Iran: Women Prisoners of Conscience
May 13, 1990
WOMEN PRISONERS OF CONSCIENCE
AI INDEX: MDE 13/05/90
Amnesty International is calling for the immediate release of eight women prisoners whose cases are described in this document.
They have been imprisoned since 1983, subjected to lengthy pre-trial detention without judicial supervision during which they faced torture or other forms of coercion, then convicted at summary trials.
They were detained for their association with left wing political parties which were legal at the time of their arrest. The husbands of some of them were senior figures in these political parties. Their political activities were peaceful and Amnesty International considers them prisoners of conscience.
The women are: Zohreh Ghaeni, Mariam Firouz, Malakeh Mohammadi, Nahid Dourdiahi, Fatemeh Hosseinzadeh- Tussi Moghadam, Dr Mitra Ameli, Dr Fatemeh Izadi and Zohreh Tonekaboni.
The cases described here represent a fraction of those of the thousands of political prisoners, including many hundreds of prisoners of conscience, who have been imprisoned, and in many cases executed, since the Islamic Revolution of 1979. In calling for the release of these women Amnesty International wishes to draw attention to the continuing violation of human rights in Iran, in particular to the detention of prisoners of conscience, and to urge the Iranian authorities to create safeguards which would lead to the release of all prisoners of conscience in Iran.
This summarizes a seven-page document, Iran: women Prisoners of Conscience (AI Index MDE 13/05/90), issued by Amnesty International in May 1990. Anyone wanting father details or to take action on this issue should consult the full document.
EXTERNAL (for general distribution)
Ai Index: MDE/05/90
IRAN: WOMEN PRISONERS OF CONSCIENCE
Amnesty International is calling for the immediate and unconditional release of eight women who have been unjustly imprisoned for over seven years, because of their non-violent political activities. They are all held at Tehran's Evin Prison, and were sentenced to prison terms by Islamic Revolutionary Courts in which procedures fall far short of international standards for fair trial. Amnesty International considers them to be prisoners of conscience. The women are: Zohreh Ghaeni, Mariam Firouz, Malakeh Mohammadi, Nahid Dorudiahi, Fatemh Hosseinzadeh-Tussi Moghadam, Dr Mitra Ameli, Dr Fatemeh Izadi and Zohreh Tonekaboni.
The women are just a few of the many hundreds of men and women who have been imprisoned in Iran for their non-violent political activities since the foundation of the Islamic Republic in 1979. Many of these prisoners of conscience have been tortured or executed. More than 2000 political prisoners were executed in the second half of 1988 in all parts of the country; among them were an unknown number of prisoners of conscience. Reports of political executions continue to reach Amnesty International.
It is often difficult to obtain information about political prisoners in Iran The government has not replied to inquiries about the reasons for arrest, or the trial procedures followed, in specific individual cases. Frequently, Amnesty International is not able to publicize information it receives about prisoners in Iran because of the risk that the prisoners' situation will worsen, or that their relatives living in Iran may be put at risk, if it is known that international human rights organizations have been informed of the case. It is necessary in many cases for Amnesty International to conceal the identity of victims and potential victims while fulfilling its commitment to publicize human rights violations which come to its attention.
However, information about individual political prisoners which followed the ceasefire in the Iran/Iraq war in August 1988 changed the attitude of some of those associated with Iranian political prisoners. Among the thousands summarily executed at that time were many who nearing the end of their sentences, and even some whose prison terms had elapsed but who had not been released. Relatives and friends of some prisoners who had kept silent in the belief that this would help to protect prisoners now made the choice that they had nothing to lose from publicizing the prisoners' situation.
The situation of the women political prisoners in Evin Prison in Tehran became widely known during this wave of political execution. Malaken Mohammadi, Zohreh Ghaeni, Mitra Ameli, Fatemeh Izadi and Fatemeh Hosseizadeh-Tussi Moghadam all learned of their husbands, execution during this period. At times it was reported that they and their fellow-women prisoners were at imminent risk of execution, even that some of them were among the dead. Resolutions of support were passed in the Federal Parliament of West Berlin, by the Spanish Parliament and elsewhere. Amnesty International launched urgent action appeals on their behalf.
