Abdorrahman Boroumand Center

for Human Rights in Iran

Promoting tolerance and justice through knowledge and understanding
Amnesty International

Iran: Iranian women face prison for rights petition

Amnesty International
January 7, 2011
Appeal/Urgent Action



At any moment, women’s rights activists Fatemeh Masjedi and Maryam Bidgoli could be sent to prison for six months for peacefully collecting signatures for a petition demanding an end to discrimination against women in law in Iran.

Fatemeh Masjedi and Maryam Bidgoli are both members of the One Million Signatures Campaign (also known as the Campaign for Equality), a grassroots movement working towards an end to discrimination against women in Iranian law. On 29 December 2010, both were summoned to report within three days to prison officials in Qom to begin serving a six-month prison sentence, but they remain free pending further legal challenges against their convictions and sentences; however, Amnesty International fears they could be imprisoned at any moment. They had both been arrested on 7 May 2009 for peacefully gathering signatures in support of ending discriminatory laws against women in Iran and were released after two weeks in detention. They were sentenced to one year’s imprisonment by Branch Two of the Revolutionary Court in Qom on 29 August 2010 for "spreading propaganda against the system in favour of a feminist group (the Campaign) by distributing and collecting signatures for a petition to change laws discriminating against women, and for publication of materials in support of a feminist group opposed to the system". This was reduced to six months on appeal by Branch Three of the provincial appeal court. If imprisoned, Amnesty International would consider them to be prisoners of conscience.

Among the reasons for upholding the sentenced given in the appeal court verdict was the fact that the two women had “signed a letter complaining about the situation of human rights in Iran, and stating that Iran’s candidacy for a seat on the Commission on the Status of Women had no merit and that the presence of Iran on this Commission would be a threat to world peace and security”. The verdict also referred to an interview given by Maryam Bidgoli to the opposition website Jaras, and a statement signed by 600 members of the women’s movement on the occasion of 12 June [the anniversary of a demonstration against discrimination against women in law].

PLEASE WRITE IMMEDIATELY in Persian, English or your own language:

Urging the Iranian authorities to not imprison Fatemeh Masjedi and Maryam Bidgoli as they have been charged and convicted solely for their peaceful exercise of their right to freedom of expression and association, including their human rights activities, such as gathering signatures for a petition to end discrimination against women in Iranian law;

Reminding the authorities that the peaceful gathering of signatures to petitions demanding changes in the law is not a crime and is covered by the right to freedom of expression, provided for by Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Iran is a state party.


Leader of the Islamic Republic

Ayatollah Sayed ‘Ali Khamenei

The Office of the Supreme Leader

Islamic Republic Street – End of

Shahid Keshvar Doust Street


Islamic Republic of Iran

Email: Via website:

http://www.leader.ir/langs/en/index.php?p=letter (English)

http://www.leader.ir/langs/fa/index.php?p=letter (Persian)

Head of the Qom Provincial Judiciary

Mr Hamzeh Khalili

Office of the Head of the Judiciary

PO Box 184-37195, Azadegan Square, Shahid Abedi Boulevard,


Islamic Republic of Iran

Email: In Persian and English, send via feedback form on the website: http://www.dadgostariqom.ir/tabid/85/Default.aspx
or to [email protected]
Salutation: Your Excellency

And copies to:

Governor of Qom Province

Hossein Iranmanesh

Email: In Persian and English, send via feedback form on the website: http://www.ostan-qom.ir/ostandar-c

Also send copies to diplomatic representatives accredited to your country. Check with your section office if sending appeals after the above date.



ADditional Information

The One Million Signatures Campaign, also known as the Campaign for Equality, launched in 2006, is a grassroots initiative composed of a network of people committed to ending discrimination against women in Iranian law. The Campaign gives basic legal training to volunteers, who travel around the country promoting the Campaign. They talk with women in their homes, as well as in public places, telling them about their rights and the need for legal reform. The volunteers are also aiming at collecting one million signatures of Iranian nationals for a petition demanding an end to legal discrimination against women in Iran. Dozens of the Campaign’s activists have been arrested or harassed for their activities for the Campaign for Equality, some while collecting signatures for the petition.

This is the first time that a court in Iran has ruled that the Campaign constitutes a group which “aims to harm national security”. In all previous cases, individuals charged with security offences relating to their collection of signatures for the Campaign were acquitted either by lower or by appeal courts.

Article 19 of the Iranian Constitution provides for equal rights of all Iranians. Article 21 requires the rights of women to be protected and Article 26 allows the “formation of parties, societies, political or professional associations … provided they do not violate the principles of independence, freedom, national unity, the criteria of Islam, or the basis of the Islamic republic.” Members of the One Million Signature Campaign have always stressed that their activities fully conform to Iranian law.

UA: 3/11 Index: MDE 13/004/2011 Issue Date: 7 January 2011

ABF Note


Findings of guilt in the Islamic Republic of Iran's Judicial Proceedings

The Islamic Republic of Iran's criminal justice system regularly falls short of the standards for due process necessary for impartiality, fairness, and efficacy. Suspects are often held incommunicado and not told of the reason for their detainment. Defendants are frequently prohibited from examining the evidence used against them. Defendants are sometimes prohibited from having their lawyers present in court. Additionally, confessions, made under duress or torture, are commonly admitted as proof of guilt. Because Iran's courts regularly disregard principles essential to the proper administration of justice, findings of guilt may not be evaluated with certainty.

Corporal Punishment: the Legal context in the Islamic Republic of Iran

The Islamic Republic's criminal code recognizes corporal punishment for a wide range of offenses: consumption of alcohol, theft, adultery, "flouting" of public morals, and mixing of the sexes in public. Judges have the latitude to mete out corporal punishment for those sentenced to death. In such cases, the flogging is carried out before death to maximize the suffering of defendant. Aside from flogging, the Islamic Republic also employs amputations as a punishment for theft. In such cases, the defendant is taken to a hospital and put under anesthesia as his hand or foot is amputated. In some cases the left foot and right hand are cut off, making it difficult for the condemned to walk, even with the assistance of a cane or crutches.

The Islamic Republic's Systematic Violation of its International Obligations under International Law

The use of corporal punishment is contrary to international law and is addressed in several international agreements. Article 5 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which Iran has ratified, states that, "No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment." Identical language is also used in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), which Iran is also a party to. The strongest expression of international disapproval is contained in the Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CAT). This treaty defines torture as, "any act by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted on a person for such purposes as ... punishing him for an act he or a third person has committed or is suspected of having committed." Although the Islamic Republic of Iran has yet to sign the CAT, the prohibition on torture is now considered jus cogens and, therefore, part of customary international law. Furthermore, even though the norm against corporal punishment is not yet a jus cogens, there is increasing evidence that it is illegal under international human rights law.[1] In Osbourne v. Jamaica, the Committee Against Torture (a body of experts responsible for monitoring compliance with the Convention) held that "corporal punishment constitutes cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment or punishment contrary to Article 7 of the Convention." The Islamic Republic of Iran's systematic violations of its obligations under international law have been addressed by the UN General Assembly multiple times, most recently in December 2007. In Resolution 62/168, the UN expressed deep concern with Iran's continued flouting of international human rights law, particularly, "confirmed instances of torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, including flogging and amputations."