the regime. Because Mr. Ebrahimi's statements suggested the possibility of an assassination plot against a deputy interior minister, Ms. Ebadi sent a copy of the tape to him. The minister, in turn, informed the ministry of information. According to the Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA), Deputy Interior Minister Mostafa Tajzadeh testified on Tuesday, July 11, confirming to the Tehran judge that Ms. Ebadi had sent the tape over to his office along with a note that warned of an assassination plot against him. "It appears," he said, "that the reason for sending this tape to me was both a humanitarian one to inform of the assassination plot against me, as well as my official capacity as deputy minister of interior. Once I was notified of the sensitive nature of its content, I turned it over to the ministry of information for necessary action."

Both Ms. Ebadi and Mr. Rahami have been active defending pro-reform and pro-human rights activists in recent years. Ms. Ebadi, in particular, is a monitor for Human Rights Watch. She is the author of "History and Documentation of Human Rights in Iran." She has been an active advocate for women and children's rights. She has been an advocate for raising the minimum age of marriage for girls, calling the present 9-year minimum violence against girls. She has represented a number of human rights-related cases, including those of the Foruhars, who were assassinated two years ago. More recently, she represented Mehrangiz Kar and Shahla Lahiji, two women's rights advocates, but had to resign because she was denied access to her clients or to their files.

Conservative newspapers in Iran have singled out Ms. Ebadi and Mr. Rahami for personal and professional attack during the past several days. The accusations against them are nebulous, making possible a wide range of verdicts because of the judge's extensive discretionary powers.

It is imperative that the international community, particularly the human rights community, brings to the attention of the Islamic Republic of Iran authorities the importance of respecting the due process demanding the two lawyers' expeditious release.

UPDATE: July 25, 2000

Dear Colleagues,

We are pleased to learn that Shirin Ebadi was released on bail, Saturday, July 23, 2000, along with Mohsen Rahami who was arrested on related charges. Their trial began on July 15 in Branch 16 of the Tehran Public Court, however, little is known about the proceedings.

We will continue to follow their case and to keep you informed.

Women's Learning Partnership

UPDATE: December 7, 2000

WLP has been following the legal case of our friend and colleague Mehrangiz Kar who was imprisoned and put on trial in Iran for her pro-women, pro-reform political beliefs. Her persecution continues and she is presently facing another political trial while at the same time battling breast cancer. An update on her case follows the urgent action below.


WLP recently received an email from Professor Nayereh Tohidi proposing a "GET WELL CARD" campaign to demonstrate the international support for Ms. Kar. We are forwarding this suggestion to our concerned colleagues, as many of you have inquired about what next steps might be taken on Ms. Kar's behalf.

Your letters and cards are important. They will demonstrate that many people around the world care about Ms. Kar and are keeping close watch on her treatment in Iran. However, it is extremely important that you not include any political or rhetorical statements in your messages that could cause Ms. Kar trouble or unnecessary stress. Please limit the content to well wishes and support.

Please write to:

Mehrangiz Kar, Attorney At Law
Gh. Farahani Ave.
First St. No. 20, 2nd Floor
Tehran 15859, Iran


On Sunday April 30, 2000, the Islamic Republic of Iran formally indicted and imprisoned Mehrangiz Kar, a lawyer, writer, and women's human rights advocate because she had participated in a conference on the future of Iran held in Germany a week before. Ms. Kar was accused of "acting against the internal security of the state and disparaging the sacred order of the Islamic Republic," serious accusations for which the range of possible punishments is broad. During her imprisonment she was often denied access to her lawyer and family.

Nearly two months passed before Ms. Kar was finally freed on bail after posting the equivalent of US $60,000 for her release. Having been diagnosed with breast cancer, Ms. Kar appealed to authorities to be allowed to seek medical care in Canada, Europe, or the United States. Denied this humanitarian relief by the Islamic Revolutionary Court, Ms. Kar underwent a mastectomy and a regimen of chemotherapy in Iran. Almost concurrent with her medical treatment, Ms. Kar's case went to trial. According to government spokespersons, Ms. Kar "plead guilty and appealed for pardon." Since the trial was closed, practically nothing is known of what actually occurred during the trial proceedings.

Since her trial before the Revolutionary Court, Ms. Kar's case has been referred to Iran's Civil Court where she is now facing three additional charges: violating the observance of hejab (required head and full-body covering of women in Iran); denying the Islamic necessity of hejab; and propagating against the Islamic Republic of Iran. Such spurious charges are often used by the courts to silence political dissidents. Accusations relating to the observance of hejab are particularly common against women whom the courts wish to intimidate and harass. As yet, no date has been set for Ms. Kar's new trial.

Mehrangiz Kar's many contributions to women's rights and the fight for democracy in Iran have recently been honored at the Society for Iranian Studies, the World Movement for Democracy, and the Women Journalists Association of Italy. Her latest books, on violence against women in Iran and her personal memoirs, are being published and will be available shortly.

S:SSO to Sakai