Iran must investigate the police beating of hundreds of women’s rights activists during a peaceful demonstration in Tehran on Monday, Human Rights Watch said today. The organization called on the government to release those detained after the police attack on protestors.
Eyewitnesses told Human Rights Watch that police and intelligence agents lined Haft Tir Square in downtown Tehran hours before the start of the planned demonstration on June 12. As the demonstrators assembled, the security forces immediately started to beat them with batons, sprayed them with pepper gas, marked the demonstrators with color spray, and took scores into custody.
“The Iranian government has again shown its utter contempt for basic freedoms like the right to peaceful assembly,” said Sarah Leah Whitson, director of Middle East and North Africa division at Human Rights Watch. “The authorities should free those arrested at once and find out who’s behind the police violence.”
On Tuesday, Jamal Karimirad, a spokesman for the Judiciary, confirmed that security forces arrested 70 people, 42 women and 28 men, to prevent the demonstration from taking place. He said the Judiciary is charging the detainees with “participation in an illegal assembly.”
An eyewitness told Human Rights Watch that, for what is thought to be the first time, the government transported policewomen to the demonstration to arrest female demonstrators while policemen dealt with male protestors.
“Female police officers ruthlessly beat demonstrators with their batons and took many into police vans for detention,” this witness said. “Bystanders were shocked at how harshly the police reacted to demonstrators.”
The demonstration followed a call last week by hundreds of women’s rights activists and human rights defenders to demand reforms in Iran’s legal code and remove discriminatory clauses against women.
Prior to the demonstration, the Judiciary summoned and interrogated numerous women's rights activists. On Saturday night, agents of the Judiciary went to the homes of prominent activists to issue summons. Those summoned include Noushin Ahmadi Khorasani, Parvin Ardalan, Sussan Tahmasebi, Zohreh Arzani, and Fariba Davoodi Mohajer. Davoodi Mohajer was the only one who received the summons in person. On Monday, Judiciary agents at the Branch 14 of the Revolutionary Court in Tehran interrogated her for 10 hours.
Also on Monday morning, security forces arrested another activist, Shahla Entessari, at her workplace in Tehran. Among those arrested at the demonstration are Ali Akbar Mousavi Khoiniha, a former member of the parliament, Jila Baniyaghoub, Delaram Ali, Samira Sadri, Bahareh Hedayat, Leila Mohseni, Bahman Ahmadi Amooi, Siamak Taheri, and Farahnaz Sharifi.
Human Rights Watch called on the government to release all detainees without delay, end its harassment and intimidation of activists, and abide by its international obligations to respect freedom of assembly, and to prevent and punish police brutality.