Among those who were killed was Fatemeh Modaress, also known as Simin Fardin, who had been a Tudeh Party activist since the reign of the Shah. Arrested in 1983, together with the eight women listed above, Amnesty International believes she was a prisoner of conscience. She is alleged to have been severely tortured during her five years in prison and not to have been permitted to see her daughter, who was eight months old when she was arrested. Another woman prisoner of conscience among those executed was Monireh Rajavi, sister of the leader of the People's Mojahedine Organisation of Iran (PMOI), Massoud Rajavi. Monireh Rajavi is not known to have been active on behalf of the PMOI and is believed to have been imprisoned solely because of her family connections.
Amnesty International wishes to build on the foundation of this international campaign not only to secure the release of the eight women listed at the beginning of this document, but also to institute judicial and procedural safeguards which will facilitate the release of all prisoners of conscience in Iran, and ensure a fair trial for all political prisoners.
The eight women were all members or supporters of the left-wing political parties, the Tudeh Party of Iran or the Organization of Iranian People's Fedayan (OIPF) (Majority) at the time of their arrest in 1983. Some of the women were married to men who held senior positions in these parties which may have been one of the reasons for their imprisonment. At that time these parties were still legal in Iran having taken a decision to support Ayatollah Khomeini's leadership of the revolution.
Following the 1979 revolution in Iran the religious leadership, made up primarily of mullahs, (Islamic clergymen), assumed a dominant position in Iranian politics. There is little room for dissent outside the closed circle of the clerical leadership. Secular opposition to the ruling circle is brutally suppressed. When the People's Mojahedine Organization of Iran (PMOI), whose ideology is based on a synthesis of Socialist and Islamic principles, took up arms against the government in 1981, its challenge was crushed after a bloody struggle. PMOI supporters fought street battles with supporters of the government. Thousands of PMOI supporters were imprisoned, tortured and executed during in 1981 and 1982, together with supporters of many other opposition groups.
Despite the repression of the PMOI, the secular left and Kurdish nationalist groups, the government continued to have the support of the Tudeh Party and the PFOI (Majority) until 1983, However, hostility to these latter parties was apparent in statements by government leaders, and in attacks on party meetings by pro-government vigilante groups. Official policy turned against the communists at the beginning of 1983 when the arrest of the parties' leaders began.
The dissolution of the Tudeh Party was announced in May 1983. The announcement, made by the Prosecutor General, Hussein Musavi Tabrizi, justified the banning of the party by reference to the confessions of its imprisoned leaders. The parties activities were said to have contravened Articles 9,-24, and 26 of the Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Iran. Article 9 decrees that no person, group or authority shall have the right to damage the political, cultural, economic and military independence and territorial integrity of Iran. Article 24 recognizes the freedom of the press and publications unless they are detrimental to the foundation of Islam or the rights of the people. Article 26 grants freedom to parties, associations and political groups provided they do not violate the principles of independence, liberty, national unity and the foundations of the Islamic Republic. The Prosecutor General stated that any activities on behalf of the Tudeh Party would be considered as counter-revolutionary acts. Members of the party were advised to report to the Islamic Revolutionary Prosecutors' Office within a week or else be considered as counter-revolutionaries and as plotters against the state.
The party structures of the Tudeh Party and the PFOI (Majority) were dismantled, their premises closed, their newspapers and publications proscribed. By mid-1983 the leadership of both parties and hundreds of supporters were imprisoned. On 14 May 1983, the Prosecutor General of the Islamic Revolutionary Court announced that "1,500 members of the defunct Tudeh Party" had been arrested throughout the country. Many were tortured to force them to confess to crimes such as treason, or espionage on behalf of the Soviet Union. Some were forced to made televised confessions. Having been forced to confess prisoners were then brought before Islamic Revolutionary Courts where they were given summary trials. Many were sentenced to death, or to long prison terms after being tried by a single Islamic judge in court hearings lasting only a matter of minutes. In such trials there was no provision for appeal against verdict or sentence. Defendants were not represented by a lawyer, nor were they permitted to call witnesses in their defence. Some prisoners were held for years without trial, or tried and not informed of their sentences.
