Last Update

April 11, 2021

Organisation

Unknown

Gender

Female

Ethnic Group

Unknown

Religoius Group

Muslim

Province

Tehran

Occupation

Civil society activist

Sentence

Two years in prison, two-year ban from leaving the country, two-year ban from media, political and social media activities

Sentence Date

Unknown

Status

In prison

Institution investigating

Unknown

Career

Women's rights activists, photographer and journalist

Charges

Conspiring against national security

Raha Askari Zadeh In prison

Raha (Raheleh) Askari Zadeh is a women's rights activist, photographer and journalist. Askari Zadeh's activities in women’s rights began in Iran in the 1980s. She was an active member of the “One Million Signatures” campaign which was the reason for her arrest. Askari Zadeh also worked with the Meidaan and Bidarzan media sites.

Arrest for “One Million Signatures” Campaign

Askari Zadeh was first arrested by the police on February 14, 2008, while collecting signatures for the "One Million Signatures" campaign at the site of a street theater on the sidelines of Tehran's Daneshjou (student) Park. Nasim Khosravi Moghadam, a blogger, writer, poet and playwright, was also arrested at the same time.

On February 19, Radio Farda quoted Askari Zadeh's lawyer that she had been charged with “acting against national security” and was being held in Evin Prison.

Askari Zadeh's father said on the same date that a bail of 20 million tomans was set for the release of his daughter, which he was unable to pay. The bail was equivalent to the "diya," or the Islamic financial compensation for victims for murder, harm or property damage, of a a human being as rated by the Iranian government in 2008.

He quoted a message from Askari Zadeh: “I say that I do not want to be an oppressed woman and the gentlemen tell me that I have acted against national security? I am a woman, but I do not want a dowry; instead I want a right that would replace that dowry. Or when they put me in a situation and tell me that the testimony of two women is equal to the one of a man, that is like them hitting me hard on the head. Did not God create me? Aren't we all the same? So why and how is the situation of women so different from men?”

On February 21, 2008, Shirin Ebadi, Askari Zadeh's lawyer, told the Change for Equality website about the case of this women's rights activist: “The reason behind collecting signatures for the campaign is to demand a review on Iran's discriminatory laws. Such a demand can never be considered disturbing the public opinion. Recently, two volunteers for collecting signatures, two young women named Raheleh and Nasim, were arrested while collecting signatures, and as usual, the vague phrase of action against public security was used to charge them. In which of the articles of the law is collecting signatures a crime? Someone has to answer this logical legal question, but unfortunately no one is willing to.”

On February 26, 2008, the 20 million toman bail for Raha Askari Zadeh and Nasim Khosravi Moghadam was changed  to a one million toman bail and they were released on bail. 

Arrest in women's rights activists gathering in Tehran

Following the widespread arrests of women's rights activists in November 2009, Askari Zadeh was arrested on November 4 by the Revolutionary Guard security forces and a police officer at Honarmandan Park in Tehran. She was reportedly blindfolded and handcuffed and taken directly to a base on Taleghani Street, from where she was taken to Vozara detention center.

After the interrogation, this women's movement activist was transferred to the quarantine section of Evin Prison on November 8, 2009, and from there she announced during a telephone call that she had been given a temporary detention order.

The Committee of Human Rights Reporters wrote part of Askari Zadeh's speech from the phone call: “I signed the bail papers in Vozara detention center yesterday and hoped to be released last night. They have told my family that I have been given a temporary detention order and my case has been referred to Branch 4 of the Revolutionary Court.”

This women's rights activist was released on bail on November 12, 2009. She later told the Change for Equality website that she had been in quarantine and in the addicted ward from November 8 to 12, along with 40 other women, who she said were mostly not political prisoners.

She also said that during the initial interrogation in Vozara detention center charges of “disturbance of public order” and “conspiracy to act against the national security of the regime” were brought up as charges against her.

Arrest and Trial Sentence

Askari Zadeh was arrested on November 28, 2019 at Imam Khomeini International Airport in Tehran. Security officers went to her home after arresting her and confiscated her personal belongings (a number of books, CDs, and photographs) and some electronics, including her sister's laptop and external hard drive.

Askari Zadeh was transferred to Ward 209 of Evin Prison managed by the Intelligence Ministry on the same day and was interrogated for about two weeks.

At the end of the interrogations, she was transferred to the women's ward of Evin Prison on December 12, and was finally released on December 31, 2019 on a bail of 1,000 million tomans.

Askari Zadeh was charged in Branch 2 of Evin Prison with “acting against national security through meetings and collusion.”
Branch 15 of the Islamic Revolutionary Court, presided over by Judge Abolghasem Salavati, sentenced her to two years in prison on the same charge. The same court also sentenced her to a two-year ban on press activity, presence on social media and political groups, and a two-year ban on leaving the country.

On January 8, 2021 the Hrana human rights news agency announced that the Tehran Court of Appeals had upheld the verdict of the trial court.

No information has been published about the charges and the court’s evidence for issuing this sentence. However, the charge is said to have been made against Askari Zadeh because of her activities “defending women's rights.”

Summons to Prison

On April 7, 2021, the Bidarzani website reported that Askari Zadeh had been summoned to serve her two-year sentence after receiving a notification from the verdict enforcement branch of Moghadas Court at Evin Prison.

About the “One Million Signatures for the Repeal of Discriminatory Laws”

In August 2006, women's rights activists decided to organize their efforts against the discriminatory laws of Iran. As their first step they set out to collect one million signatures to repeal these laws. Their statement called for changing discriminatory laws of the Islamic Republic against polygamy, inheritance and the "diya" financial compensation for victims for murder, harm or property damage. 

The “Change for Equality” website was also launched in August 2006 together with the campaign to inform the public about the campaign's activities and legal demands of the campaign. Many of the signatories of the statements were summoned and arrested by the judiciary and security apparatus.

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