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Arrests of Women Activists Escalate Across Iran Ahead of “Woman Life Freedom” Anniversary


The recent detention of at least 22 activists in Iran in less than a month, the majority of them women, signals the onset of intensified state repression in anticipation of the approaching anniversary of Iran’s “Woman Life Freedom” protest movement, said the Center for Human Rights in Iran (CHRI).


“Iranian authorities are rounding up activists around the country, especially women, to deliver a message of fear to the populace ahead of the one-year anniversary of the ‘Woman Life Freedom’ protest movement: stand up again, and we’ll crush you,” said Hadi Ghaemi, executive director of CHRI.


“This surge in repression, after the state’s killing of hundreds of protesters over the last year, demands a global response that goes beyond amplifying the voices of these courageous women,” Ghaemi said.


“The international community must take decisive measures against political leaders and judiciary members in Iran who perpetuate this unlawful and violent repression,” he added.

The intensified crackdown on activists is happening against a backdrop of other repressive campaigns that are intensifying across the Islamic Republic. These campaigns include:

  • The resurgence of the so-called morality police, who are arresting, jailing, and denying critical services to hijabless women;

  • The arrest, imprisonment and defrocking of dozens of Sunni religious leaders who have publicly criticized the state’s violent repression of their communities;

  • Increased arrests and imprisonments of members of the Baha’i minority faith simply for practicing their religion;

  • A campaign of harassment and intimidation against the families of victims of state violence, in order to pressure them to remain silent.

This surge in state repression arrives on the cusp of the anniversary of the commencement of anti-government protests that erupted nationwide on September 16, 2022, after the killing in state custody of 22-year-old Mahsa Jina Amini, three days after her detention by the morality police for an allegedly improper hijab.

In a clear effort to deter potential protests, Iranian authorities have been publicly apprehending activists across the country to intimidate and thwart further street demonstrations.


Arrests and Detentions Accompanied by Severe Due Process and Other Rights Violations

At least 22 activists, mostly women, have been detained or arrested in Iran in the past 22 days, since July 30, 2023, according to research by CHRI. The majority were arrested in Gilan province and were “women’s rights and political activists,” according to a report by the Bidarzani Telegram app channel.


A statement issued on August 17, 2023, by the local branch of the Intelligence Ministry in Gilan indicates a concerted effort by Iranian authorities to construct a case against these activists in Gilan. Many of these individuals had recently visited families who have been seeking justice for victims of state violence, a group known in Iran as “justice-seeking” families.

Although the statement refrains from revealing the identities of those arrested, it alludes to the 12 activists dedicated to political and women’s rights causes, whose detentions were reported on August 16 and 17 (a comprehensive list of detentions and arrests is provided at the end of this report).


Of particular concern is the language employed by the Intelligence Ministry, which asserts that these activists were “preparing to incite disruptions and insecurity in Gilan as well as in parts of Kurdistan province,” considering the Ministry’s well-documented and unlawful history of employing unfounded allegations to tarnish the reputation of activists before their trials.


Furthermore, the dearth of information surrounding the detained individuals over the course of several days, their families’ inability to establish phone contact, the absence of the detainees’ access to impartial legal representation, and the occurrence of overnight and extended interrogations all underscore the political and unlawful nature of these detentions.


“More than a crackdown, this is a deliberate assault on civil society,” Ghaemi said. “Iran’s leadership continues to unveil its deep-seated fear of its citizens.”

Following is a list of detentions and arrests of activists in Iran between July 30, 2023 and August 21, 2023:

1) Masoud Mirzaei, Civil rights activist, Sanandaj, Kurdistan province

2) Ebrahim Mirzaei, Civil rights activist, Sanandaj, Kurdistan province

3) Hozan Babakarami, Civil rights activist, Sanandaj, Kurdistan province

4) Yasser Nouri, Environmentalist, Sanandaj, Kurdistan province

5) Ziba Ghelichkhani, Kurdish civil rights activist, Bijar, Kurdistan province

6) Elaheh Askari, Photographer, Tehran, Tehran province

7) Narges Sardari, Wife of detained actor Mehdi Etemad-Saeid, Tehran

8) Pouria Ahmadi, Civil rights activist, Sanandaj, Kurdistan province

9) Matin Yazdani, Women’s rights activist, Rasht, Gilan province

10) Forough Saminia, Women’s rights activist, Rasht, Gilan province

11) Yasmin Hashdari, Women’s rights activist, Bandar Anzali, Gilan province

12) Jelveh Javaheri, Women’s rights activist, Rasht, Gilan province

13) and 14) Zahra Dadras and Zohreh Dadras, Women’s rights activists (sisters), Rasht, Gilan province

15) Negin Rezai, Women’s rights activist, Fouman, Gilan province

16) Shiva Shahsiah, Women’s rights activist, Lahijan, Gilan province

17) Vahedeh Khoshsirat, Women’s rights activist, Lahijan, Gilan province

18) Azadeh Chavoshian, Women’s rights activist, Rasht, Gilan province

19) Sara Jahani, Women’s rights activist, Rasht, Gilan province

20) Hooman Taheri, Political activist, Rasht, Gilan province

21) Mahsa Basir-Tavana, Advocating for her killed brother, Mehran Basir Tavana, Fouman, Gilan province

22) Mojghan Ilanloo, Women’s rights activist and documentarian, Tehran, Tehran province


Second publication by courtesy of Iran Human Rights

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