In January 1990 the Special Relpresentative appointed by the UN Human Rights Commission to investigate the human rights situation in Iran was able to visit the former Secretary General of the Tudeh Party, Nourredine Kianouri, in Evin Prison, Tehran. Kianouri denied that he had spied for a foreign power or conspired to overthrow the government. He also claimed that he had been tortured and showed the Special Representative what he claimed were injuries sustained as a result of torture. Amnesty International has interviewed dozens of former political prisoners, including former supporters of the Tudeh Party, who claim to have been tortured during 1983 and 1984 to force them to confess to alleged crimes. Many of these former prisoners had sustained injuries which medical examination showed to be consistent with the type and timing of torture alleged to have taken place.
Zohreh Ghaeni was among the first group of Tudeh Party Leaders to be arrested. About 50 people were detained going to a meeting at the party's offices in Tehran in early 1983. (18 Bahman 1361). Her husband, Kiumars Zarshenas was arrested on the same day. They knew that they were going to be arrested by made no effort to evade arrest.
For about six months after Zohreh Ghaeni's arrest there was no news of her whereabouts and no-one was able to see her. Then, after some of the Tudeh Party leaders had made televised confessions, she was able to telephone her family. About two to three months after that the prison authorities at Evin Prison notified her family that they would be permitted to visit her once very two weeks.
She was not tried until about three and a half years after her arrest. Her trial then consisted of being brought before a mullah and sentenced to eight years' imprisonment. This sentence was to run from the date of the trial and not take into account the period of pre-trial detention. The precise charge against her is apparently still not known to her. She had been told by the prison authorities that she must divorce her husband on the grounds that he was a communist and an atheist. She refused to do this.
Zohreh Ghaeni is about 35 years old. She was not a member of the Tudeh Party Central Committee but she was important in the Youth Organization for which she edited a young women's newspaper, Azzaraksh. She was a highschool teacher until she was prevented from working for political reasons. During the time of the Shah she had spent one and a half years in prison because of her political activities.
Mariam Firouz is about 75 years old. She was President of the Democratic Women's Organization of Iran, the Tudeh Party women's organization. She holds a PhD in French Language and Literature. She is a translator and writer.
She was arrested on 6 April 1983 but not tried until 1986, when she was sentenced to death. This sentence was later commuted. During the reign of the Shah she lived on exile after being sentenced to five years' imprisonment but returned to Iran during the revolution. She was tried by an Islamic Revolutionary Court with no representation by a lawyer and no right to appeal against the verdict and sentence. The precise charges on which she was convicted are not known.
Mariam Firouz reportedly suffers from heart disease and rheumatism. She has reportedly sometimes been denied access to medical treatment.
Malakeh Mohammadi is about 65 years old. Prior to her arrest with Mariam Firouz in April 1983 she was a prominent journalist and editor of the Tudeh Party newspapers Mardom and Donya. She was sentenced to death at the same time as Mariam Firouz, but the death sentence was later commuted. The charges on which she was convicted are unknown. She was married to a leading Tudeh Party figured, Mohammed Pourhomozan, who was among the victims of the wave of mass political executions in 1988.
Nahid Dorudiahi is aged about 30. She was arrested in early 1983 and sentenced to twelve years' imprisonment.
Fatemeh HOSSEINZADEH-TUSSI MOGHADAM
Fatemeh Hosseinzadeh-Tussi Moghadam, also known as Giti Azareng is about 40. She was arrested in April 1983 and sentenced to 13 years' imprisonment, apparently for having links with the Tudeh Party. Her two year-old son was taken into prison with her but released to the care of relatives soon afterwards. Prior to her imprisonment she worked for an insurance company. Her husband, Saeed Azarang, was among those executed in the latter part of 1988.
