At that time, women activists began organizing university sit-ins, street demonstrations and petition campaigns for gender equality, efforts which reached new heights in 2009 as thousands of women marched in the forefront of the protests following Ahmadinejad’s disputed re-election.
Those demonstrations, which gave rise to Iran’s Green Movement and its centric calls to democracy and human rights, came at a fierce price, as the Iranian government brutally beat and arrested thousands, including 300 women who currently languish as political prisoners in Iranian prisons.
Unfortunately, those women will soon enjoy the company of one more, 42-year-old Iranian journalist and women’s rights activist, Zhila Bani-Yaghoub, who recently left to serve a one-year sentence at Iran’s Evin prison.
Zhila’s seditious crimes included charges of “spreading propaganda against the regime” and “insulting” Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in articles she wrote at the time of Iran’s 2009 presidential elections.
At Evin Prison, Bani-Yaghoub will be reunited with 34 of her friends and journalistic colleagues, all of whom reside in one small room, an unsurprising fact given Iran’s reputation as one of the world’s worst jailers of women.
One example of Iranian correctional horrors was offered by a former guard at Evin prison, who said guards would marry female virgin prisoners the night before their scheduled executions given that it is illegal in Iran to execute a woman who is a virgin.
As such, the Iranian government would arrange a “wedding” ceremony to be conducted the night before an execution, at which point the guard would rape his new “wife” to make it acceptable to then put her to death. Not surprisingly, the former guard said the girls feared the night of the rape more deeply than their upcoming executions.
Ironically, Zhila Bani-Yaghoub’s trip to Evin prison came days after Iran finished hosting the 16th Non-Aligned Movement summit, a recent gathering in which the member countries discussed ways to “eliminate international problems.”
At that conference Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi took the time to extol the positive contributions that Iran has made to the cause of women’s rights, when he said, “One of the goals of the glorious Revolution of the Islamic Republic of Iran was the improvement of women’s genuine position and standing in the society, and we can witness its materialization after 32 years.”
Moreover, that enlightened development, according to Iran’s First Lady A’zamossadat Farahi, could now provide a roadmap for those nations struggling with the vexing problem of women’s rights, saying, that Iran “enjoys valuable experiences in various areas of women’s affairs,” experiences the Islamist Republic could “share with other countries.”
Of course, for a growing number of oppressed and brutalized Iranian women and girls, they have their own “valuable experiences” in women’s affairs, ones which the Iranian government is loath to share.
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