Thursday, January 8, 2009

Iran: Concern for Shirin Ebadi

Iran: Concern for Shirin Ebadi

English PEN is extremely concerned for the safety of Iranian lawyer, human rights activist and Nobel Peace Prize Winner Shirin Ebadi.
According to our information, Ebadi has been subject to increased harassment over recent weeks and has received numerous death threats against herself and her family. On 21 December 2008, the office of the Defenders of Human Rights, a human rights group led by Ebadi, was shut down by security and police officials, reportedly without a warrant. The following is a statement issued by the Women's Learning Partnership (WLP) on 30 December 2008: We, the undersigned, representing women's and human rights organizations working in Muslim-majority countries in Africa, Asia, and the Middle East, express our grave concern for the personal safety of Shirin Ebadi. Ms. Ebadi, a staunch defender of women's rights activists and human rights in the Islamic Republic of Iran and internationally, has been subjected to increased intimidation and harassment by security forces of the Islamic Republic in recent weeks. These actions follow escalating acts of persecution against women activists ranging from search and seizure of computers and personal property and closure of websites to travel bans, imprisonment, and sentencing of tens of prominent women's rights defenders. Women's rights activists have been routinely accused of "acting against the national security of the state" for their peaceful activities calling for equal rights for women and men. Ms. Ebadi is a founding member and head of the Defenders of Human Rights Center, a nongovernmental organization that was forcibly closed by security forces on December 21. A few days later, following a search that yielded no incriminating evidence, Mehr News Agency, affiliated with the government, reported that Ms. Ebadi had failed to pay her taxes - an allegation that has been refuted by Ms. Ebadi. Yesterday, security officers identifying themselves as tax officials stormed and raided her private law offices, attempting to seize two computers and confidential client files, which she refused to surrender until she was forced to do so.

The first Muslim woman to be honored with the Nobel Peace Prize in 2003, Ms. Ebadi has represented numerous human rights activists and promoted legal protections for women and children in Iran. Her work in support of democracy and human rights has had a global impact. In 2006 she joined five other Nobel Peace Prize winners to found the Nobel Women's Initiative, and she has spoken and published internationally in furtherance of her human rights work. The actions against Ms. Ebadi during the past week demonstrate a targeted effort not only to obstruct directly the work of the country's most influential human rights defender, but also to intimidate Iranian human rights activists as a group. We, the undersigned women's rights activists and organizations, strongly condemn the acts of harassment against Ms. Ebadi and are gravely concerned for her personal security and the protection of the rights of women activists in the country. For more details on the closing of the Defenders of Human Rights Center and the raid on Ms. Ebadi's office, visit For updates in Persian, visit To join us in voicing your support for Ms. Ebadi and Iranian women's rights activists by adding your signature to this statement, please send an e-mail to Over 500 Women’s Rights and Civil Society Activists Object to the Closure of the Defenders of Human Rights Center Wednesday 24 December 2008 Read the statement in its original Farsi and to see the signatures. *While the Defenders of Human Rights Center is a non-governmental organization, the subject of human rights is viewed as political, therefore according to regulations organizations addressing political and human rights issues must register with the Commission, in charge of political parties. The Defenders of Human Rights Center Raided and Closed Change for Equality: On Sunday December 21, 2008 plain clothes and uniformed police and security officials raided the offices of the Defenders of Human Rights Center (DHRC), a human rights Organization headed by Nobel Peace Prize winner Shirin Ebadi, preventing a delayed celebration of the 60th anniversary of the UN Declaration of Human Rights by the Center and sealing their offices. According to reports from those present at the scene security officials not only sealed the offices but also mistreated the members of the Center, including a physical confrontation with Mr. Ismaiel Zadeh and a violent verbal confrontation with Ms. Nargess Mohamadi both members of the Center. Ms. Ebadi was also present during this raid. The reaction of the international community and press as well as Iranian human rights organizations to this development has been swift condemnation.

Read related news and some of the statements issued in this respect:
Joint Statement Issued by Human Rights Watch and the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran: Reverse Closure of Nobel Laureate’s Rights Group
The Earth Times: EU Voices Concern at Ebadi Office Closure in Tehran
The Washington Post: Iran Shuts Down Rights Center
AP: Iran shuts office of Nobel winner’s rights group
Press TV: Ebadi Reacts to Office Shut Down
Trend News Agency, Azarbaijan: Dutch Condemn Closure of Iran Human Rights Center
Daily Times Pakistan: Rights Groups Blast Iran Raid on Nobel Laureate’s office
Top News India: Closure of Iranian Human Rights Office Troubling
The Daily Star, Bangladesh: Tehran goes Tough on Shirin Ebadi
The Nobel Women’s Initiative: Nobel Laureates Condemn Harassment of Human Rights Defenders in Iran
Iranian Nobel Peace Prize laureate Shirin Ebadi should be allowed to speak at a Malaysian university, Malaysia's foreign minister has reportedly said.
The statement is an apparent U-turn on the part of the Malaysian government.
Two days ago foreign ministry officials advised the university to withdraw the invitation to Ms Ebadi, an outspoken human rights lawyer.
Malaysia blocks Iran Nobel winner
Ebadi criticises Iran's judiciary
By Frances Harrison BBC News, Tehran
The Nobel Peace prize-winning lawyer, Shirin Ebadi, has complained to Iran's judiciary that criminals are treated better than political prisoners.

The Nobel laureate is representing another US-Iranian detainee - the 67-year-old academic, Haleh Esfandiari.

Iranian raid on Ebadi condemned

Iran closes human rights centre
Iranian police have raided and closed the office of a human rights group led by the Nobel laureate, Shirin Ebadi.

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