Dr Mitra AMELI
Dr Mitra Ameli is a medical doctor arrested in 1983. She was married to Anoushirvan Lotfi, one of the leaders of the Organization of Iranian People's Fedayan (Majority). Lotfi was arrested during 1983 and executed during the wave of political executions in 1988. At the time of her arrest, Mitra Ameli was pregnant. She gave birth to her child in prison. After about 28 days the child was given to Mitra Ameli's mother to care for it outside the prison. Mitra Ameli was sentenced to seven years' imprisonment at the end of 1983, and her sentence is due to expire at the end of 1990. However, it is possible that she will be kept in prison without further charge or trial after her sentence has elapsed. It is reported at the present time that one condition of her release is that she publicly denounces the activities of her late husband.
Dr Fatemeh IZADI
Dr Fatemheh Izadi is a medical doctor aged approximately 40 She was arrested in February 1983, at the same time as her husband, Fariborz Salehi, for activities in support of the Organization of Iranian People's Fedayan (Majority). She was sentenced to 20 years' imprisonment after a summary trial. Her husband was executed in 1988. She had been a political prisoner under the Shah. While in prison she has contracted contaminated tuberculosis.
Zohreh Tonekaboni is a teacher. She spent over five years in prison under the Shah but was released during the revolution. She was re-arrested in 1983. It is unclear whether she has been tried or sentenced since then.
AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL'S CONCERNS
Amnesty International is opposed to the imprisonment of people for their non-violent political beliefs. It is also concerned that all political prisoners should receive a fair trial.
The eight women listed above have spent over seven years in prison in Iran deprived of their right to a fair trial, and of other safeguards against arbitrary detention. They, and in some cases their husbands were involved with leftwing political parties, which at the time of their arrest were still legal. The Tudeh Party and the OIPF (Majority) were not involved in armed struggle at the time when these women were imprisoned.
During a decade of political turmoil in Iran thousands of political prisoners have been executed after summary trials or after no trial at all, and many hundreds of men and women have been imprisoned as prisoners of conscience. Torture of political prisoners has been widespread and systematic. These eight women are but a tiny fraction of the many victims of a government which has disregarded its obligations to uphold fundamental freedoms such as those contained in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights to which Iran is a state party.
On arrest these women were at the mercy of a judicial process which provides no safeguards for political prisoners. Such prisoners are subject to indefinite detention without charge or trial. During this period prisoners may be held incommunicado and subjected to torture and ill-treatment. Confessions made under torture may form the basis for convictions by Islamic Revolutionary Courts where procedures fall far short of international standards for fair trial.
The summary trial procedures have been described to the organization by witnesses from a wide variety of political backgrounds who have undergone such trials themselves. The Iranian authorities have never replied to frequent requests from Amnesty International for detailed information about trial procedures followed in numerous individual cases.
Amnesty International has, since 1979, spoken to dozens of torture victims who have suffered beating and lashing with cables, burning with cigarettes, mock executions and many other types of torture in Iranian prisons. Many of these testimonies have been substantiated by forensic medical investigations. The organization has received written accounts from hundreds of people who claim to have suffered such treatment. It has been alleged that all the eight women have suffered torture and ill-treatment during their imprisonment and that they have been under constant pressure to recant their political beliefs.
Amnesty International believes that the Iranian Government cannot justify the imprisonment of these women, or show that they have had fair trials. It continues to call for their immediate and unconditional release.
Amnesty International is concerned that all prisoners of conscience should be released unconditionally. In Iran where hundreds of political prisoners are detained as a result of procedures in which international human rights standards have been disregarded on a massive scale determination of criminal responsibility for specific offences would appear to be extremely difficult. In these circumstances, Amnesty International believes that there is an urgent need for the reasons for the detention of all political prisoners to be reviewed by a judicial authority empowered to order the immediate release of those against whom there is no evidence of having committed any offence. In cases where such a review concludes that there is a case to be answered by the prisoner then a fair re-trial in accordance with international standards for fair trial should be held. Such a process, Amnesty International believes, would contribute to the release of the many men and women imprisoned in Iran for their non-violent political activities.